The rise of virtual worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft has led to innovative new ways to train corporate leaders. In a virtual world, people are represented by avatars and can practice their skills in a variety of settings with other professionals. This is a cost-effective way to train a large amount of people in various situations. In short, this is business training of the future.
While many video game aficionados were always told that their hobbies were pointless, even the youngest players are gaining leadership training without realizing it. John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas of Wired magazine write:
When role-playing gamers team up to undertake a quest, they often need to attempt particularly difficult challenges repeatedly until they find a blend of skills, talents, and actions that allows them to succeed. This process brings about a profound shift in how they perceive and react to the world around them.
They become more flexible in their thinking and more sensitive to social cues. The fact that they don't think of gameplay as training is crucial. Once the experience is explicitly educational, it becomes about developing compartmentalized skills and loses its power to permeate the player's behavior patterns and worldview.
It isn't just the "accidental" training that companies are interested in, however. The aforementioned Second Life serves as a training ground and collaboration tool for many different industries. The Coalition Connection, for example, is a University of Maryland project that provides virtual training for a group of emergency responders.
Is this new age in leadership training free of problems? Certainly not, as there are cultural and technical obstacles people must overcome. Not everyone is Web-savvy and trained in PC gaming, after all. However, more companies are relating virtual world training to their bottom line. It is extremely cost effective to undergo this sort of widespread training, especially when remote workers must be brought together.
Elastic Collision is one of many consulting firms that helps businesses to develop their own virtual world presence. As the company states, corporate training sessions can "leverage the educational potential of virtual worlds." Will every company adopt this new technology? Perhaps not, but the most innovative companies already have.
Susan Jacobs is a freelance writer as well as a regular contributor for CollegeDegree.com, a site helping students select an online college degree. Susan invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address firstname.lastname@example.org.