This is my concluding part of my earlier post on Dan Ariely’s research on online dating. Ariely found that dating in virtual worlds resulted in better chances of a real world date compared to finding a partner through online dating sites.
So lets dive into the reasons for this difference in results. The answer to this puzzle lies in the structure of the virtual world. Virtual Worlds allows participants to share experiences together. It so happens that in virtual worlds people made the same types of judgements about experiences and people that we are used to making in real life. These judgements are aligned with the way we process information in our lives. Ariely also gives a very detailed example to illustrate his point. Here is a shorter version for you – In a typical dating site when you see two different people describing themselves as having a sense of humor, it could actually mean very different things which you will never perceive unless you share some real life experience with the other party. Sense of humor could mean that the other person is like to watch the Daily Show and you may lean more towards slapstick humor. In a virtual world, you will notice this difference because of the shared space.
Virtual Worlds are a great platform for enterprises to help their employees communicate with one one another in a shared space. Virtual Worlds are especially useful when the challenge is to foster innovation and collaboration between groups that don’t necessarily like each other. For example, the R&D team and the sales team often don’t like to work with one another. Both these groups have widely different expectations. The sales guy will want the best and the coolest features in the product but the R&D guy will list 10 reasons why such features cannot be accommodated. Providing a shared space for such teams to work with one another promotes collaboration, understanding, and an opportunity to see the other party’s point of view.
Virtual Worlds are also great platforms for new hire orientation. In a way new hires in large enterprises go through the same frustrating experiences as members of online dating sites. They are new to the organization, they do not know whom to reach out to (in spite of induction programs) for “real” advice on how to handle a situation, they do not know how the organization culture translates into actions, and the list is endless. In such unsettling times, providing a platform for new hires to learn from one another and also meet experienced co-workers in a virtual world eases many of these hurdles and challenges.