This 'n That

Personal blog for DebK.

Virtual Learning at IBM

Enter Chuck Hamilton, Virtual Learning Strategy Leader at IBM’s Center for Advanced Learning in Vancouver, Canada. He exemplifies IBM’s unconventional attitude toward developing the talents of its unconventional workforce. Hamilton makes about 15 business trips a year via commercial airlines but he also, on any given day, might be found zooming around the virtual world Second Life with spiky hair and a kilt, holding training sessions with colleagues from a dozen different countries whose avatars might be international superheroes like Monkey King or Captain Vyom. Or he might be holding a session with a hundred Chinese colleagues in IBM business casual for whom it is just more efficient live-chatting via desktop than battling the Beijing traffic. When I ask Hamilton, skeptically, if it is possible to conduct a conventional business meeting in a virtual environment, he answers that of course you can — but why would you? He is convinced that the zaniness of virtual environments plus the steep learning curve of making your avatar function from a keyboard is an effective icebreaker, especially important when partners need to overcome differences in cultural traditions, languages, work ethics, and political systems in order to complete a project together. Second Life’s oddities lend an improvisational quality to interactions that it’s harder to achieve in formal business meetings. “Playing in a band I learned that you need to leave spaces for others to fill,” Hamilton insists. “Given this opportunity, people step into the gap. Talented teams connect, commingle and co-create.”