Leaders are temporary

WOWA couple of years ago the Collab@Work blog wrote a very interesting article on how leadership in MMORPG’s, such as World of Warcraft is temporary. They provided reasons why in these MMORPG’s it makes sense to have temporary leaders:

In those games, leadership is a temporary position. At one point in time, you’re leading, the week after you’re following another leader. Reasons vary: too much pressure, less availability, someone else better suited for the job at hand, …

Unfortunately they highlighted that in traditional business leadership is virtually never temporary. Over the last couple of years the growth in this idea around temporary leadership in the way many small business collaboratively work together, especially when it comes to businesses based around the web. I would say that this is in part due to the fact that people in small business are very engaged in what they do, otherwise they would go out of business. Engagement is a key attribute required for temporary leadership to work.

Temporary leadership has many benefits again to quote Collab@Work:

  • having been a leader makes you a better follower. You understand better what the leader is trying to achieve
  • being a follower makes you a better leader. Your experience as a follower is still recent
  • from an organizational perspective, you can “test” more leaders including the ones that wouldn’t have been considered. That can dramatically increase your leadership bench, and see who are the best leaders rather than the best leader potentials.

The post was based on a HBR article from May 2008 which pointed out that  in today’s business:

A lot of work will be done by global teams—partly composed of people from outside the institution, over whom a leader has no formal authority—that are assembled for a single project and then disbanded. Collaboration within these geographically diverse groups will, by necessity, occur mainly through digital rather than face-to-face interaction.

Sounds like an MMORPG to me.  For example it makes sense that people who can successfully execute a 6 hour raid with 50 guild members based in 10 countries is developing the right skills needed for business in the future. They are also learning how to effectively leverage all of the social technologies we have available.

So as both articles say do not necessarily dismiss the hours spent by your children or friends on these games, they may in fact be learning the critical skills to be the next world leaders.

Productivity paradox of social networks

Social networking tends to take a bit of a beating in the mainstream press when it comes to the business value. They seem to ignore the good examples of how organisations use these tools, such as Dow Chemical to encourage their alumni and employees on long term leave to return. In the first three months of usage they had 25,000 referrals, 24 full-time jobs and 40 contract roles filled through the use of a social network (Source Gartner).

Which brings me to two very good articles I read this week. 

First up was from the UK’s HR Zone looked at the benefits social network tools provide organisations in reducing the barriers to communication.

Organisational behaviour research has shown that collaborative Web 2.0 tools are particularly effective where technical knowledge is valued. In complex organisations like multinational corporations, finding someone who possesses highly specific expertise is often difficult. One reason is that expertise remains ‘hidden’ – and consequently unexploited – within organisational structures.

They even go on to quote a UK-based think tank indicating that social networks encourge people to create productive relationships and work the way people do.

The second was from Harvard Business Review on the benefits of social networks, focused around information discovery and sharing. Here we see figures such as 7%, 30% and even 40% improvements in productivty when employees where using communication patterns facilitated by social networks. What CEO doesn’t want 40% more out of their existing workforce!

With all this research being released I hope we will see some more positive articles from the mainstream media.