Friday, February 25, 2011

Avatars in the Boardroom - A Presentation at Tuck School of Business

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to students and faculty at the Center for Digital Strategies at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

My lecture was titled Avatars in the Boardroom: A Virtual Revolution in Workplace Collaboration, and my slides are all online. The focus of my presentation was on the unique affordances of virtual worlds as they relate to business goals. One of the biggest challenges to businesses is how to build effective teams that are distributed around the world, so I talked a lot about how virtual worlds are a compelling platform for building trust and developing team training programs.

The trick is to use the right tool for the right job. Businesses have many different communication tools at their disposal, and virtual worlds are part of this spectrum of choices. With their power to perceptually immerse people in an interactive learning environment full of other people, and their power to visualize data and models in 3d, virtual worlds are a technology that deserves thoughtful consideration.

I also spoke about the unique nature of the human mind. How our minds crave places and faces, and how powerful it is to develop communication platforms that engage people in ways that complement our natural human tendencies. Virtual worlds can help us feel more human as we communicate electronically, and they also unlock our innate creativity as we discover the unique malleability of our avatars and the virtual spaces around them. Just because we can identically replicate the physical boardroom in a virtual world doesn't mean we should. By creating new and more evocative virtual spaces, we can make collaboration more engaging and interesting.

To wrap things up, I gave some demos of ReactionGrid's Jibe platform and how it can be used for collaboration and data visualization. Our Jibe Server Control Room was a big hit. The students also gave me some very interesting ideas on how to possibly expand the metaphor in ways that could visualize even more information. Ideas such as scripted avatars that automatically position themselves in a server room to visually reflect which tasks employees are focused on, creating interactive bots that have access to back-end data, and how to best leverage a 3d environment to convey information that simply cannot be conveyed in 2d. I was very impressed by their brainstorming.

I had a great time at Tuck, and I was very impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity of everyone I spoke with at the school. To everyone I met, thank you again for the opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. Some students did a video interview of me before my presentation at Tuck. It's online now at