Notes on "The Kids are Alright, How the Gamer Generation is Changing the Workplace"

book by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, Harvard Business School Press, 2006

notes by Dwayne Phillips

Revision History
Revision 1.0 July 2009

.7 Habits of Highly Typical Gamers

..1. Everyone can succeed
..2. You gotta play the odds
..3. Learn from the team, not the coach
..4. Kill bosses, trust strategy guides
..5. Watch the map
..6. Can't see it? Ignore it
..7. Demand the right team

.Introduction - Planet of the Rotting Minds?

..How video games forged the next baby boom
.This new generation is huge: 90 million people in the U.S. alone.

.And those differences are driven by one central factor: growing up playing video games

.Gaming and related behavior don't stop just because games become adults.

.If you are a business professional over 34, the chances are good (two to one) that you had little or no video game experience
as a teenager.

.For them, for their entire generation, video games have been a defining part of their reality. What do we mean by defining?

.Video games are central to understanding the generation.
..and to a place that those older people - who wouldn't get it anyway - simply cannot follow.

.Definitely not in Kansas Anymore
..1. The individual's role
...1. You're the star
...2. You're the boss
...3. You're the customer, and the customer is always right
...4. You're an expert
...5. You're a tough guy

..2. How the world works
...1. There's always an answer
...2. Everything is possible
...3. The world is a logical, human-friendly place
...4. Trail-and-error is almost always the best plan
...5. Things are (unrealistically) simple. You can figure a game out completely.

..3. How people relate
...1. It's all about competition
...2. Relationships are structured
...3. We are all alone
...4. Young people rule
...5. People are simple

..4. What you should do
...1. Rebel
...2. Be a hero
...3. Bond with people who share your game experience, not your national or culture background
...4. Make your own way in the world
....Leaders are irrelevant and often evil; ignore them

...5. Tune out and have fun

.The game generation will ultimately outdo the baby boom in size.

.1. The game generation will drive trends for decades to come.

.2. Their behavior is driven by games more than anything else.
..Stereotype - Gen X is cynical like Kurt Cobain
..Gen Y is more upbeat like Britney Spears

.3. We have a real generation gap between boomers and gamers
..Gen X sort of doesn't exist. Sorry.

.Those who played games as teens are different as employees, managers, and executives.

.Note "Bond with people who share your game experience, not your national or culture background" Add to that "share your church denomination background.

.Chapter 1 - Space Invader

.How games became so important without the rest of us noticing.

.Millions in the game generation never experienced the Atari game console itself; they grew up mainly on Nintendo, PlayStation, PCs, and the Game Boy.

.For typical American adults, computer and video games were just kid stuff. For typical American kids, those same games were
automatically part of life.

.What was new to them, and unknown to their parents, was manipulating the stories.

.An entire generation bought into, really believed in, these principles that video games taught them:
..1. If you get there first, you win
..2. There's a limited set of tools, and it is certain that some combination will work.
..3. Trial and error is the best strategy and the fastest way to learn.
..4. Elders...can't help; they don't understand even the basics of the new world.
..5. You will confront surprises and difficulties that you are not prepared for.
..6. Once you collect the right will get an infusion of gold to tide you over.
..7. While there will be momentary setbacks, overall the trend will be up.

..If you do bump into a "game over," no problem.


.We (old folks) played Pong. It was cute, but boring after a week. We walked away from video games and dismissed them.

.The kids never saw Pong, but saw a new generation of real video games. We didn't see those because we wrote them off
as more Pong. We were wrong.

.Note, "Elders...can't help; they don't understand even the basics of the new world."

.Chapter 2 - Sex, Violence, and Stereotypes

.The first things that pop to mind always seem to be negative: sexism, violence, stereotypes, and isolation.

.Males and females play computer video games together (as opposed to outdoor and physical games that are played separately).
..Female participation rates are going up.

.What is clear is that the game world is not, as so many assume, exclusively male; that female participation continues to increase;
and that gender-role behavior is more nuanced than non-gamers tend to expect.

.It is easy to believe that there is a strong connection between violence and games...studies that suggest that research really doesn't prove any correlation.

.They worry that their new employees - or their children - will turn out to be loners addicted to escapism.
..To us, that's escapism: withdrawing from the real world. To them, it's just engaging in a different part of the real world - one that's a lot more fun.

.The gamer stereotype of the awkward yet obnoxious loner.
..Back then, simply playing video games might have made your child a loner. Now, it will put him right there with he rest of the pack.

.Chapter 3 - Not the Real World

.It is important to understand two things
..1. what the game world is like
..2. why gamers have found it so compelling

.There's a vocabulary that has emerged out of video games in the past fifteen years that only people who play the games can understand.

.Most Powerful thing that gaming teaches its natives:

.They are all customers, and the customer is always right.
..It IS all about me.
..Gaming is like shopping ten hours a day at the mall with all the money you want. That is bound to affect your outlook on life.

.Another Power Thing: Game seem to love experience designed to absorb all of their attention.
..attention intensity
..reject all those interrupts, displace them for a few minutes with something of our choice, something completely unproductive is the best revenge.
..These games provide an escape from clutter and deadlines and complicated thought patterns, so that the mind can return to a place that is clear, brisk, invigorating - even, in the end, deeply productive.

.Gamers Love Games
.because they are exquisitely responsive to the wishes of the player.
..What do you want to do today?
..You are always in charge.

.Games reward pure technical skills that are far easier to  pick up than, say, the nuances of violin playing.

.One Thing you have to love about gaming

.The simplicity it offers.
..They are simplified, limited versions of reality.
..The world of games makes sense.

.Gamers Love Games for a simple, nefarious-sounding reason:

.Games are an escape.

.Gamers see nothing wrong with taking a Game Boy to Disneyland play while standing in line

.So gamers make a lot of choices,  in a wide variety of settings, in a short period of time.  And they automatically care about the outcome. If that's not a powerful training environment, what is?

..1. The gamers look awfully self-centered.  We - the old folks - made them that way. Now we have to live with it.

.Chapter 4 - Want 'Tude with That?

.The gamers have values that give potential for professional performance.

.The surprise begins with the game generation's cleverly camouflaged commitment to professional excellence.

.All that experience with video games has made these people passionate about adding value.

.Almost 50% of gamers think of themselves as experts. They are so confident in their skills that they believe they don't have to work as hard as other people.

.Member of the game generation...have a complementary attitude that is even stronger: their attitude toward competition.
..Games believe that winning matters.
..They believe that competition is the law of nature.

.Odds are that they more you played games as a youngster, the more you care about the company you work for.
..Growing up with games does not seem to systematically increase individualism.

.This generation seems convinced that it really can multi-task.

.Men consider themselves less able to multi-task...and are more skeptical of the concept. And on a technical level, there is a fair amount of evidence that they are right (multi-tasking doesn't work for anyone).
..Mastery of almost any game is all about knowing which  activities you can relegate to back-of-mind attention.
..Switching from back-of-mind to front-of-mind might be the skill set most important to gamers.

.Gamers think they do it (multi-task) and they love the feeling of being immersed in data.

.Gamers expect high rewards for the value they create.
..a shared attitude among gamers: if they do the job, they expect rewards.
..gamers are much more likely ... to say "I prefer pay and bonuses based on actual performance rather than a set salary."
..The biggest that the gamers passion for adding value can be so easily misconstrued...the word arrogant coming to mind.

.Unlike boomers, gamers want to be HEROES!

.Everyone who picks up the game controller has to shoulder the  hero's burden. the game world, you are either the hero, or you'e not playing at all.

.A people who value heroism more than the things that WE now assume drive everyone: power, money, perhaps even love.

.Harnessing Potential
..1. Tap the gamers' instinct for heroism.
...They believe that their personal performance matters to others.
...Frame tasks as opportunities for heroism.

..2. Don't let the superficial badges of culture mislead you.
...Where many boomers go astray is in evaluating the new generation's attitudes.
...Try to ignore what seems like arrogance. Watch closely, instead, for professional pride.

..3. Use the game generation's "selfish" drives to inspire great performance.
...Appeal to pride, not greed.
...They also want to actually achieve.
...And they might a specific challenge to  actually earn it.

..4. Don't dismiss gamers' ability to concentrate and quickly move between tasks.

..5. Help your people work together across the generation gap.
...When two cultures don't realize how different they are - when each  group thinks that the other ASSUMES the same principles and uses the same language - then those misunderstandings can be incredibly destructive.

..1. Note "value heroism more than the things that WE now assume drive everyone: power, money, perhaps even love."
..2. they have a different motivation, not just money.
..3. Look at working across the generation gap. This is the same as having different MBTI types and temperaments working
together, misunderstanding one another, and loathing one another.

.Chapter 5 - Play Nice

.After all that time alone, can gamers be great team players?

.A lot of gaming does involve gamers' withdrawal from the people around them.

.Piano lessons - It is shocking to compare high-culture piano lessons to the lowly video game. But there are striking points of resemblance.
..both are, in a way, self-centered.

.Gamers are not isolated, introverted, or unsociable. In general, they care about other people exactly as much as the rest of us do.

.The more time young professionals have spent playing video games, the more sociable they report themselves to be.
..If someone you hire has lots of digital game experience, your  safest bet is that she will place more value on the team
around her, not less.

.Gamers want it their way and they want it now.

.We also found that gamers can be emotionally volatile.
..The entire game generation, both on average and by game-frequency category, is much more emotionally volatile than baby boomers.
.the game generation agrees with the statement,  "I can control the way I come across to people, depending on the impression I wish to make."

.But the clear, common thread is that - more than one would expect - they are more skilled than non-gamers at using a wide range
of tactics to involve other people in making decisions.
..the game generation seems surprisingly inclined, and fluidly able, to involve their subordinates in decision making.
..Less than ten percent of the gamers...would be comfortable with "making the decisions on their own without discussing it with
employees under their supervision."
..The same trend continues when we ask about a decision making style that is a bit more egalitarian, yet still clearly authoritarian.
..When the attitude is, "share the problem one-on-one with employees and ask for their input, but make the decision on
your own," the game generation's comfort level goes up dramatically.
..They are equally comfortable getting subordinates' input one-on-one or in a group.
...The older cohorts, in contrast, are significantly more likely to prefer the group meeting model.

.Young professionals with extensive gaming experience display the same attitudes as more more experienced managers.

.But the really striking message is that, with teamwork as with other professional attitudes, the game generation seems to have somehow accumulated experience beyond their years.

.To the boomers around and above them, the gamers might no look  like the enthusiastic team players that they really are.

.To make the most of this generation's innate sociability, executives only need to consider three types of possible changes:
..1. Provide a little structure
...Gamers value performance. Give them chances to bond over successful projects.
..2. Help them learn local standards.
..3. Manage your teams as group video games.
...Structure team assignments like a game, providing clear high-level direction but also lots of room to explore. Tell you team,
"Here are the boundaries; you can't go outside them, but inside try anything - open all the door, run into the walls, find a way to succeed.

.Give gamers some rein to explore your company, your industry, your customer segment, and see if they don't use the same creative streak to add value to your organization.

.Chapter 6 Win or Go Home

..How video games built ROI into this generation's DNA

.Gamers learn that failure doesn't hurt
..Failure is a huge part of the gaming experience.
..Failure is part of the process that leads to success
..To a baby boomer from the professional classes, economic life is supposed to bring both security and rising wealth.
..But to the game generation, risk is real and natural. It includes extreme consequences.

.Frequent gamers are much more likely to agree that "taking measured risks is the best way to get ahead."

.Gamers embrace risk for exactly the right business reasons.
..gamers are explicitly NOT thrill seekers
..they are willing to take risk, but not for the emotional punch - only for the right reasons.

.Trial and error is the preferred way to tackle any problem.
..You don't read the manual, you try the software. If you can't figure out the software by trial and error, there is something wrong with the software.
..For boomers, trial and error was NEVER something to be proud of.

.It's the central secret of digital gaming, maybe even secret from gamers themselves: Games are providing real, valuable experience.
..The game generation, at least, clearly believes that they have learned from this kind of experience.

.Chapter 7 - Gamers on Top

..What to expect from gamers as executives

.Our data suggests...members of the fame generation have the makings of great CEOs.

.For starters, in the world in which gamers grow up, leaders are basically useless.
..It's just that the hierarchy, especially the part above you, is irrelevant or evil.
..Rebellion is gaming's classic theme.
..There are NO COACHES

.Game experience has encouraged three traits that are crucial for executives
..1. per last chapter, they take risks
..2. Gamers think different - they fit into flexible organizations
..3. Gamers "go meta" they have a leader's perspective on success, failure, and perspective itself.

.Think Different
..The organizations have already changed.
..Gamers are already accustomed to the global view
...They play games on the net with kids in Brazil
..Games have supercharged globalization

.The game generation is self-educating entirely different learning style
...1. ignores any hint of formal instruction
...2. leans on trial and error
...3. lots of learning from peers, almost none from authority figures
...4. learns in little bits, just in time, just before it is needed

.The more time you have spent playing games, the more you believe that things can be made better.

.In the gaming world, it is always simply a matter of using the resources you have:
..1. patience
..2. innovative thinking
..3. brute force
..4. help from others - FRIENDS
..5. even reading the hints

.The only real limiting factor, always, is your own willingness to keep trying. The only real driver is your own desire to reach some better state.

.As intense and interactive as they are, games automatically teach two things about perspective:
..1. a little distance is not just useful, but normal
..2. your point of view is a choice - and choosing correctly matters

.What that experience teaches you is this: With distance and control added to your point of view, you achieve more.

..1. Some elements in the chapter are worth the price of the book and the time reading it all by themselves.

..2. There is NO coach, NO teacher, NO preacher
...Trial and error is THE TEACHER

..3. Why is it that we send missionaries to poor, third-world countries? Don't people in England and Germany need the Gospel as well? The gamers are accustomed to playing global games with the fairly affluent people of the world. They already have relationships with these global gamers.

...Note that the traditional "church" doesn't fit in here anywhere!
...1. ignores any hint of formal instruction
...2. leans on trial and error
...3. lots of learning from peers, almost none from authority figures
...4. learns in little bits, just in time, just before it is needed

..5. This all cried for experiential learning over and over again. Simulations in experiential learning are just like games. A game is a simulation and vice versa.