Your Kid’s Xbox may be HR’s Crystal Ball

Another really good guest post from Richie Coladarci. Thanks, Cola (R.C.), for the provocation…


I’m not a big video game guy, which is probably the reason I was so surprised to hear that Guitar Hero is to be discontinued due to declining sales. I’ve played it before, along with its music gaming rival Rock Band, and thought both were a blast.

For those in the dark about these games, their controllers are modeled after instruments and players follow prompts on the screen to hit the right notes. In real life, it’s a pair of brothers after school, one jamming on lead guitar while the other less-skilled “guitarist” strums a simple bass line. Then a friend drops by after marching band practice, grabs her sticks from her backpack and starts banging on the drums. Finally the three of them call the next-door neighbor and invite him to lend his Eddie Vedder-esque vocals.

Although I’m not in the typical demographic described above, I saw the appeal. It was fun to play together and not against one another for a change.  Is this a new trend?  It very well may be. In the recent article “20 predictions for the next 25 years” a noted video game researcher claims that gamers today, on average, prefer three to one to play co-operative games rather than competitive games.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume this co-operative gaming trend continues. Fast-forward a few years and you’ve got a glimpse of your employees…and you should be ecstatic!  Recap: They play well together. They enjoy working towards a common goal. They let people play to their own strengths.

So what’s the rub?

For one, your performance and recognition plans are probably designed to reward individuals, not teams. They may even have a “take from Peter to pay Paul” mentality, which means that you’ll never get that Eddie Vedder sound (why would your team invite that sort of competition?).

Another important consideration is “line of sight.” In Rock Band, since all the song options are pretty mainstream, everyone knows what the final product should sound like when each person pulls his/her own weight. In other words, they know the end goal and they see how their contribution affects the results.

Sounds to me like a good business practice that might be worth emulating.

So I’ll end how I started: I’m not a big video game guy and I know little about the gaming world. This teaming gig may just be a fad…maybe it will fade just as suddenly as Guitar Hero. But while it’s here, it reminds us of our preference to team, to collaborate toward a common goal, and to have fun together. So even if it is a fad, is developing and encouraging results-oriented teams really wasted time? Xbox (and Wii, and the Social Gaming Community) would say ’no way’!

Image Credit: Destructoid

5 Responses to Your Kid’s Xbox may be HR’s Crystal Ball
  1. Paul Hebert
    February 18, 2011 | 6:20 am

    Always good to watch what the kids are doing. With a son that plays Xbox – call of duty/halo/name your first person shooter – he plays in cooperative mode – on a team.

    HOWEVER, before we go an redesign all our recognition and reward programs – he is more interested in his gamer score – his individual rankings. In other words – yes – he wants to play on a team toward a goal – as long as he can see his own performance and be able to see his/her rank.

    I believe that the, to use an already overused term “gamification” of work programs should be considered. Let’s not make an assumption that individual tracking and scoring and rewarding is passe. It’s not – it’s just buried one level down now.
    Paul Hebert´s last blog ..One More Time – Worry About YOUR Employees Not TheirsMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Richie Coladarci
    February 18, 2011 | 8:25 am

    Good point Paul. Individual Competition may have just dropped a level here, but if that becomes the norm that’s actually not so insignificant. We’ll see how things continue to evolve.

    Thanks for raising the other side of the argument.

  3. Drew Hawkins
    February 18, 2011 | 8:39 am

    I know personally that I enjoyed group research projects/presentations in school a lot more than solo ones. The accountability factor in a team environment does help one work harder. Having that “we’re in this together” mindset does help breed more success and encourages more individual participation. Just look at games like Farmville or World of Warcraft. Those game mechanics are designed around building a community of users who help each other reach goals.

    With that said, you can’t completely leave out the individual. Sure I liked working on a team but the team environment helped my individual strengths pop out even more. Even with a team concept, there has to be something in it for the individual.

  4. James Papiano
    February 18, 2011 | 3:50 pm

    Appreciate the insight,

    I am not a gamer, nor a fan of the game frame for businesses and organizations. Still, I think you are on to something important here, and we might not have to wait for tweeners to graduate into the workforce to find out…

    The questions you raise reminds me of a presentation I heard last year on changing the model for leadership development from individual to the group/team/cohort.

    In today’s world, individuals do need to know where they stand (nod to Paul above) but outcomes are more dependent on the aggregate efforts of teams, groups, and whole systems of people rather than individual brilliance, diligence or skill. The problems we are trying to solve are increasingly complex and require cross disciplinary if not cross sector dialogue and collaboration. In this kind of environment the traditional model of individual and siloed evaluation and thinking will not cut it. [Einstein: You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.] This is true not only at leadership levels but down chain as well.

    My sense is that we have only just begun to understand how to “think systems” consistently– let alone have that trickle down into practical everyday considerations like leadership development, performance management, and rewards. Call it an experimental stage where keen insights and intrepid experimenters keep the thoughts warm and light the path. DIscussions like this one and leadership programs like the one I mention are starting to normalize it–I hope.

  5. Jay Kuhns
    February 21, 2011 | 6:18 am

    Good post Charlie. Having a 16 year old daughter who is very driven to be successful and who is very independent gives me a shadow of what may be in the coming workforce. She wants to get along with others just fine, but also wants to be successful – individually. She pushes herself hard to succeed, and rarely does she discuss how well her “group” is doing. In fact, comparisons with the other students seems to be the norm. It’s a fascinating issue really…what will the next wave of employees look like, expect, strive for…want? We’ll know soon enough.
    Jay Kuhns´s last blog ..Power Post – Sprinting Is GoodI ThinkMy ComLuv Profile

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