Almost every morning, I have to endure my colleagues’ talks about their latest adventures in World of Warcraft. “Yesterday, we spent hours on that quest in Shnirzelwood until we, finally, almost had Blargelfarg tanked, and then that stupid hunter just ran away!” Oh please. Spare me.
Reading about how Joi Ito, a successful venture capitalist and well-known figure in the IT business, draws parallels between managing his WoW guild and organizing a company, could make me reconsider trying out WoW myself, though.
Strategy+Business” explains in “The Ambassador from the Next Economy how Ito perceives managing his WoW guild of about 250 people as a good example of leadership in modern business:
Long frustrated by the fairly conventional hierarchies in even the most innovative technology companies, Mr. Ito says he sees in his Warcraft guild a new way to organize, manage, and motivate people. With his guild doubling in size every month, he does a lot of learning on the fly. “Every week or so, I have to add a new rank, build a whole bunch of new rules, and throw in kind of ad hoc structures,” Mr. Ito says. “Im playing with all the different kinds of management ideas Ive had for companies with a bunch of people who are actually very dedicated. They will set their alarm clocks for 3 a.m. to run a raid of 40 people. They are committed to each other like people in a normal company wouldnt be committed to each other. So as a test bed for these ideas, this is actually pretty amazing.”
He considers himself more a “custodian” than a “leader”, putting the different abilities, backgrounds and experiences of his diverse guild members to their best use. And he doesn’t really care much for hierarchies:
In the World of Warcraft, much of what you learn is how to improvise or accumulate the resources you need. […] Once he knows what he really has to do, then he becomes incredibly creative in finding resources anywhere in the organization. He never even thinks about the fact that hes just jumped over three silos. Hes found out how to find who knows what, and how to engage that person to help him.
Next year, Ito is going to launch a new company of his own, its staff recruited from the ranks of his Warcraft guild.
Well, that gets me thinking. WoW is about getting the job done, in time and under pressure, in a team. Maybe I should ask my next job applicants about their leadership experience in World of Warcraft.