Stanford University communications professor Byron Reeves talks to The Washington Post about how the collaborative online model of games like World of Warcraft can help change real world workplaces and empower better leaders.

Reeves is the co-author of Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete. With a title that long and involved, you know he has to be an authority of the subject of plumbing virtual worlds for ways to enhance our workplace interactions, so you should listen to what the man says.

As a once-rabid MMO player, I've often marveled at the difference between the way large video game guilds work and how your average office operates. I would spend hours online with people from all over the world, with one or two leaders flawlessly orchestrating the actions of 25 to 40 different individuals, none of whom had ever met in person.

Then I'd go into my old graphic design job the next day to find that four people sitting within a 20 foot square office couldn't collaborate without some sort of miscommunication, clashing personalities, or inter-office politics getting in the way.

So why not adopt a virtual office, as Reeves suggests? We could create our own avatars, raid important projects for experience points, gain special equipment for particularly good work - it would be a fun and engaging way to work.

It's something I could see cropping up in the near future, as new bosses come to power and the older ones retire. Many employers still can't imagine managing employees who aren't directly in front of them, much less trust them to be productive when they're a hundred miles away from the office.

It'll happen.

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On Leadership: How video games build leaders [The Washington Post - thanks Riddilem!]