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

From the blog

How Playing Games at Work Will Help You Build Trust for Your Business

Gran Canaria - Santa Lucía de Tirajana in the SpringYesterday I put together a blog post where I tried to share some further insights on how if today’s current corporate world would want to survive in the 21st century, it would probably need to start thinking about how to bring back again into the workplace the fun factor. Today’s knowledge workers surely are becoming more and more aware of the full amount of time they spend on “company time“, doing work, even more when the already thin line between work and personal lives is becoming blurrier than ever. To the point where a potential work / life integration may make it disappear altogether. So what happens when you introduce (seriousgames at work? Would they work? What would their immediate effect be like? Would they help knowledge workers become more effective at what they do? Yes, of course, they would! It’s a matter of trust!

But not that kind of trust. At least, not initially. In the past, you would probably remember the article I put together under “Gamers – A New Breed of Knowledge Workers in the Making?“. In it I was referencing a recent TED Talk by Jane McGonigal where she takes us through the fascinating and exciting journey of encouraging us all to play even more games in order to solve today’s problems. If you haven’t had a chance to watch through it, I would suggest you take a few minutes off your current tasks and watch it. It will be worth your time. More than anything, because she brings in a very good point that I would want to share over here as well to help make the connection that playing (serious) games at work can only but efficiently help knowledge workers become more productive at what they do.

In that TED Talk Jane comes to point out one of the main key characteristics from incredibly successful gamers: their ability to trust their peers blindly in order to succeed in their mission, whatever that may well be. But in order to trust fully their fellow gamers they need to keep building on that social fabric. They need to keep finding that common ground that would allow them to make that connection work and successfully establish an everlasting and trustworthy relationship. You know, it’s, after all, a matter of survival! Can you imagine playing WoW without trusting your fellow virtual peers, wherever they may well be? Yes, I know! Almost impossible!

That’s why trust, for gamers, is so crucial and critical at the same time! Their own virtual lives depend on that trust, for that matter. So what happens when you bring forward that spirit into the workplace and you help facilitate your knowledge workers to play (serious) games at work with their peers. Would that work? I mean, do you think that playing games like that would help your knowledge workers build lasting, trustworthy relationships that would help them improve the way they collaborate and share knowledge across at the moment? After all, don’t we all like, and perhaps demand, to work with those people who we trust the most? Think about it… What emails do you open up first thing in the morning? The ones from the people who you know very well or those emails from total strangers?

At the heart of the matter, trust is essential for any business activity. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to conduct business the way we do. I mean, can you imagine buying that expensive product from someone who you don’t trust nor know enough about? Can you imagine building your company’s strategy and long term vision on a group of people who you don’t trust much as a stakeholder? Probably not, right? So it looks like playing games may well have a good chance of surviving in the current workplace environment. Not only from what they provide as potential learning experiences (I know of a couple of companies who train their leaders on WOW to see what their leadership and virtual team skills are like!), but also from the huge potential they offer in helping build longer and more trustworthy personal business relationships amongst knowledge workers and their peers. Because, after all, don’t you think they would go the extra mile to help out those folks who they trust and who may be in some serious need for help? I think they would!

More than anything else because I’m seeing it myself as well! Happening with me every single day! As most of you know already by now, a few weeks back I, finally, managed to purchase an iPad, an absolutely stunning device that will surely transform your mobile experience. I get to do plenty of things with it, both on a personal level, as well as part of my work, specially when being away from the Mac. But there is also something that I do on the iPad that I didn’t do as much often as I should have with other devices: playing games.

One of those games, one of my all time favourites, actually, is Words with Friends HD. It’s like Scrabble, except that you play it with friends over the Internet. And I do! I have got my account there (The usual handle, if you are interested) and over the last few weeks I have been playing a number of games with people outside of work, but also with people INSIDE work. And amazingly enough Words with Friends has allowed me to achieve something that I never expected it happening, specially, by playing games. And that is, learn about my colleagues, trust them by knowing more about them, and creating new, stronger and much more meaningful bonds with them because on our interactions by playing and exchanging messages that may have got to do with the game at play or with whatever else (Even work related items!).

Here is the thing that I find mind-blowing and which relates very much to Jane’s TED Talk. Because of those games, of interacting with those colleagues, of getting to know them better, of learning how to trust them, of treasuring our relationships, AND friendships!, I have reached the point that if they would want to have my help, because they may well be in need for it, I’m going to go the extra mile to help them out! Why? Well, who would not want to help out those they trust who may be in need? It’s not even part of our human and social nature, is it? I mean, if we didn’t know well those fellow knowledge workers, we could probably do it and get away with it, but since we do, since we seemed to be emotionally connected I would feel pretty bad if they would need my help and I wouldn’t give it out because I didn’t want to. It just doesn’t happen!

That’s why nurturing that social fabric will become so important in today’s business world, where trust seems to be playing such a critical and paramount role as social networking tools become more and more pervasive within the corporate environment, as well as outside of the firewall. So if you are thinking about increasing the trust levels of your employees, as well as those of your fellow co-workers, you may not need to look very far to realise that bringing in (serious) games is probably all you need. And if you think on the wider context of learning, where we apparently seem to learn plenty more from playing games than not to, it looks like we have got a winner!

Playing (serious) games at work finally makes perfect sense! It will need to be embedded into your company’s DNA. “Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships” anyone?

 

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