Verna Allee’s keynote presentation discussed various pieces of “the KM puzzle” and asked, What are you missing? Her background in social networks, value networks and living systems theory provided a background for comments on the need to integrate knowledge into the business language, the need for transparency in organizations, the high cost of not finding information when needed, the role of communities of practice in centralizing knowledge, and the need to initiate conversations that enable knowledge networks to form.
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Archive for November, 2005
Game developers often fail to obtain enough customer input in the development phases, ignoring just how well the players know and understand the game. Player collaboration in the design process is a key element in a gameâ€™s success, yet which player faction should the developer listen to? Here are six player groups. How can their play styles and needs be reconciled in a way that enables game developers to make good decisions?
In 2003, Marc Prensky wrote an interesting paper in which he used gaming as a metaphor for a digital language understood almost instinctively by the younger generation or “digital natives” who have grown up with computers almost from birth. Games may be the most engaging intellectual pastime we have invented, he said. Yet the older “immigrants” don’t play or understand the language of gaming well, if at all. They tend to distrust the medium. With all the millions of people who play MMOGs today, it’s silly to ignore them as a potential teaching tool.
The concept of “farming” in MMOGs is not new. All games that have a “leveling” component to them require a certain amount of repetitive grinding to get the experience needed to advance your character. Players who appear to be primarily from third world countries have turned gaming into a creative way to supplement their normal (low) family incomes, by selling game currency and items in the real world. While it’s true they often have limited English ability, it doesn’t mean automatically that they are Chinese, yet they are collectively referred to as “Chinese farmers” in a derogatory way. The farmers are laughing all the way to the bank.
Tom Davenport delivered a fine opening keynote presentation at KM World on his current pet topic “Thinking for a Living: Keys to Knowledge Worker Productivity.” Knowledge workers have a high degree of education or expertise, and their *principle* objective is the creation, application or distribution of knowledge. Knowledge workers are at the core of our economic competitiveness. They are at the core of value creation and top-line growth. They drive the future. It’s important to make them more productive with tools and measures that help the organization to assign value to what they do. Different types of knowledge workers should be identified and treated differently (i.e., a segmentation scheme is needed). Any thoughts on knowledge work and knowledge workers?
It’s always interesting to hear what Richard McDermott has to say about communities. This time he spoke instead on the the latest buzzword in KM — knowledge work, and the need to make expertise an available resource. Experts solve problems through seeing patterns. They almost instinctively match the current situation to stored situations in their own brains, and can then see options for actions in the current environment. Knowledge transfer is so difficult because no other person has the same set of experiences against which to evaluate the current situation and determine appropriate actions. So how do we communicate expertise?
I could subtitle this “Or Why My Freaking Staff Cost 400 Gold”. Months ago, when my current favorite MMORPG was new, everyone was friendly. A quiet gnome named Perber sneaked up on us and started buying low and selling high — exerting upward price pressure, and creating a storm of hostility. What a great lesson in economics and human nature!
Established guilds in MMOGs share the features of healthy, mature communities anywhere. These are described by Richard McDermott. What’s often overlooked, especially in gaming communities, is the importance of charismatic leaders.
Why do multiplayer game systems get so much energy from participants, where knowledge worker systems don’t? Here are my notes and thoughts on an interesting session by Steve Barth and (in absentia) his colleague Celia Pearce. Work structures us, but games let us be free to be and do anything. Millions of people are playing MMOGs, and most express strong passion about them. Many gamers put in more than 20 hours per week in virtual worlds. That means there is something of value there, and we can apply this to knowledge management. But how?
KM is a relatively new business process, yet it’s changing before our eyes. The early attempts to understand the role and value of knowledge in organizational longevity and productivity are already being supplanted by creative new approaches. KM has to change. Look how organizations are changing! Here are some statistics…
About a year ago, I read about a very interesting approach to knowledge management called “Operation Brain-trap” by a consulting firm in Barcelona, Spain. The company’s rule is “keep nothing valuable on paper.” It requires all its consultants to funnel any knowledge of the company’s clients, methodology, or business operations into a single digital repository available to all staff. Any papers left on employees’ desks are routinely pushed into a trash can and recycled! They believe forcing everyone to use the repository for all information gives them a critical advantage in a competitive market.
As a multiplayer gamer for nearly 20 years, I’m inclined to agree with Ted Castronova that online games are a different animal from what game developers have been successful with in the past. It’s more about governance than game design. Drawing on the parallel to communities of practice (CoPs) in the real life world again, it’s obvious that CoPs in a large organization are a valuable way of organizing a business into villages of people around common interests or knowledge. MMOG gaming worlds mimic the closed worlds of large corporations. Like large Japanese companies in the 20th century–they are self-contained social and cultural worlds. It’s a viable business model.
Today I came across a fine article by Jim Gee called “What Would a State of the Art Instructional Video Game Look Like?” He argues that good commercial video games are designed around a good theory of learning, and can engage deep learning. Games may require players to assume an identify foreign to themselves in order to force a particular type of learning or game experience. They have an important role to play in learning, from childhood to adulthood and even into old age.
When organizations first consider creating thematic interest groups or communities, most make the mistake of treating them like any standard, heirarchical business activity. Surprisingly for them, this standard approach often results in failureâ€”for a lot of reasons. Communities are by nature egalitarian. The members are either experts in the community’s knowledge domain, or aspire to be. In knowledge management, there is a strong parallel to guilds in the gaming world (see this post).
MMOGs are little universes unto themselves, just as large corporations are. When a new game starts, the people who join the game come from a variety of backgrounds, and have little understanding of what the game is about and how they should participate. Very often they join guilds or clans within the game. Guilds are self-regulating and self-managing. They provide both governance and the means to provide players with a sense of belonging to a group where they can be known and make a difference–a dynamic also found in communities of practice.
The ability to customize character interactions with a broad range of behaviors is an aspect of MMOGs that makes them compelling for players. Some interesting work may be starting on the uses of language in gaming and related social interactions. Take a look at Nate Combs’ related blog at TerraNova.
In the real world, non-verbal gestures are a foundation for interpersonal communication. In games, “socials” play a similar role. Socials are a low risk way to initiate a conversation with another player. They are a low investment type of communication that can be ignored or acted upon, depending upon how you feel, what you may already know about the other character, or the role you wish to play with your own character.
“Some are tempted to think of life in cyberspace as insignificant, as escape or meaningless diversion. It is not. Our experiences there are serious play. We belittle them at our risk.” Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, 1995. And here’s another good quote I just found today. “Games [...]
Social network maps are useful predictors of interactions and behaviors. social networking map displayed at PlayOn that maps social dimensions of networks within World of Warcraft at the guild level. The sociotechnical framework of MMOGs definitely provides a rich environment that can be adapted to problem-based learning, and also supports other theories of computer supported collaborative learning.
Iit’s the social interaction among the humans behind the characters that differentiates a MMOG from a box game and makes them so stimulating and “sticky.” MMOGs are business writ small. The dynamics of human behavior are all there. Learning occurs simultaneously in all directions: top down, bottom up, core to periphery, periphery to core. It’s easy to see how a MMOG could provide a structured, yet creative, environment for education and participatory learning experiences–the kind educators tell us are critical for effective and lasting adult learning.
Research tells us that 70% of North American adults have tried multiplayer gaming. If you haven’t, here’s what you would expect when you first set up your account and log into the game. Game designers today normally provide a narrative backstory that gives the game design a context. They offer quests, puzzles, or tasks for the players to accomplish. But it’s the ability to interact with other players inside the game that makes the experience surprising, interesting and extraordinary.
Today I was reading some reviews on Amazon.com of Steve Johnson’s excellent and interesting book, Everything Bad is Good For You. One of the reviewers gave a thoughtful assessment of the book that lines right up with my own beliefs about the value of gaming and how today’s MMOGs stimulate learning in ways that two generations ago (maybe even one!) were impossible.
Overall, the conference was good–the keynotes alone were worth the cost and time! But the breakouts were a little uneven. Some were very good, but some were poor. I’ll publish my notes on a few of them here.
What excites me about the confluence of gaming, learning and knowledge management is its potential to reignite the enthusiasm of workers and open their eyes to a new way of interacting as they work toward shared goals. What I discovered from the interest shown at the KM World conference was that business executives are interested now. More than interested — excited and even hopeful that a more game-like approach will increase the effectiveness of and participation in KM and learning systems.
As is true in communities of practice, multiplayer online game members do not start off with social rules or agendas programmed into the software. An environment for interaction is created, there are rules for interacting correctly with the system, and there is a stated purpose for being there. There are no rules of leadership, so leaders emerge on the basis of their actions and knowledge. Both KM systems and game environments are complex social systems where unexpected events can happen and previously unknown people can rise up to be leaders. There is an opportunity for gaming to influence KM systems once the complex social interactions of online multiplayer gaming become more widely understood.
Torill Elvira Mortensen wrote that multiplayer games are “secluded, exclusive arenas of play, which represent themselves as places rather than non-places. They demand the same manner of identification as crossing the borders of countries – they ask for a name and a password – identification unique to the player. ” All this security around identity gives members of the gaming community confidence that the people they think they are interacting with are, indeed, the people they think. It makes characters/players accountable for their actions, and ensures they receive the rewards or blame incurred by their styles of participation. The parallel with knowledge management systems is obvious.
Today’s session on Collaborative Learning & Games hosted by Steve Barth was one of the best sessions of the conference so far. Yes, it does dovetail with my own personal interests, but it was obvious from the participation of the audience- and that we all stayed over for more than 10 minutes–that the topic struck a chord beyond just me.
Collaboration is a way of working with others, and it is supported by the same functionalities that enable KM. According to the Gartner Group (2004), the percentage of individuals whose work depends on collaboration is rising and will rise significantly from 2000 (28%) to 2010 (70%). Here are some important considerations.
After 50 years of waiting in the wings, training is finally emerging as a full-fledged business process. (Will it take 50 years for KM to achieve the same respect?)
For adults who have never played multiplayer online games (especially role-playing games or RPGs), it can be baffling when co-workers, neighbors or otherwise “respectable” adults confess to having an alter-ego named Hawkslayer or Aeria who is a night elf priest or hunter with a play date to go finish a quest for a rare dagger. It can be even more baffling to discover that 70% of the female characters in the game are actually played by males. And that the average gamer is an 18-year-old male when you are a mature female (cough) years older than them! MMOGs today are highly sophisticated worlds containing a microcosm of human nature, and as a result, they are fascinating to observe (and to play).
The quality of the presentations this year at KMWorld seems less than in prior years. While many of the sessions have interesting sounding titles, there have been a number of last minute speaker substitutions, and the overall quality of at least half of the presentations has been less than expected.
If you haven’t seen movies made from ASCII text before, check these out. They are great fun!
Did you have trouble solving Rubix Cubes? This 4-D Magic Cube goes to a whole new extreme. Try it out online. It’s a geeky thing, but totally mindblowing. I don’t think it’s solvable!
There is currently a lot of corporate activity in the KM arena. What do the experts forecast for Knowledge Management? The following projections are compiled from a variety of research and consulting organizations, as well as respected individual practitioners in the field. What did I miss?
Studies by independent researchers have shown that culture change within organizations requires 3 to 5 years of constant and consistent effort. Changing workersâ€™ behaviors is the most challenging aspect of knowledge management, and will take the most effort and time if the KM initiative is going to succeed. A committed sponsor and a communication plan are two of the most important.
Commonly misused terms defined. Don’t let your management call information knowledge and get away with it!
Ever wonder how Google returns such great results? Simple…it’s with pigeon power! Flocks of bird perform massively parallel pecking to solve complex problems. Google uses only low-cost, off-the-street pigeons for its clusters. (Okay, it’s from 2002, but it’s a great prank!)
Light polution may be propagating, but it produces some amazing images from space . Since the late 80s better and better images have been achieved, including the famous and awe inspiring one by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program’s Operational Linescan System about halfway down the page on this link.
Did you have trouble solving Rubix Cubes? Try this 4-D Magic Cube applet. It’s a geeky thing, but totally mindblowing. I don’t think it’s solvable!
San Jose! KM World 2005! Great place to inaugurate this site.
A lot of people, especially mathematicians, probably know all about su doku, but I just discovered it. Just when I had gotten blase about games, I’m having a lot of fun discovering that I can do it! If you haven’t seen it before, it’s 9 squares in a 3×3 arrangement, each square of which is [...]