Peter J. Denning (Naval Postgraduate School, USA), Fernando Flores (Pluralistic Networks, Inc., USA) and Gloria Flores (Pluralistic Networks, Inc., USA)
Copyright © 2011.
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Two questions are examined. Why is coordination hard to achieve when teams are diverse? Are there conditions under which players of MMOGs can learn skills of effective coordination and transfer these skills to real teams? A pluralistic network is a social system in which people are committed to working together effectively despite cultural differences. A core set of eight practices enables a network to be pluralistic. An experiment with the World of Warcraft game confirmed that the game can significantly accelerate learning of those practices. To enable the skills to be transferred to the real world, the game must be augmented with a reflective learning environment.
The Coordination Challenge
The Internet confronts us with a plurality of values at a level of immediacy unimaginable to previous generations. At work, at play, and at home, we are unavoidably connected to people from all over the world. In organizations large and small, project teams are increasingly virtual, consisting of people in dispersed geographical locations, who have different cultural backgrounds and value systems. To flourish in our world today -- or even just to participate in a meaningful way -- requires the cultivation of a new kind of pluralism. The new pluralism is a mindset that goes far beyond tolerating diversity; it actively engages with others to articulate shared goals and commit to working together to achieve them. The new pluralism requires a new skill set, which we call the Orchestration of Commitments in Pluralistic Networks. Our objective in this chapter is to discuss why we need this new kind of pluralism and how to cultivate it in our networks. We are confident that MMO games can be useful tools for developing and cultivating this mindset, when combined with a framework for observing the way we engage with each other and with new practices for more effective engagement.
Coordination is essential for all human beings to work together. It underlies all human social practices. It is how a group acts together as a unity, achieving a purpose that no individual could alone. Business, government, and military organizations exemplify systems of coordination that enable them to make and fulfill offers on a broad scale. These organizations rely on small teams to carry out specific tasks and missions. We will focus here on coordination within small teams.
Despite its being essential, many people find coordination to be a major, sometimes insurmountable, challenge. Coordination breakdowns manifest as miscommunication, misunderstandings, unmet expectations, distrust, blindness, prejudice, lack of sensitivity, ill-timed actions, wasted motion and resources, missed deadlines, and performance-killing bad moods. As a result, coordination breakdowns are usually expensive, wasteful, mission killing, and sometimes life threatening. A plethora of coordination technologies have been offered to overcome these problems and enable virtual teams, but even with those tools coordination breakdowns have become more common as teams become more dispersed. Exquisite coordination, which separates high performance teams from the rest, is an ever more elusive goal.