If you haven't explored Virtual Worlds yet, or if you have but still seeking more ways to leverage them, the observations below, from one of the workshops that I conducted in Second Life, shed some light on how Virtual Worlds can provide virtual teams with unique experiences and benefits that aren't otherwise possible. Keep on reading!
The workshop was the same but the setting was very different. Instead of people gathering in a training room or around a conference room table, we were gathered (as avatars) around the conference room table in Second Life. The level of experience varied, some being first timers in Second Life, while others having many hours of experience. However everyone got a chance to attend the orientation session and learned what they need to know in order to navigate and communicate properly.
The next team-building exercise was about to start. We divided the team into small groups. Each group is assigned a task which involves searching for specific clues and relevant information around the island, collecting them, and reporting back to us within a specified time period. This requires that the small group members strategize on how they would approach this assignment and then execute and continue to communicate and collaborate during execution.
In addition to the assignment itself, the group members had to deal with many group related issues:
- Some team members were more experienced than others (in Second Life). Accordingly the experienced members had to make some difficult decisions: Should they help their group and stay all together, or should they proceed on their own to get the assignment done faster?
- The groups were not given enough data about the assignment so they had to make some assumptions and decisions based on insufficient data.
The time is up and some groups made it back on time while other didn't. Once everyone got back, we compared the results and discussed what went on. This discussion was as rich and insightful as any discussion I have seen in person. We got to the core issues quickly and it was no longer about avatars but more so about the people. The issues became real. We reviewed what went on and how the different approaches and communication styles contributed to each person's experience and to each group's performance. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate these discussions.
- Someone made the decision to stay with the group even though her skill level is much more advanced. She could have gone much faster searching for the clues and relevant information on her own. However she saw more value in helping her group members and working as a team instead of getting the task done. We discussed her approach and the pros and cons of this approach. This brought some constructive discussions about how to manage daily situations where there might be significant discrepancies in skill level, and how to creatively balance between individual performance and group performance.
- One group member was frustrated with the above assignment because he wasn't "getting it right." He seems to have misinterpreted the assignment, and his group seems to have jumped into the execution phase without much strategizing. This was poor team work with incorrect assumptions which resulted in frustration and poor performance. Does this sound familiar? However, having observed this in the Virtual World, the group members got some valuable insights into how they can do it different in their daily work.
There is nothing "virtual" about the above learning. It is as real as it can get. It is only possible because of the rich 3-D environment and rich communication tools that Virtual Worlds offer. Virtual Worlds are opening up the possibility for virtual teams to interact and strengthen their working relationships and collaborate more fully than ever before!