E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Here’s a thought: Not All End Users Love Technology – Drawing the Line between Work and Play

(Previously, on elsua – The Knowledge Management Blog at ITtoolbox)

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A couple of days ago I was actually browsing through my RSS feeds from Collaboration Loop and I bumped into this particular article, created by Melanie Turek, which I found rather interesting and thought-provoking: Here’s a thought: Not All End Users Love Technology. In it Melanie gets to discuss how IBM keeps getting more and more involved with the world of the metaverse, specially with Second Life, as another interesting platform to dig in so that knowledge workers would have an opportunity to improve their online interactions with others by sharing their knowledge and collaborating through virtual worlds in, perhaps, a much more efficient and effective way.

However, she also questions whether other companies would be able to join in what IBM seems to have been doing lately: i.e. encouraging its knowledge workers to see the business side of playing with Second Life:

"Most companies don’t want to entice their employees to work by making it seem as though that work is actually play. And frankly, most employees don’t really want to play when what their supposed to be doing is work."

Here is another thought-provoking quote to go along those same lines:

"The typical knowledge worker doesn’t want to play with her technology; she wants her technology to help her do her job better, faster and more easily."

Or even this other one which is just as provocative:

"Most knowledge workers don’t want to pretend to be living a second life in order to do their jobs; creating avatars and 3-D mazes won’t make their work more appealing, and it’s unlikely to encourage them to do it more successfully… or even just more of it."

Goodness! I am not sure what you all think about those particular quotes, but I have yet to see the first company who wouldn’t want its knowledge workers to have fun while getting the job done! Isn’t that the perfect combination? Or am I missing something larger in here? Isn’t that what every single business tries to achieve with their workforce, that they are working in an environment that is friendly enough for them to make the most of it by having fun? By playing, if you would want to say that out loud?

I mean, we all know this. Most of our learning processes whether for our personal lives or whether for our daily job tasks will always be much more effective if they are done in a playful environment. After all, we all get to learn stuff by interacting with it, by playing, by having fun. Otherwise, it would become rather difficult to let sink in and adjust to it.

That is why I have always felt that one of the key components towards the success of a KM strategy is how flexible it would certainly be to incorporate fun elements to the whole thing. More than anything else because knowledge workers seem to adjust better when there is some playing involved, specially in the learning environment. Something they can relate to, they can have fond memories about and connect with those, and with other people whenever it would be needed. That is, perhaps, one of the main reasons why social computing has brought KM back again into the spotlight. It is actually fun hanging out there with other knowledge workers sharing knowledge and collaborating on those topics they feel passionate about. Don’t you think?

Why is it that every time a new project team or a community gets started, or a bunch of people who do not know each other well just yet, they start connecting with one another by doing team  / community building activities, or icebreakers, that usually involved playful events, i.e. games? How can we then turn around and state that we do not enjoy having having fun while doing our jobs? It beats me and I can only imagine that being in that situation will eventually end up in boredom and therefore time to move on to the next thing.

I am not sure what you think, folks, but I have a feeling that we better get started changing out state of mind and embrace the fact that the workforce from today hasn’t got anything to do with the workforce from the last century. Things are changing fast! Getting the job done is not enough any longer. To be able to keep knowledge workers satisfied with what they are doing, there would be a need for a balance between play and work. Yes, indeed, getting the job done while they are having fun!

I know that this may sound a bit idealistic and everything, but if you come to think about it it could well be the way future interactions will be taking place within the workplace, which is probably why more and more businesses are exploring some of the business benefits from virtual worlds, and in particular Second Life. Otherwise, why would they do it? For the hype? I don’t think so. The time, efforts and energy spent on it would no longer be worth it.

"But not all consumer technology needs to be used on the job, and not all of it will be. If technology doesn’t help employees work smarter, faster and better, it probably won’t gain traction—no matter how cool it appears to be."

Yes, I agree with that argument to some extent, but wouldn’t it be much worthier having technology help knowledge workers work smarter, faster and better and have fun at the same time? What do you think? Are you having fun at work yet?

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  1. At the Second Life library staff meeting on Sunday, a quote was shared from a librarian who “has had more fun in the last year than in the first 20 years of her library career.” And the head of the library funding some of the Info Island project mentioned “as I talk about SL I am consciously playing up the fun aspect as a huge contributor to our huge learning curve and to our success.”

    So, yes – It is fun, and that’s a good thing!


  2. Hello folks! Thanks a lot for the feedback comments! It is greatly appreciated! Beth, I am really glad to see you have shared these comments with us because on the other cross post I shared not long ago I actually had a comment from one of my readers saying how the examples of what I tried to share above are not the reality that most knowledge workers face in their day to day work. And I am really glad that with your comments and success stories we may be able as well to prove anyone that play, and having fun while at work, is a fundamental skill that we should not forget or ignore or even get rid of. It is actually an integral part of who / what we are as human beings and to be able to say that you are working for a company where these skills are not valued is perhaps not the best of approaches towards enjoying what you do on a day to day basis.

    So thanks again for chiming in and for adding further up into the discussion! Greatly appreciated. I surely agree with you that it is a good thing!

    Sawada-san thanks a lot for pointing us to one of my fellow IBM colleagues who, along with his team, has been doing some of the superb piece of work around the area of incorporating the world of the metaverse into our different learning processes and is perhaps one of the most remarkable thought leaders in the area.

    Funny enough, one of the drafts for future weblog entries that I have got for a later time was doing some link love to link to his weblog as he has just got started with it not long ago. That weblog entry is actually going to be shared later on this coming week, not to worry, but I am surely glad to see you have been digging a bit as well on this subject and found some really good resources already. Good stuff! It shows you have found the right ones and the ones that would be worth while keeping up with.

    Thanks again for chiming in and for the lovely recommendation and if you haven’t subscribed to it just yet by all means go ahead and do it as I am sure you would find the experience very enlightening and educational. At least, I have thus far.

  3. Luis, thanks for feedback. It is interesting to know that you and Tony have been in synch already. Yeah I will keep an eye on his BLOG entry and let both of you know if there pops up any related subjects during my research in future.

  4. Hello Sawada-san! Thanks again for the additional thoughts. Yes, I know Tony for quite some time and have known of his excellence in the field of learning for quite some time ago. I was one of the folks who was really excited when I first heard his Internet weblog was up and running as I felt that plenty of people out there would be able to leverage with his wide range of skills and knowledge around the subject of Learning and eLearning and I am surely glad you have added his weblog to your blogroll as I am sure you would find it quite educational and engaging. I will be sending some link love to it soon, too! It would be worth while the effort, I am sure.

    Thanks again for dropping by!

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