In the early 2000s Silicon Valley-based business guru John Hagel III was involved in a high-tech startup and hired Stephen Gillett, a young man right out of college. Less than a half-dozen years later, Gillett was named a senior vice president and chief information officer for Starbucks--the youngest CIO of a Fortune 500 company at that time.
And Hagel thinks he knows a primary reason for his one-time employee's meteoric rise. Everything that Gillett needed to know, Hagel said, he learned while becoming a guild leader in the popular online game World of Warcraft.
The co-chairman of a tech-oriented strategy center for Deloitte LLP, Hagel told the annual Wharton Leadership Conference that Gillett--just like other top players on the massive online multi-player game, with an estimated 8 million participants--reached out independently to build a large team of allies that solved complex problems and developed winning strategies.
Guild leaders in World of Warcraft "require a high degree of influence," noted Hagel, a successful author and longtime consultant. "You have to be able to influence and persuade people--not order them to do things. Ordering people in most of these guilds doesn't get you far."
The look inside World of Warcraft and its relevance for today's complicated business environment was part of a recent research project and book by Hagel and two co-authors--John Seely Brown and Lang Davison--that examines how companies re-invent and revive themselves by moving away from secretive, proprietary shops and toward a more open, collaborative business model. Their findings resulted in the recent publication of The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion.
The bottom line, they found, is that American companies will continue to fall behind their counterparts in emerging markets such as China or India unless they move toward what Hagel called "the edge," which is where passionate, change-driven employees collaborate with others on the kind of innovations that prevent a company from seeing its core business model slowly erode. "The only thing that succeeds," Hagel said, "is to take those initiatives on the edge and pull more and more of the core out to those edges--rather than trying to pull them back in." He asserted that chief executives who stick to the conventional wisdom and cling to secretive proprietary business systems are doomed to fail. Click here to read the full article.