Extracurricular Qualifiers

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[ Gaming]

When we are young, all we learn we learn through play. Why should it stop there?

An interesting article in Wired by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas Page explores the role of online gaming as job training and a recruiting qualifier:

…Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It’s learning to be – a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture – as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate…

…In this way, the process of becoming an effective World of Warcraft guild master amounts to a total-immersion course in leadership. A guild is a collection of players who come together to share knowledge, resources, and manpower. To run a large one, a guild master must be adept at many skills: attracting, evaluating, and recruiting new members; creating apprenticeship programs; orchestrating group strategy; and adjudicating disputes. Guilds routinely splinter over petty squabbles and other basic failures of management; the master must resolve them without losing valuable members, who can easily quit and join a rival guild. Never mind the virtual surroundings; these conditions provide real-world training a manager can apply directly in the workplace…

The distinction between learning to be and learning about nails it for me. From a little experience working in an immersive group simulations company, I can also point to the potential of these well designed environments to have applicability to learning about. But don’t expect them to be quite as fun.

Some related inside baseball: Last night I went on my first WoW raid in a level 60 instance with my level 54 Pally. I wasn’t terribly vocal with TeamSpeak and purposely played a passive role. Not just to avoid agro, but learn the role my character will play next time. I’m a guild leader and last night we had someone leave for what the group was quick to write off as no-good-reason, but I hope to bring up the conversation tonight to strengthen the group.

As an employer I’m starting to look for some extracurricular qualifiers:

  • Wiki use, of course
  • Playing a role in World of Warcraft
  • Blogging as context that goes beyond the resume and a sign of a good communicator
  • Participation in ad-hoc events like BarCamp and Wiki Wednesday
  • A basic level of connectivity in LinkedIn, but more importantly a pattern that shows valued connections, not trying to connect with everyone
  • I actually think interests listed at the bottom of a resume like international travel or the outdoors still count for something

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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.

Extracurricular Qualifiers
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