Monday, November 12, 2007

Leadership in Virtual Worlds

Kuldeep Reyatt asked a question on linkedin the other day ... About the possible nature of leadership in the virtual world. While I responded to his query on linkedin, this did open up a thought process ... What does a leader in the virtual worlds look like? Definitely not with 2 heads ... But, with a head which matches the scenario?

The question, I think, has implications on the way Enterprise 2.0 shapes up, too. To my mind, there are aspects of the virtual world, and the problem solving process there, and the same process in the web 2.0 world, which are similar. The largest one being participation. Or, the collaborative nature of problem solving activities. Does this mean the two are going to be identical? I dont think so. Would they be similar ... I think so.

The word to describe it could be "democratic". Or participative, if you may? Though, in a totally different connotation. What this means is that there may not be any permanent leaders ... and this is something which we find in organizations today as well, with specific folks leading teams tasked with solving a particular problem. Rather than rely on the organization hierarchy, more and more, there may be people emerging as leaders in the specific scenario, or to solve a particular problem, based on their expertise. There could be different kinds of leaders ... thought leaders, action leaders ... And different scenarios, or different problems might find different, at times highly unlikely leaders emerging from the community itself. IBM has done a story about Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders which points somewhat in this direction, too. The underlying idea being ... It will be the passion, and the knowledge that people bring to the problem solving scenario, which, in all probability would decide the shape of leadership to solve that particular problem. What this implies is a much more fluid leadership scenario, with leaders not being decided on traditional parameters.

Does this mean traditional leadership will go away? Not at all. It wouldnt, and I would think, it shouldnt. Leadership, in its able form, provides the glue which keeps things together, and people pointed towards a common passion, or a common vision. But, within this context, there could be a level of leadership which is much more open. And, this is happening today, too!


Jessie Paul said...

Virtual Worlds are just the fulfillment of the promise of the internet. It's the kind of graphic capability which was once restricted to Silicon Graphics computers or a mainfram made available to Average Joe Internet. Just as the internet spawned a few leaders - google, ebay, amazon come to mind - but allowed many of the old economy cos to make the leap, the virtual words will result in a few business model innovations as well as an adaptation of existing models.
initially corporates were on the ineternet just as brochureware, and that is what most Second Life presence is today...but that will change.

Atul said...

I agree with you, Jessie. At one level, I see virtual worlds and web 2.0 as being interconnected concepts, the idea being that of a creative and collaborative web. And something which is collaborative like this, by definition, is going to be adopted by individuals first, and from the experiences of these individuals, organizations would learn.