I stumbled upon an article published last June by Knowledge@Wharton mentioning “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion” by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, Lang Davison. Somehow I had missed this book that offers intriguing alternatives to organizations mired in their own structures. To learn about it you can read this critique by The Economist,  that happen to be titled “In Search of Serendipity” – on a side note, I’m happy that this word that I discovered in 1997 has been enjoying increasing popularity since the beginning of this millennium.

I can’t stand playing a MMORPG for even fifteen minutes (I prefer tactical, operational or strategical games – preferably with a pseudo-realistic environment), but I watched my people play and I agree about Hagel & al’s the mob collaborative dynamics that happen there :

Guild leaders in World of Warcraft “require a high degree of influence,” noted Hagel [..]. “You have to be able to influence and persuade people — not order them to do things. Ordering people in most of these guilds doesn’t get you far.”

In addition to the leadership qualities involved with becoming the head of a guild and assembling a problem-solving team from previously independent players, World of Warcraft enthusiasts, as noted by Hagel, conduct extensive after-action reviews of their performances as well as that of the leader. In addition, he said that game players typically customize their own dashboards to offer statistics and rate performance in areas they consider critical to their strategy.

This parallel between gaming and management is interesting – but Hagel & al. are not the first to notice it. In 2008, in “Collective solitude and social networks in World of Warcraft” my fellow ESSCA alumni and friend Nicolas Ducheneaut remarked :

We show that these social networks are often sparse and that most players spend time in the game experiencing a form of “collective solitude”: they play surrounded by, but not necessarily with, other players. We also show that the most successful player groups are analogous to the organic, team-based forms of organization that are prevalent in today’s workplace. Based on these findings, we discuss the relationship between online social networks and “real world” behavior in organizations in more depth.

“Prevalent in today’s workplace” ? From my big company point of view, I find that statement more than slightly optimistic – though not surprising considering how Nicolas enthusiastically embraces the future. But that is definitely the direction that we are going in. Expect even more of it as Generation Y enters the workforce. Until then, there is still a lot of evangelism to do…