Could Video Games Accumulate Institutional Intelligence?

13 05 2010

As knowledge workers, we march to the constant drum beat of never ending change.  Few people in the intellectual disciplines know this quite as well as technology grunts like myself.  As a result, training always consumes a certain percentage of my time, and  I’ve been on both sides of the equation.  I find myself in the student’s seat most often, but several times a year I also teach other professionals.  This experience has taught me that being an instructor is little different than being a student.  Every course requires frequent revisions to both the content and presentation.  This mean staying on top of the start of the art so that the courses do not become stale.  And formal training is only the most visible form of education.  Employers also expect their minions to keep up to date through print publications, blogs and podcasts (I highly recommend Software Engineering Radio as an example of the latter).

All of these vectors have their place, but they can often lead to disjointed and un-directed learning.    This leads to an emphasis on certification programs.  A certification program relies on a integrated curriculum that immerses students in a body of knowledge and tests their retention.  A company may develop its own certification program that is tailored to their own domain, or they may rely on industry certifications.   Internal certifications are often the most interested, because they usually move beyond the mere development and application of skills.  They incorporate techniques and philosophies developed by an organization over time.  They encompass a proprietary body of knowledge which only that organization possesses and which it believes are critical to its competitive advantage.  They are the mechanism by which a company can pass its institutional intelligence down from one generation of employees to the next.

Since internal curricula are so central to corporate survival, then it is essential that their training methods be effective.  Unfortunately, they can sometimes suffer from data leakage in the brains of all too human employees.  Working professionals do not have the leisure of college students and must often accumulate vast amounts of information in short periods of time.  They may cram well enough to pass exams and interviews, but future retention is likely spotty and difficult to track.  Like any skill, institutional intelligence is best learned (and relearned) by doing.  For this reason, I wonder if corporations may benefit from developing more simulations.

Simulations do not have to take electronic form.  Role playing is often an effective way of using all of our learning apparatuses to acquire knowledge.  However, I think electronic games are particularly powerful.  They offer the potential for endless complexity.  They can integrate audio, visual and textual information along with the game logic.  Employees can pursue them on their own time and select the sub-sections that are specific to their job roles.  Electronic simulations also make it easier to revisit lessons for purposes of review and retesting.

I think this last case is similar to the way a software shop implements regression testing.  A suite of well written regression tests documents better than any textual artifact what the designers (or testers) think the system ought to do.  It also catalogs known pitfalls which developers have accumulated over years of experience.  This helps to validate new features as well as maintain old ones.  Regression tests are also a repository of institutional intelligence, and simulations intended to test humans may be no less effective.

Simulations are becoming more common.  They are found all over the place outside of the corporate world, from children’s learn games to the military.  They are also found in training courseware for industry wide topics.  Companies may make use of internal simulations, but I wonder if it is less common because it is more difficult to develop.  The other examples of productive video games benefit from economies of scale.  It is expensive for a company, even a large one, to fund the development of a large body of simulator code.  It may also be inefficient, since most companies do not posses the expertise.

What I wonder is if there is a courseware vendor that makes a framework for easy development of such simulations.  There are lots of software packages for adolescent video game developers who want to skip all the nitty gritty graphics control stuff and just work the game logic.  Does such a package exist for corporations?  Such a software suite would not only have to make it easy for a company to develop the simulation in the first place, but offer an efficient means of updating the product in order to keep to relevant.  A simulation is more than just a repository, it is an interactive encyclopedia.  Indeed, it could become something like a next-generation wikipedia:  a vast living document that combines information with a powerful means of delivering it.

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2 responses

13 05 2010
17 05 2010
Sports

Sports…

Thanks for the great information really enjoyed the read !…

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