guides players gradually up a hierarchy of 80 levels, starting from the novice level 1. Every quest (exercise) in the
game is rated for the level of players
allowed to undertake it.
Players who reach a sufficient level
may team with others in groups for
raids into “dungeons” that house
powerful denizens (called “bosses”)
that cannot be defeated by individuals. Successful raids are a measure of a
team’s coordination proficiency under
pressure. We measured team learning
proficiency by the number of successful raids at each level of difficulty, and
by the new actions team members
were applying to their daily lives.
Each player satisfied the first practice on the list above by attaining a
sufficient game level. We set up general team practices for the remainder
of the list. Observers accompanied the
teams in-game to monitor their coordination and coach them on their use
of the general practices. The observer
made sure that the team paused periodically to share their moods and honest performance assessments (
practice 5 on the list); this enabled them to
regenerate their shared interpretation
of what they were doing.
On completion of each in-game
assignment, the teams debriefed in
a standard after-action assessment
exercise to critique each other’s performances, reflect on their overall effectiveness, and plan new strategies
for their next assignment. They also
reflected on how the coordination
practices they were learning would apply in their real-life worlds.
Some in-game assignments were
team raids to defeat high-level bosses.
Avatar used in team-building experiment.
the inability to
is a real problem.
One of the bosses was so tough that
there was no hope for any team to
survive; the purpose was to see how
the teams handled their moods when
faced with an impossible situation.
We observed that the general coordination practices were initially
unfamiliar to most team members.
Even after the first month of working
together, many members had difficulties voicing assessments of their
teammates. Slowly they learned that
sharing performance assessments
was progressively easier with practice
and they overcame their aversions.
Over time, the regular practice of making these assessments ceased to embarrass or to generate hard feelings.
Because acting on these assessments
significantly improved their team success the teams came to value them.
Their mutual respect, solidarity, and
team effectiveness improved markedly. By the end of the four months,
teams openly wondered why they
had not been using these practices at
In the first two months, only one of
the six teams achieved solidarity and
clear proficiency. We then shuffled the
team members into new teams for the
next two months. This time, all teams
achieved solidarity and proficiency.
The experiment validated our intuition that the general practices foster
proficient diversified coordination.
The inability to achieve proficient co-
ordination in pluralistic networks is a
real problem. It is becoming worse as
the global Internet creates more con-
nections and more opportunities for
people to work together across inter-
national and organization boundaries.
Disaster relief experiences have called
wide attention to the problem, and
have stimulated research into what is
needed for coordination in pluralistic
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Peter J. Denning ( email@example.com) is the director of the
Cebrowski Institute for Innovation and Information
superiority at the naval Postgraduate school in Monterey,
CA, and is a past president of ACM.
Fernando Flores ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an
author, entrepreneur, and current senator of Chile. he
is the founder of multiple companies, including Action
Technologies, business Design Associates, and Pluralistic
Peter Luzmore ( peter@Luzmore.com) is consultant,
entrepreneur, and a leadership development trainer.