Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bringing game design to the workplace

I was invited to give a presentation about my research today at the CoreNet Global Summit in Las Vegas. CoreNet Global is the world's leading professional association for corporate real estate and workplace executives. They have been active in organizing a dialogue between researchers and practitioners. This session was part of that effort.

I started out with a very brief overview of the history of computer games, leading up to MMOGs and World of Warcraft. I then went over some principles of game design and how it can be used to inform organizational design. I explained the importance of the rule set as the means to induce certain behavior. This led up to an explanation of the methodology that I've developed together with Marinka Copier, that has the organizational rule set as an end product.

The link to the workplace is something that I've been exploring recently. I put forward the idea that the workplace could be used as a means to express this organizational rule set and communicate it to employees. And with this idea, I put the audience to work. Of course we didn't have time to go through the entire design process, so we did a highly condensed version. I gave each group a desired behavior as a starting point (such as: collaboration). I then asked them to choose one or more rules that would induce this behavior and to describe how the workplace could communicate these rules.

I was pleasantly surprised by the energy that this exercise generated. Here are some of the ideas that came out of it:
  • If the desired behavior is collaboration, the rules could be: you answer the phone when it rings, you are available 50% of your time to connect, 50% of those connections have to be face-to-face.
  • A second group came up with these rules for collaboration: all ideas are welcome and valued; experiences, abilities and ideas are always visible; all members must participate.
  • To express these rules for collaboration in the workplace, a group developed workplace interventions such as: colocating individuals or units to mirror certain behavior and strategically locating visible, high energy business units.
  • For customer focus, one group wrote down the rule that "we actively solicit our customers' opinions about how effectively our products and services have performed"; a way to express that rule in the workplace could be a wall of customer comments
  • Several groups worked with the rule that employees who live more than 20 miles from the office would be there a maximum of two days a week (to induce sustainable behavior); as an expression of this rule in the workplace they came up with maximum technological support for the virtual workplace and maximum support for "non-task objectives" when in the office: celebrations, feeling good about the company, building trust, managing conflicts.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the session today for their enthusiasm and input and I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation with some of you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two brief updates

The paper I wrote together with Marinka Copier (Utrecht School of the Arts) and my colleague Thijs Gaanderse about our first case study with applied game design was accepted for the International Workshop on Organizational Design and Engineering in Lisbon this December.

And next week I will be at the CoreNet Global Summit to discuss what implications my research on game design could have for new ways of working and the design of the workplace. Incorporating the workplace is a recent perspective I've been taking that looks quite promising. More about my CoreNet presentation and the subsequent discussions next week, when I will report from Las Vegas.