The Economist has an interesting article in its Quarterly Technology Review about “alternate reality games (ARGs)” (link possibly needs subscription to work – sorry if so!) and how they are being used for advertising – to build or change the perception of a brand. For instance, McDonald’s ran an ARG as a promotion coupled with the 2008 Olympics, and there were ARGs to promote “The Dark Knight” prior to its release in cinemas.
I have been thinking about this in relation to the way organisations use social media, and their role in training and development.
I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination, but people I have spoken to have said how their involvement in massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMPORGs) such as World of Warcraft and EVE has given them skills which they have been able to use in their offline lives – both socially and in their work.
When I was working in training and developing my (former) employer’s learning strategy, we looked at America’s Army to get an idea of what could be done. We didn’t go anywhere with those ideas, but the possibilities seemed rich.
ARGs seem richer – because they mix online and offline media: in training terms, they could be called a blended solution – with multiple delivery channels, all working together to delivery a coherent learning experience.
They would also be complex to plan and deliver – and not everyone would get the same experience. On the other hand, users would get an experience that best suited them.
The use of social media like Facebook and Twitter internally could also deliver huge benefits for organisations – building communities of practice, allowing people to source information and support when they need it; but organisations would need to allow their employers the freedom to use these resources as they see fit. Where I used to work, the level of trust was such that working with wikis and blogs weren’t tolerated – it was a counter-cultural approach, and it didn’t float.
The interesting thing is that many employees in the workforce use these tools the whole time – whether their employers want them to or not. With social media being accessed through mobile devices, people will be online even if their employers lock-down their workstations. New employees will have grown up using social media, and whilst their managers may not be so proficient – although I’ll be many of them have Facebook or Twitter accounts – it is curious if organisations choose to ignore these resources – and the skills of their employees in using them.