Sunday, June 24, 2007

Leadership in virtual worlds

The results of a very interesting study came out this past week. Led by Byron Reeves of Stanford (and Seriosity) and Thomas Malone of MIT (with important contributions from Nick Yee and others), the study looked at how leadership in virtual worlds relates to traditional leadership models. You can find the full report here.

I was very encouraged by this study, since it starts from a perspective that I wholeheartedly support: there are practices taking place in virtual worlds that foreshadow new ways of working in enterprises. Reeves and Malone focus on leadership, applying the Sloan Leadership Model to online games, but they acknowledge that it applies more broadly to the areas of collaboration, innovation and business processes.

The most interesting conclusion from the study is that it is the environment that makes leadership easier in virtual worlds. Specifically, they say it’s the virtual economies, the transparency of metrics, and the connection methods for inter-group communication. The implication may be that changing the “game” may be as important as selecting and training the players. What they are basically saying is that enterprises should try to mimic certain aspects of virtual worlds, so as to make new ways of leadership (and collaboration, and knowledge sharing, etc.) possible. That is a very encouraging perspective, as far as I'm concerned. Let's see what I can contribute to the discussion.

This coming week, I’ll be off to Michigan State University to participate in the Communities & Technologies Conference. I’m looking forward to a stimulating discussion in the workshop I’ll be part of, and to interesting exchanges with other researchers in the field. I’ll post the presentation I’ll be giving and some impressions of the conference in the course of next week.

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