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What HR Technology Can Learn From Minecraft

Meghan M. Biro

Minecraft, a video game that lets you build things with virtual blocks, has been a huge sensation since it hit the market in 2009. Everyone, children and adults, seems to be obsessed with it; the game currently boasts more than 100 million players. Of course, there are behavioral and parental experts concerned that too much screen time playing Minecraft may affect social skills. However, contrary to this belief, experts have found that video games can offer quite a few benefits – including building social skills.

Building social skills is important for children, but children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the extra interaction. Many millennials lack the soft skills they need to succeed, which creates real challenges for employers and employees alike. Human resources managers would do well to pay attention to the success of games like Minecraft and the valuable clues these games offer.

The world of Minecraft

Minecraft uses vintage, 16-bit-style graphics in an open world where players can build almost anything they can imagine. The point of the game, basically, is to be creative. As a player, you create an entire world for yourself, building houses and other elements entirely from scratch. You can dig to the center of the earth to mine for materials, or construct a high tower that sprays a waterfall of kittens.

However, you aren’t the only one in this virtual world; there are other players, and you can connect with them. Using avatars, you can interact and make friends – or enemies. You can team up and play games with other people. It’s these interactions that offer valuable lessons for HR technology.

Learn real-life lessons from the virtual world

Minecraft echoes the real world in many ways. Like any social environment, there are friendships and disagreements. There are bullies and victims. For example, players can acquire TNT and use it to destroy other people’s creations – something that happens a lot in the game. You can also sneak into another person’s world and steal their supplies.

By playing the game, people learn how to respond to aggressors; to use creative problem solving and resourcefulness to design a trap or a hidden stash – or to retaliate.

Or both.

Much like real life, many players learn that balance between being nice and being tough seems to do the trick. Be nice to people. Build relationships. However, when someone slights you, let them know it is not okay. Being too nice may lead people to take advantage of you while being too mean can cause you to lose friends.

That doesn’t sound so different from life on the playground, does it?

Over time, Minecraft players learn the basis of all human interactions. They learn to identify who is trustworthy and who is not. They learn how to deal with aggressors by using problem-solving skills. Finally, they learn how they can be successful.

Of course, in Minecraft, you’re not thinking about this as building valuable life skills – you’re just trying to stop someone from toppling your kitten-waterfall-tower while having a good time.

Tap into game mechanics

So exactly how does this translate into HR technology? The simple answer: Gamification.

Gamification takes gaming concepts – reward systems and other mechanics that make games entertaining – and uses them for other purposes, ones that aren’t typically as much fun, like training. It’s been a buzzword for years, but the HR world hasn’t taken it as seriously as it needs to.

I’ve seen quite a bit of research on the effectiveness of gamification, and the results are impressive. One such survey found that 89% of people using e-learning platforms feel they would be more engaged by a gamified process.

Gamification has serious potential to help Millennials build critical soft skills. According to one study, 44% of corporate executives feel the biggest workplace gaps are skills like communication, team collaboration, and creativity. Sure, millennials are talented and highly intelligent, but without these vital soft skills, that talent cannot be fully realized. The real kicker is that soft skills aren’t explicitly taught in college or school, where the focus is on hard skills.

Clearly, we need a different strategy – or virtual world – to serve as a sandbox.

Build employee soft skills the fun way

I’m not saying Minecraft should be mandatory for workers or students, nor do I think it’s the perfect training tool. But HR professionals should consider gamification as a very real – and very effective – way to develop soft skills. These skills – creativity, communication, and teamwork – are the same concepts that are the foundation of games like Minecraft.

Check into gamification. Try playing Minecraft or something similar. Then, consider offering employee training in a fun and rewarding way, in an environment that’s virtual yet socially oriented. It will make learning seem much more fun – and much less like work.

And everyone will win!

Learn more about how artificial intelligence, automation, and connectivity will change how we all work in Our Digital Planet: Rise of The Digital Worker, The New Breed of Worker.

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How To Design Your Company’s Digital Transformation

Sam Yen

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review features a cover story on design thinking’s coming of age. We have been applying design thinking within SAP for the past 10 years, and I’ve witnessed the growth of this human-centered approach to innovation first hand.

Design thinking is, as the HBR piece points out, “the best tool we have for … developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

This means businesses are doing more to learn about their customers by interacting directly with them. We’re seeing this change in our work on d.forum — a community of design thinking champions and “disruptors” from across industries.

Meanwhile, technology is making it possible to know exponentially more about a customer. Businesses can now make increasingly accurate predictions about customers’ needs well into the future. The businesses best able to access and pull insights from this growing volume of data will win. That requires a fundamental change for our own industry; it necessitates a digital transformation.

So, how do we design this digital transformation?

It starts with the customer and an application of design thinking throughout an organization – blending business, technology and human values to generate innovation. Business is already incorporating design thinking, as the HBR cover story shows. We in technology need to do the same.

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Design thinking plays an important role because it helps articulate what the end customer’s experience is going to be like. It helps focus all aspects of the business on understanding and articulating that future experience.

Once an organization is able to do that, the insights from that consumer experience need to be drawn down into the business, with the central question becoming: What does this future customer experience mean for us as an organization? What barriers do we need to remove? Do we need to organize ourselves differently? Does our process need to change – if it does, how? What kind of new technology do we need?

Then an organization must look carefully at roles within itself. What does this knowledge of the end customer’s future experience mean for an individual in human resources, for example, or finance? Those roles can then be viewed as end experiences unto themselves, with organizations applying design thinking to learn about the needs inherent to those roles. They can then change roles to better meet the end customer’s future needs. This end customer-centered approach is what drives change.

This also means design thinking is more important than ever for IT organizations.

We, in the IT industry, have been charged with being responsive to business, using technology to solve the problems business presents. Unfortunately, business sometimes views IT as the organization keeping the lights on. If we make the analogy of a store: business is responsible for the front office, focused on growing the business where consumers directly interact with products and marketing; while the perception is that IT focuses on the back office, keeping servers running and the distribution system humming. The key is to have business and IT align to meet the needs of the front office together.

Remember what I said about the growing availability of consumer data? The business best able to access and learn from that data will win. Those of us in IT organizations have the technology to make that win possible, but the way we are seen and our very nature needs to change if we want to remain relevant to business and participate in crafting the winning strategy.

We need to become more front office and less back office, proving to business that we are innovation partners in technology.

This means, in order to communicate with businesses today, we need to take a design thinking approach. We in IT need to show we have an understanding of the end consumer’s needs and experience, and we must align that knowledge and understanding with technological solutions. When this works — when the front office and back office come together in this way — it can lead to solutions that a company could otherwise never have realized.

There’s different qualities, of course, between front office and back office requirements. The back office is the foundation of a company and requires robustness, stability, and reliability. The front office, on the other hand, moves much more quickly. It is always changing with new product offerings and marketing campaigns. Technology must also show agility, flexibility, and speed. The business needs both functions to survive. This is a challenge for IT organizations, but it is not an impossible shift for us to make.

Here’s the breakdown of our challenge.

1. We need to better understand the real needs of the business.

This means learning more about the experience and needs of the end customer and then translating that information into technological solutions.

2. We need to be involved in more of the strategic discussions of the business.

Use the regular invitations to meetings with business as an opportunity to surface the deeper learning about the end consumer and the technology solutions that business may otherwise not know to ask for or how to implement.

The IT industry overall may not have a track record of operating in this way, but if we are not involved in the strategic direction of companies and shedding light on the future path, we risk not being considered innovation partners for the business.

We must collaborate with business, understand the strategic direction and highlight the technical challenges and opportunities. When we do, IT will become a hybrid organization – able to maintain the back office while capitalizing on the front office’s growing technical needs. We will highlight solutions that business could otherwise have missed, ushering in a digital transformation.

Digital transformation goes beyond just technology; it requires a mindset. See What It Really Means To Be A Digital Organization.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock

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Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

How Productive Could You Be With 45 Minutes More Per Day?

Michael Rander

Chances are that you are already feeling your fair share of organizational complexity when navigating your current company, but have you ever considered just how much time is spent across all companies on managing complexity? According to a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the global impact of complexity is mind-blowing – and not in a good way.

The study revealed that 38% of respondents spent 16%-25% of their time just dealing with organizational complexity, and 17% spent a staggering 26%-50% of their time doing so. To put that into more concrete numbers, in the US alone, if executives could cut their time spent managing complexity in half, an estimated 8.6 million hours could be saved a week. That corresponds to 45 minutes per executive per day.

The potential productivity impact of every executive having 45 minutes more to work every single day is clearly significant, and considering that 55% say that their organization is either very or extremely complex, why are we then not making the reduction of complexity one or our top of mind issues?

The problem is that identifying the sources of complexity is complex in of itself. Key sources of complexity include organizational size, executive priorities, pace of innovation, decision-making processes, vastly increasing amounts of data to manage, organizational structures, and the pure culture of the company. As a consequence, answers are not universal by any means.

That being said, the negative productivity impact of complexity, regardless of the specific source, is felt similarly across a very large segment of the respondents, with 55% stating that complexity has taken a direct toll on profitability over the past three years.  This is such a serious problem that 8% of respondents actually slowed down their company growth in order to deal with complexity.

So, if complexity oftentimes impacts productivity and subsequently profitability, what are some of the more successful initiatives that companies are taking to combat these effects? Among the answers from the EIU survey, the following were highlighted among the most likely initiatives to reduce complexity and ultimately increase productivity:

  • Making it a company-wide goal to reduce complexity means that the executive level has to live and breathe simplification in order for the rest of the organization to get behind it. Changing behaviors across the organization requires strong leadership, commitment, and change management, and these initiatives ultimately lead to improved decision-making processes, which was reported by respondents as the top benefit of reducing complexity. From a leadership perspective this also requires setting appropriate metrics for measuring outcomes, and for metrics, productivity and efficiency were by far the most popular choices amongst respondents though strangely collaboration related metrics where not ranking high in spite of collaboration being a high level priority.
  • Promoting a culture of collaboration means enabling employees and management alike to collaborate not only within their teams but also across the organization, with partners, and with customers. Creating cross-functional roles to facilitate collaboration was cited by 56% as the most helpful strategy in achieving this goal.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents found the implementation of new technology and tools to be a successful step towards reducing complexity and improving productivity. Enabling collaboration, reducing information overload, building scenarios and prognoses, and enabling real-time decision-making are all key issues that technology can help to reduce complexity at all levels of the organization.

While these initiatives won’t help everyone, it is interesting to see that more than half of companies believe that if they could cut complexity in half they could be at least 11%-25% more productive. That nearly one in five respondents indicated that they could be 26%-50% more productive is a massive improvement.

The question then becomes whether we can make complexity and its impact on productivity not only more visible as a key issue for companies to address, but (even more importantly) also something that every company and every employee should be actively working to reduce. The potential productivity gains listed by respondents certainly provide food for thought, and few other corporate activities are likely to gain that level of ROI.

Just imagine having 45 minutes each and every day for actively pursuing new projects, getting innovative, collaborating, mentoring, learning, reducing stress, etc. What would you do? The vision is certainly compelling, and the question is are we as companies, leaders, and employees going to do something about it?

To read more about the EIU study, please see:

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @michaelrander

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About Michael Rander

Michael Rander is the Global Research Director for Future Of Work at SAP. He is an experienced project manager, strategic and competitive market researcher, operations manager as well as an avid photographer, athlete, traveler and entrepreneur.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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Our Government's Legitimacy Is In Danger

Hein Keijzer

It is a growing phenomenon: Governments are gradually losing support from their citizens. Citizens in European countries are also becoming disillusioned with their governments. This calls for a drastic improvement of the services provided to the most important and sole shareholder of the government—the citizen—because the government’s legitimacy is at stake.

Citizens’ confidence in government has been waning for some time now. There are reasons why populist and eurosceptic parties  have been gaining votes over the past years. The government must do everything within its power to win to rebuild confidence, and not just by fulfilling its basic tasks, because a feeble six can no longer save the parliamentary democratic system.

The victory of populist parties is the beginning of the end of the current democratic order. It is very likely that these parties will not participate in the government, because the other parties will mostly exclude them. As a result, the chasm between citizen and government keeps growing, creating a situation that reinforces itself and that holds very little chance of success in the future.

The base

We must return to the base to touch on the core of the problem. Western governments are complex bodies, but the basic idea behind them is rather simple: Citizens pay tax to a central, democratically elected system. In return, they expect basic services such as security, education, physical infrastructure, healthcare—and in the case of the Netherlands, dry feet, i.e. protection against water. It is not unreasonable to expect a western country to provide at least this bare minimum.

But this is where things is going wrong these days. Every country is dealing with at least one case in which the tax payers’ money is not allocated correctly. The Panama Papers is a recent example of this. The term cover-up often does not apply anymore, because civil servants are no longer even capable of hiding the chaos in a cover-up. These days the media are capable of making the content  of the cesspool available to the public in no time. A ministry that cannot manage its internal affairs has even more trouble proving its legitimacy to society.

The government must not only deal with organizational problems; mentality comes into play as well. Many governmental institutions see the taxpayer as such: a taxpayer with mostly obligations. This mindset need to change. It is time for a customer-centric approach: The citizen is the customer, and the customer is king. As is the case with the boardroom of a commercial party where shareholders cannot get away with mismanagement, the government should not be able to get away with mismanaging the assets of their sole shareholder: the citizen.

This approach requires a number of very strong measures:

1. Earnest use of apps and social media

In the past it was necessary to go to an office and make an appointment in order to communicate with the government. These days, social media allow for much more efficient communication. Governments can use apps and social media—potentially—to more quickly discover trends, indicate problems, and communicate with citizens. Now digital communication is mostly housed in separate departments. This is not sufficient for the much-needed model in which the citizen is the shining center of the services provided. Communication with the citizen should be at the core of the organization.

2. Make the policy completely transparent

Backroom politics and convoluted decision-making are no longer feasible. Citizens are entitled to the best possible access and information provision. The government has come a long way with open data, but is still very far from doing enough.

3. Clear communication

It is the duty of a good service provider to communicate clearly with its client. This also applies to the communication of the government with the citizen. Unfortunately, this fails all too often. Vague, official language and unclear wording are the order of the day. If a citizen does not understand the government, it creates a wedge. Civil servants should be forced to follow compulsory courses on clear communication on a B1 level. This is an official language level that is understood by the majority of the population and is effective to communicate messages in a clear way.

4. Smarter information linking

The government knows a lot about their citizens, but this information is not linked well or not linked at all. As a consequence, the government does not know anything about us at all. From a privacy point of view, this is of course not unattractive, but it is disastrous for the provision of good services.  The government cannot think with us if it doesn’t know who we are, if it doesn’t know our preferences and our problems. In order to achieve this, systems and an integral data policy must be connected, for one version of the truth.

Unfortunately these four points are still far from reality. This isn’t the first time that I have broached these problems. The communication between the government and the citizen is often very difficult. There are few apps, and the government uses social media in a very reactive way. It is not rare to only receive an answer after a few days. Smart connections between citizen data points are missing. Many governments are developing the majority of their IT solutions themselves, and barely believe that integration via standard solutions is possible. The government’s outlook is inward and doesn’t change, because there is barely any staff turnover.

Governments could follow the example of the Australian government, which started a digital transformation with a genuine Digital Transformation Office. Its primary focus is efficient and transparent service provision toward the citizen. Its motto: “Simpler, clearer, faster public services”—an easy but meaningful statement. It touches the core of what has to happen here as well.

The gap between government and citizens will not close on its own. A digital transformation is unavoidable if the government wants to stop the downward trend and not lose its legitimacy completely.

For more insight on digital transformation in the public sector, see Unlocking The Benefits Of Digitization For Governments.

 

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Hein Keijzer

About Hein Keijzer

Hein Keijzer is customer solution manager for the Public Sector Business Unit at SAP Nederland. After his education in Applied Economics and Public Administration, Hein worked for the Dutch Ministry of Finance, Budget Affairs directorate, and since 2000 at SAP. Connect with me on Twitter @heinkeijzer or <a href="https://nl.linkedin.com/in/heinkeijzer"LinkedIn.