Navigating the Social World – Online Gaming to Master Social Interactions

CEOs and SVPs have long been concerned about social media and social media in the workplace. Confidentiality, productivity, and even more lately corporate branding and reputation are hazards for the corporation without a clear policy toward social media. Lessons learned recently show that corporations need to take a proactive and realistic approach toward social media and traditional social interactions for management as well as employees. Policies and procedures addressing social media in the workplace are sound best business practice and must address all levels of employees, not just management. What is less likely understood is that social interactions outside of the workplace, including social gaming and social sites can be a risk as well.

It should be recognized that employees do have a right to personal time. They also have the right to communicate as they choose. A prudent course for senior management is to channel the power of social interactions to make employees ambassadors that are a positive representative of their companies in the community. Social gaming can be an excellent mechanism to introduce employees to the personal and professional power of making positive social connections. This is not to say that employees should simply start on a madcap course of social gaming. Rather a savvy trainer can adapt social gaming to identify and encourage the skills learned through the platform to better advocate on behalf of the company and personally for the betterment of the community.

Laura P. Hartman, a professor at Chicago’s DePaul University is is a pioneer in recognizing the capacity of social gaming to make a positive footprint on communities for social change. An expert on global issues in business, she has a unique understanding of the power of the individual in impelling social change. A consultant for a leading social gaming corporation, she recognized that social gaming has the potential, when harnessed correctly, to provide the immediacy, the skills and the platform to positively impact the global community with the power of individuals. The company has embraced her efforts to such a degree that the corporate mission reflects this thrust. The result is the production of social games that spearhead responsible individual and provide an excellent training ground for social development. The ability to capitalize on the immediacy of a captured audience of participants logging in regularly, virtual goods, and an awareness of the needs of others has led to innovative campaigns to raise awareness, explore cultural differences and most importantly, raised significant funds for global programs.

I have outlined a series of points that highlight the skills that can be developed through an awareness of the processes involved in teaching and learning social interactions. Not all social games are adaptable to training. Some are truly intended simply for entertainment. For the purpose of this demonstration, I have chosen a farming social game. I encourage you to explore the potential for using a similar game to build community goodwill and individual awareness through this process.

Tips to Master Individual Awareness of Community Responsibility through a Farming Social Game

· You are the Center of Your Community. You decide whom to invite and include in your world. Neighbors are critical to your success. You quickly discover that you are limited to how than a minimal level without neighbors. Your neighbors are an important part of your wealth.

· Give Freely and Receive. You can define your community as prospects, invitee, and neighbors. You will have ample opportunities to invite friends to be your neighbor. Often you can include a gift. If you do, send them a private message to explain about the gift. Strange cows and chickens in their inbox will confuse them if they have not experienced social gaming. After you have invited someone you will be able to visit their farm and fertilize their crops. As a thank you for benefiting from their farm, you should always send a present. It is also a good way of letting them know that you would be an excellent neighbor. The return on investment of your gifts and service to your neighbors is evident in the rewards from them once you connect. You will be able to advance, gain points from interacting with their farm and freely exchange gifts. Go for it. If a neighbor is not able to return a gift in a timely fashion, just be patient. There may be a situation that is keeping them from spending much time on the farm. It is not a quid pro quo. Give and do not dwell on the return. Consider it a tithe, an investment in your spiritual growth.

· Keep in Regular Communication. Visit their farms. Fertilize their crops. Send them free gifts. Learn what they like. Look at their farms. You will find clues to their personalities and interests just by watching their farms grow. Occasionally send them a private message. Learn their boundaries and respect them.

· Visualize your Final Farm. Knowing where you are heading is important for every captain of his ship. The same is true for every small business owner. (Is not this what every farmer is at heart?) Do you see yourself as a gentleman farmer with lots of cattle and horses? Are you more interested in a villa with tropical plants and banana trees? Do you crave the Midwest farmer home and lifestyle complete with tractors and grain silos? Or maybe you see yourself on an English estate with masses of flowers? This is your goal. It is the first step in building your community.

· Build your Inner Circle. Ask yourself who will best support you in reaching your goal. You need to surround yourself with farmers who are similarly committed to reaching their goals. This is not to say that you limit your world to just successful farmers. Just be sure to include a few to motivate you.

· Set Waypoints and Check Frequently. Building relationships with your neighbors is a journey that helps you reach your goal. It is really bad form to add a neighbor and allow that neighbor to languish for lack of attention. The gaming platform makes it easy for you to find ways to connect with them frequently. Use the Neighbors button on the top toolbar every time you check in on your farm. The system will remind you that there are neighbors and invitees who can benefit from a little attention from you. Social games are very good about rewarding you for meeting objectives. You are rewarded for your tasks in the form of coin and experience points. You are rewarded for service with gifts. You are rewarded for reaching milestones with ribbons of distinction. Set dates for when you want to reach certain levels and build your plans to meet the dates. You can use this as an excellent training ground for developing habits that will assist you in your personal and business lives.

· Economize your Time and Investments. Be thrifty I deciding the best Return on your Investment (ROI). You have a plan but it is not complete without a budget. Here again, your choices in buying products serve as a great training ground. Compare the options when browsing the market. Consider your waypoint for reaching the next level and look to see how much you can invest. – How much time can you invest? What crops can be planted and harvested that will give you the best return? Are you saving up for an expansion, a big piece of equipment or your dream home? Do you need to find a couple more neighbors to reach that waypoint? Are you going on vacation and need to plant long term or allow your land to lie fallow while you are away? What about your livestock? A friend who grew up on a Midwest US dairy farm told me the hardest part of getting away is finding someone to milk the cows. Occasionally you will most likely allow a crop to wither. This is a set back in reaching your goals that you do not want to repeat too often. It cost money to plant that crop. Your neighbors may have invested in fertilizing that crop. You will quickly learn that this lost revenue is more than just the cost of the crop. The lack of income from that crop will slow down your progress in replanting crops.

· Be a Mentor. There is a learning curve to every new task. Look for the invitation from the newbie to your game. Spend some time in the forum. Ask questions that encourage people to think. Share experiences. Give advice. Reach out to your neighbor to see how you can help. This will help you establish your credentials as an expert. It will also take you a long way toward reaching your dream in the best possible pace mentally.

· Include Time to Reflect on Where You Are. You will find yourself frequently caught up in the moment and losing sight of the waypoints if you do not plan for time to reflect on where you are. Are you thinking it is time to buy a second, third, or more Barn to store stuff? Are deer and rabbits overrunning your fields? Have you been sidetracked from your goal be that pretty little cottage that just appeared in the market? Think on where the purchase puts you in your plan. Take inventory. Maybe you should have a barn sale before you buy that other barn or shed. Is it really the time to buy your house? How much time are you spending visiting neighbors? It is possibly time to set up a schedule for how often each neighbor is visited. Some you may visit daily. Some others maybe every other day. Do not go too long visiting any one neighbor. If they do not see adequate reciprocity, your neighbors may leave. This is an excellent time to review your waypoints and ultimate destination. If you find that the purchase or time is necessary, adjust your plan. If you find that your dream has changed, take it in the new direction. Nothing is locked in stone.

· Revitalize your Network Occasionally.You will find that your needs change as you are building relationships. There are times when you have reached out to everyone that is in your personal community and there just is not a good mix. Go to the forums. Start a campaign to grow your network. If you are connecting through a social platform, look through groups to find ideas to expand your network. Be conscious of the message you are leaving with your microblogs. These messages will begin spilling over into your personal networks. Use this wisely and grow with it. Always be aware that regardless of your position, these messages will be a permanent part of your personal branding.

· Look for the Unexpected. No plan is concrete. There will be the added bonuses and perks that come your way. Be aware that every day there are new challenges. This could mean new items in the market. Are there seasonal promotions going on? Do not become so focused on the outcomes that you forget to be creative. And when you see a real plus come along, grab it. How many fully realize the gift of the limited edition virtual good during the holiday? This gift is unexpected and really allows players to push their Returns On their Investments. The added plus is a nice lighthearted touch.

· Have FUN. If you find that you are not enjoying the game, decide what is the problem. What are you really accomplishing? Do you need more interaction with your neighbors? Is it taking too much out of your day? If you do not love what you do, why bother? If you find yourself in this place, evaluate where you are. What have you learned? Is it time to go in a new direction? Maybe you have learned all you can from this game. and it is time to implement the lessons learned in your life. Feel free to leave this game and start applying what you have learned in your real world.

The awareness that your employees have learned about their roles the community will encourage them to make a positive impression. This impression will become integral to their personal branding and your business strategies. People, not money are the foundation of your wealth. A socially conscious workforce can enhance you reputation. Although I do not encourage anyone to play games during work hours, there are ways to make the most of a social game. You may hold contests among the workforce. Hold workshops. Publish a column in the company newsletter. If there is a campaign for disaster relief or a global charitable cause through the game, encourage employees to make donations and match them through your business matching grants fund. The result will be an active, positive workforce building pride in your business.