Here’s a slide from Tom Chatfield’s presentation at TED, 7 ways games reward the brain.
Yep this is Engagement - it’s what I want to do, and I am enjoying the experience of doing it…both my desire and expectation is being met, and perhaps more.
Tom is referring to the engagement Gamers have when playing virtual/video games.
John Hagel and John Seely Brown tell us in a post from a of a couple of years ago that over 11 million people around the world now play World of Warcraft.
She says there are nearly 80000 articles in the World of Warcraft Wiki, making it the worlds second biggest wiki.
Jane goes on to say "The average young person today in a country with a strong gamer culture would have spent 10,000 hours playing online games by the age 21." …and that in the US from 5th grade to graduation, children (with perfect attendance) will have spent approx 10,000 hours in school…a parallel track of education.
Even though, within the game, experience points become more difficult to acquire as you advance, World of Warcraft players are improving their performance four times faster as they continue to play the game.
How? Most improve their performance by leveraging a broad set of discussion forums, wikis, databases, and instructional videos that exist outside the game. Here the players share experiences, tell stories, celebrate (and analyze) prodigious in-game achievements, and explore innovative approaches to addressing the challenges at hand. This "knowledge economy" is impressively wide and deep: in the US alone, the official forums hosted by Blizzard Entertainment contain tens of millions of postings in hundreds of forums. And those are just the forums hosted by Blizzard. Independent forums are proliferating at an even faster rate.
Not all people at work are engaged as they don’t have the "wanting" and "liking"…for some people it’s just a job. Whereas gamers choose to play games as a recreational activity, and they are fulfilled from doing so. Most of us have to work, and some don’t really like our jobs…sure organisational design can make it a more enjoyable atmosphere if it is recognised that people spend more time at work than with their families, but this won’t guarantee total engagement…it’s only part of the solution.
Whereas if you gave others the choice, of getting paid to do what you want everyday, or to keep doing your job…some would keep their job, as their job happens to be what they want out of life, it fulfills them. But this is the few.
Others may have these qualities, but may not be fully engaged since they have organisational design constraints - silos are not bridged, they don’t have online networks and groups to legitimise their offline and email networks.
So even though you may introduce social computing software it doesn’t mean people will become engaged as we have barriers such as: leadership, whether they like their actual job, whether they like their office or work culture, whether they are recognised or even allowed to help others on their tasks ie. do business units know how to pass on local costs, whether they are measured (or allowed time) for how well they use the network to deliver quality work, whether they are allowed to discover others with like interests and collaborate on tasks that interest them (you belong to a team, but have an element of freelancing or swarming around tasks and problems), or even free time to initiate projects.
If some people (I refrained from calling them workers in this context) do have "wanting and liking" at work ie. they are engaged, then social software will support or enable or enhance or amplify this engagement. This is not to say social software doesn’t have any positive effect in building engagement in unengaged work cultures ie. work cultures that have many barriers to engagement listed above…but we always need to remember technology alone is not often the fix it solution.
Already engaged people will make use of blogs, forums, wikis, networks as these new tools enable and support and enrichen their present mode or attitude to their work ie. connecting, sharing and helping others achieve things. They may have done this offline or in email, but now these same attitudes can be re-purposed online. They may be engaged; even though there still exists some barriers to engagement (as listed above).
Like gamers, workers too can be engaged (to a degree); but there is a difference between these worlds which needs to be explored. Often our initial reaction is if it works in one context, why not the other…this is the whole ignorance problem with best practices.
These worlds have different purpose, dynamics, structures and complexities that we have to examine first in order to get any correlated (or cross-disciplinary) value.
Workers often don’t get to swarm around things they’d like to work on (we often stay put in silo boxes); if they did it would make it more on par with gamers in that they get to choose an activity, and hopefully like it (and as a result be engaged).
Unlike gamers, workers have leadership constraints, whereas gamers don’t have the unfortunate case of a boss curbing or not recognising their potential.
Unlike gamers, workers have a different sort of pressure; they have deadlines and deliverables that have consequences if not performed eg. if I don’t perform, I may be out of a job, which means I can’t support my family
Workers work within the rules of organisational purpose and boundaries. Yes there are cultural and informal norms, but there are also visions (not yours, but the organisations), values, mission statements, and all that top-down stuff we are meant to adhere, obey and behave to. You are also working for a boss and what he/she intends for you to achieve…you don’t decide (co-creation as the exception). Whereas gamers choose the game because they feel one with the mission ie. the story line. If not they can choose a game that resonates with them (workers don’t always have the luck to land the right job with the right firm)…for gamers it’s more based on informal norms, rather than top-down values…not that I’m a gamer but I’m assuming here the code of conduct is not so much how we want or expect you to think or value; but more the etiquette of what not to do.