If you want to understand your younger employees, then start playing more Mortal Kombat and Final Fantasy. That's the message from John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, authors of the book Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever (Harvard Business School Press, October 2004). The authors suggest that employees of the "gamer generation" (roughly ages 15 to 35) have a surprisingly sophisticated set of skills and abilities, and need to be managed differently than their older colleagues. They're also convinced gamers are natural leaders.
CIO Insight: What's so different about gamers?
Mitchell Wade: It turns out they are problem-solvers. They are very serious about adding value to an organization. In general, they have better self-esteem than nongamers. And remember that this is the same generation that's supposed to be slackers, but they want to be paid based on their performance.
John C. Beck: Our belief coming out of this is that gamers will make good CEOs.
So how do gamers need to be managed?
Wade: First thing is you need to see through some of their attitudes. It's easy for a boomer to misinterpret a 20-something who claims to be an expertthat can come across as arrogant. And realize that gamers are better at multitasking than we are.
How do you distinguish between the influence of gaming and the influence of the Internet?
Beck: Well, there's no doubt the Internet is a big factor in all of this. And it's true that kids today are marketed to like they never were before. The world around them now thinks about them and engages them in a way that baby boomers were never engaged.
Wade: But some of the people we surveyed are in their thirties. They didn't have the Internet as teenagers, but they did have Atari.
Is this part of a broader cultural shift?
Wade: I think the biggest point here is that there's a hidden generation gap.
Beck: And it's important to stay current with what's going on out there right now. Dip your toe in somehow, understand what your employee's life is like. Having a kid who plays isn't enough. Gaming is as important to some people today as news and sports.