Sci Fi or Paradigm Shift?

May 14, 2008 by Bill Bradley


Title: Leadership’s Online Labs

Competencies: leadership, decision-making, risk-taking, communication, team building, strategic thinking, performance management

Who benefits: futurists at any level

Consultant Usage: self-development for consultants and trainers

What’s it about? Dear Reader, I really don’t know where to begin describing this fascinating May article from Harvard Business Review.  I only started reading it because I thought it might offer some insight on the evolution of “T-Groups” (which I grew up on) or other forms of management simulation exercises.

Two paragraphs into the article and I thought I was reading a science fiction article that the writers slipped past the editors.  I am reading all about multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft that attract millions of players worldwide.  What the #&%* is this article doing in HBR? 

Yet, in keeping with the uniqueness of the article, let me put my ending here in the middle.  We know that big changes – dare I say it – paradigm shifts come from the edges of what we know.  Fields of thought overlap and something new and significant emerges.  Just maybe that is what this article is all about.

The title of the article suggests it is about leadership.  It is that and a whole lot more.  Since getting things out of order is the order of the day, let me summarize the end of the article before commenting on the content.  IBM surveyed 135 of its employees who “confessed” to being habitual gamers.  In short, 50% said they were better leaders because of their gaming experience and 75% said they learned something about enhancing productivity by creating a better work environment.

Well, I have now covered the ending to this week’s entry and the ending of the article, so obviously it is time to go to the beginning:

The article assumes that much work in the future will be done online and globally.  How will work get done and who leads?  The article reflects on the “gamers” experience. 

Leadership is fluid.  Leadership rotates based on experience and relevancy.  A project may have different leaders during different stages and any individual may be a leader more than once during the duration of the project.

Teams are fluid and self-organized.  Collaboration is a must and non-collaborators may find themselves off the team very quickly.

Great attention is paid to the online environment.  There is an availability of information unlike anything in today’s “real world”. 

Decisions are made much quicker.

Risk-taking is rewarded and mistakes are considered learning experiences.
Individual rewards are distributed and performance management occurs in the here and now.

Now here is where it really gets wild…
Successful online leaders may have a very different set of characteristics than the traditional assumptions about leadership characteristics.  Introverts or those lacking in (real world) self-confidence may actually excel online.

Then there is creating the dynamic environment needed for success.  Gamers will tell you that every player needs access to all available information.  If you think about it, that makes Open-Book management look like kindergarten.  We have no idea where that would take us.

We do know that access to all information is an HR nightmare and we can expect human resources to fight this to nth degree. 

Here’s why.  For teams to be truly fluid and global, information on all members of the organization needs to be available on an instant access basis.  It makes the resume out of date, but it offers up personal information on individuals that today we consider confidential.  It offers all global online teams not Human Resources but human resources.  It offers a radical transparency of information.  

In this new online world, information will be tagged.  That means good ideas will be credited to the originator (no boss taking credit for someone else’s work), bad ideas/decisions will also be identifiable.  Changes the whole meaning of performance evaluation.
These are just a few of the thoughts I had about the article.  If anything I have written resonates with you, please go to the article and make your own judgments.

For us old fogies, the temptation is to write this article off as too much Sci-Fi.  But to the millennials (late teens to early 30s), this article probably makes perfect sense and the business applications aren’t that far in the distance.

PS: To the Good Folks who host this Blog.  You all best read this article too.  This article may be the first indication of a need for 360 feedback – 2.0.  The good news is that you can be the first on the block.  Research the new competencies needed.  Find news ways to measure competencies.  The bad news…you risk becoming obsolete (and don’t protest too much my friends, every successful company that became obsolete didn’t see it coming in time!). 
[tags]leadership, leadership skills, leadership training, decision making, team building, risk taking, transparent information, hypertransparency, managing teams, employee information, human resource data, motivation, rewards, rewarding performance, compensation, collaboration, self-organized teams, bill bradley, william bradley,  bradley[/tags]

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Engagement

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