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Game Play in the Enterprise

This is my first post to the Virtual Worlds blog so let me start by introducing myself. My name is Greg Pelton, I’ve been at Cisco for 10 years and I lead the Technology Center. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about collaboration. Collaboration is critical for successful businesses and the premise of this blog is that Virtual Worlds have a role to play in enabling enterprise collaboration. Let’s explore that idea by looking at two examples of Virtual Worlds -- Second Life and World of Warcraft -- and how they support collaboration.Meeting vs Collaborating in Virtual WorldsSecond Life (SL) is an extremely powerful environment, with great flexibility and unlimited options. After a team meeting in SL today I had a chance to wander around a shopping area looking for new clothes for my avatar. There were a wealth of things I could buy in SL and in many ways it was a better shopping experience than in real life. Along the way I ran into other avatars and had an opportunity to meet new people, but I didn’t really feel compelled to interact. I’ve also attended scheduled events within SL, for instance a Cisco new product launch. Here I met other people who shared similar interests to me and we had nice discussions about Cisco products or even avatar clothing. However meeting isn’t collaborating. I don’t find Second Life a very satisfying environment for collaborating and this comes down to what is missing in SL. One thing that is missing is Game Play. I consider myself a casual gamer, not in the sense of exclusively playing Casual Games, rather that I enjoy playing games casually or occasionally. Real life intrudes often enough that I can’t devote the time or energy to become a Hardcore Gamer. I often play World of Warcraft or WoW and I find it a much better environment for collaboration than is Second Life. In fact if you just sit back and watch avatars in WoW, you’ll immediately see examples of collaborative behavior. ScreenShot_083107_132536 cropped.jpgSo what does this creature have to do with collaboration? First you need to strip away the fact that the character looks like a Frankencow and think of it as just an avatar. In WoW (we can use WoW as a proxy for any of the good MMORPGs) your avatar is given a set of tasks to complete. You can solicit help from others who share that same task by sending a message to your organization, or you can travel to the location where that task takes place and meet others who have the same assignment. You are allowed to form ad hoc groups to work on the task and once you complete the task together, you will all share in the reward. This is where meeting becomes collaboration -- the combination of co-location and common goals and shared rewards. It is the Game Play of WoW that determines these three factors and, ultimately, which promotes collaboration. Game Play has many other elements including navigation and conflict, but for now let’s focus on just these three.I use the term “tasks” rather than “quests” or “missions” deliberately because I think there is an analogue in the enterprise. In business we are assigned tasks constantly and accomplishing these tasks is one of the key reasons we continue to draw a paycheck. The challenge before us then is how to define the Game Play in a virtual world so that it represents tasks that are relevant to the enterprise and generates rewards that are relevant to our MBOs and careers. Like most other companies, Cisco has a lot of rules that govern what we do and how we do it. The more frequently used rules are captured in what is formally called Business Processes and these business processes are either deeply embedded in the default behavior of the organization or captured and facilitated by various systems and tools developed by the IT department. In order to have productive collaboration in an enterprise Virtual World, we need to incorporate Game Play rules that reflect the business processes of the enterprise. How are we going to achieve this without hiring armies of consultants and if we are successful, how are we going to link this back into the operations of the enterprise? I think this is an important issue and I haven’t seen a lot of study on topic so far. What do you think?

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