Monday, March 03, 2008

Witnessing the "gamer disposition"

One of Harvard Business Review's 2008 breakthrough ideas identified "The Gamer Disposition" as a hallmark of high-impact business performers of the future. Gamers had certain attributes (bottom-line orientation, comfort with change, etc.) that would help make them successful in business.

"The Gamer Disposition" was notable because it played against the stereotypes most businesspeople have of gamers: slackers and loners who would make low-value employees. Also, the authors, John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, made the point (indirectly) that the gamer qualities were not found in many current employees.

As I've observed my two young gamers battle "LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga" these last two months, I've seen some of the gamer disposition in action. Here's what I've seen:

  1. Unafraid to fail - getting terminated by Count Dooku a hundred times didn't dissuade my guys from trying again.

  2. Do rather than research - there is no user's manual for the game, and the kids didn't want one. They preferred to learn by doing again and again. (Me: "How did you learn you had to drop the gate on the Rancor to kill him?" My five-year-old: shoulder shrug, "We just tried it and it worked!")

  3. Resourceful - they'll ask their friends how they overcome certain obstacles, and share their learnings with pride.

  4. Ever-learning - the biggest prize they get from playing the game is the ability to open up new parts of the game; to become a beginner again. Expertise isn't that interesting to them. "What's next?" is.
The above practices seem useful to me in navigating any complex business context. It will be interesting to see how business has changed twenty years hence, when "the gamer disposition" is no longer the exception, but the rule among employees.

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