Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

As you can tell from the lack of recent postings, I have been enjoying the holiday season myself. The shopping is done, the tree is trimmed, and the outside decorations all work, thank you very much.

As our family gathers to celebrate its traditions we hope that yours is too. Whatever this time of year means to you, it is for all of us a time to pause and reflect. 2007 was a very good year and 2008 lies almost within reach, full of the promise of the unknown.

For now, enjoy your family and loved ones. Watch little kids' eyes grow wide and listen to their laughter, and through them become a child again yourself.

There will be time enough for business after the holidays - I'll be back after the New Year with more random thoughts about the work side of life. Now, however, is for family.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

VR Comes to the Real World

No doubt you know someone who is a ‘gamer,” someone who actively participates in virtual reality experiences. I have a son, for example, who is a Halo fanatic. He spends hours in the game, networked with friends around the world as they collaborate in the experience. They play the game, they network, strategize, allocate resources, and execute. Well, guess what? VR technology has matured to the point it is becoming a factor in business. Consider the following:
  • People are now attending full conferences virtually, viewing presentations as they occur and simultaneously chatting with other attendees.
  • The military is now using VR as a primary training tool, giving combat personnel those most critical first exposure experiences in a non-life-threatening way while enabling them to experience the emotional and mental challenges of combat.
  • The same sort of VR training is being developed for paramedics and medical personnel to give them enhanced triage skills.

And now for a real application that you and I care about….Cisco and others are using VR to enhance internal business collaboration. VR environments are used for hosting meetings and to create a virtual workplace for project teams with members scattered across the globe, enabling them to act and react more naturally - as they would if they were all together. As Cisco and other early adopters develop, enhance, and debug these systems they will begin to migrate out. Think about designing, building, and operationalizing that new manufacturing site in India with a European architect, a multi-national contractor, and your process development team comprised of members from several different divisions and locations; all meeting as one group, and each having a unique and visible identity and personality.

But do not for a minute think VR allows you to avoid the dark side of doing business. With it comes, you guessed it, human nature. Virtual worlds, even virtual work worlds, are extensions of who we are. Already in game worlds there are black markets in game elements, unsavory behavior by some participants, and the predictable entry of lawyers as VR disputes boil over into the real world. If you think of any less than desirable trait or behavior in the real world you can be pretty certain you will see it in virtual environments as well. All of which makes time management, meeting management, interpersonal relationship skills, and other management systems you depend upon so much in your real world just as important in virtual world environments.

VR is an exciting and “next” development in workplace sophistication. It will take a while yet for the technologies and protocols to be normalized by the early adopter community, but you can expect to see furniture companies, workflow management systems, and teaming/collaboration support systems all moving in this direction.