070109 Virtual Worlds And The Enterprise Metanomics Transcript
THE FUTURE OF WORK: VIRTUAL WORLDS AND THE ENTERPRISE
JULY 1, 2009
Metanomics is a weekly broadcast on the serious uses of virtual worlds. Visit
http://metanomics.net. Metanomics is owned and operated by Remedy Communications.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi. I’m Robert Bloomfield, professor at Cornell University’s
Johnson Graduate School of Management. Each week I have the honor of hosting a
discussion with the most insightful and the most influential people who are taking Virtual
Worlds seriously. We talk with the developers who are creating these fascinating new
platforms, the executives, entrepreneurs, educators, artists, government officials who are
putting these platforms to use. We talk with the researchers who are watching the whole
process unfold. And we talk with the government officials and policymakers who are taking
a very close look on how what happens in the Virtual World can affect our Real World
Now naturally, we hold our discussions about Virtual Worlds in Virtual Worlds. How else
could we find a very real place where a global community can convene, collaborate and
connect with one another. So our discussion is about to start. You can join us in any of our
live Virtual World studio audiences. You can join us live on the web. Welcome, because
this is Metanomics.
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is filmed today in front of a live audience at our studios in
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi, and welcome again to Metanomics. What would work be like
in 20 years? Our guests today Margaret Regan, of the FutureWork Institute, predicts that
the typical worker will be spending less than half of their time in the office and a lot of their
time communicating with colleagues and customers through wireless technologies. The
people we work with will be far more diverse than they are today, and the workplace will
have to adapt to new generations of very different attitudes and outlooks. What does all of
this mean for our jobs and for the Virtual World industry? Stay tuned to find out.
Thanks to all of you who are attending Metanomics today, including those viewing live on
the web. Join in with your comments and your questions.
ANNOUNCER: We are pleased to broadcast weekly to our event partners and to
welcome discussion. We use ChatBridge technology to allow viewers to comment during
the show. Metanomics is sponsored by the Johnson Graduate School of Management at
Cornell University and Immersive Workspaces. Welcome. This is Metanomics.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Before we talk with Ms. Regan, we are delighted to welcome
back Tony O’Driscoll, our Metanomics learning correspondent. Tony’s been very busy
lately as he finishes a new book with Karl Kapp and prepares for the second 3D Teaching,
Learning and Collaboration Conference in San Jose this fall. Let’s take a few minutes to
put Tony O’Driscoll In The Spotlight. Tony, welcome back to Metanomics.
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Good to see you again, Rob.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great. I know that you just finished your book Learning in 3D:
Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration, which is going to
come out in January of 2010. For starters, what’s the one thing you want people to take
from this book?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: I think the most important thing that Karl and I realized, as we
looked at a lot of the cases over the last 18 months, is that this is not your grandfather’s
learning environment, Rob, and that the affordances of the 3D contexts provide many
more opportunities to enrich the learning experience than we’ve had in the past.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So specific examples that you’d like to emphasize?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: I think, you know, it’s featured in our book and also was featured in
3D TLC, some of the stuff that Margaret will be talking about in terms of how the
affordances of a 3D virtual environment allow people to experience diversity and inclusion
issues in a much more visceral way is one really, really good example of how some of the
mechanisms and macrostructures, as we call them, of the 3D environment allow people to
have a richer experience in the environment than you could ever hope to have in a
classroom role-play setting for instance.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You mentioned just then macrostructures, and I had a chance
to look at chapter four of your book, and you talk about these four macrostructures. You
say instructional designers should be sure they’re activating within a 3D learning
environment: agency, exploration, connectedness and experience. So could you maybe
just pick one of these, agency maybe; what exactly is that, and how do people take
advantage of that macrostructure in a 3D environment?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Basically when we started to look at all the different attributes of the
technology and started to turn that into an instructional-design methodology, if you will, or
architecture, one of the things that makes this environment different is that each of us has
agency through an avatar, which means we have the ability to operate the avatar within
the environment and take action and have interaction. And, to a certain extent, in other
2D flatland collaborative applications, you don’t have that agency. You might be able to
rustle up in a modicon or something, but you don’t really have as much agency. So it all
begins, I think, the value proposition of 3D begins with agency, particularly when you’re
talking about immersive learning environments. There is some discussion, as you well
know, about what good is an avatar, and do you really need an avatar, that the
3D environment doesn’t necessarily need to leverage avatars. I think, for 3D learning
experiences, the notion of agency is absolutely critical.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Do you see avatar and agency as being very tightly linked?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Can you have agency without the avatar?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Oh, I think you could have agency without the avatar, particularly
interacting with, let’s say, 3D data, but I think if you’re looking for--this is where the others
fold into each other, Rob. If you’re looking to create an experience like some of the
diversity and inclusion experiences Margaret will no doubt be talking about today, the
avatar’s agency and also even appearance could play a role in the learning that’s driven
home through the activity. So yeah, in this case, I think how you position the avatar, what
kind of persona that avatar takes on and the activities they engage in can all be shaped
and configured, if you will, to drive home a pretty significant learning experience in the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now you have talked about these macrostructures, but you also
have other ways that--you’ve organized the features that people are trying to take
advantage of in Virtual Worlds. You also talk about various sensibilities, for example.
Could you walk us through the larger model?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Yeah. So within agency exploration connectedness and experience,
what we tried to do was tie it to two things. One is a set of what we call 3D learning
archetypes, which are if you want to think about them as reusable learning objects that
can be used over and over as instructional vehicles. So for instance, a treasure hunt or a
guided tour or a conceptual orienteering activity or a critical incident, those would fall into
experience. If we’re talking about the sensibilities, we talk about the sensibilities of the
technology itself. There’s a sense of self, which ties very closely to agency. That’s the
kinship you feel with your avatar.
There’s a sense of space and the pervasiveness of practice, which is tied to exploration.
There’s the enrichment of experience, which clearly links to the experience
macrostructure. And then, in terms of connectedness, there’s the power of presence,
which we feel right here right now and the depth of distance. Both of those are really
coming together in this Metanomics show today. And finally, this one is most germane, I
think, to Second Life with the capability to co-create artifacts or experiences.
So what we’ve tried to do with this chapter four, which is the one I sent you, Rob, is
essentially line up what are the eight design principles that you should be adhering to in
developing learning, how those overlay onto the four macrostructures of agency,
exploration, connectedness and experiences, what are the specific 3D learning archetypes
that you can employ and kind of snap together, to create a rich 3D learning experience
and what technical affordances or sensibilities are being leveraged from the perspective of
the platform that you’re using to make those 3D learning experiences come to life. That’s
essentially the crux of the matter, as it relates to this book.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We had a question. Someone wanted a reminder on the title of
the book. It’s called Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and
Collaboration. And, again, that will come out in January of 2010. So a very early book tour
for you, Tony.
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thanks for talking with us about it. I’d like to move on and talk
about the 3D Teaching, Learning and Collaboration Conference in San Jose, which is in
late September. I was at the first 3D TLC Conference in Washington, D.C. in April, and I’m
wondering: What lessons did you take from that first conference? What will you be
keeping, and what will you be changing for this next one?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: As you well know, with the community that comes to 3D TLC,
there’s not much control that I have, apart from just trying to be the orchestrator of content.
They’re all going to Twitter, whether you want them to or not. They’re used to the back
channel in the Virtual World, and they’re going to demand it. But I have asked for kind of a
big screen so that people can all see the Twitters as they float by, because I’ve seen that
being used quite successfully in other conferences.
In terms of the content itself, we’re always looking for more content and great examples. If
you have them, either email them directly to me or submit them through the [chart?]. I can
tell you right now we’ve had twice as many submissions so far as we did for the first
3D TLC. And the first 3D TLC kind of had to take on a panel format to accommodate the
number of submissions we’ve had. So I’m also looking for ideas on how you can get more
content into a two-day format. What we did in the past, as you well know, Rob, is we had
panels with three people on them. And we’re trying to think of some other creative
approaches to get more content across.
The other thing I’m pushing for pretty hard is having a virtual component to the
Conference, above and beyond the Twitter screen, but maybe a more 3D virtual
component to the Conference. So those are the things I’m working on at the moment. And
any and all ideas are welcome from the community.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And you’re still looking for speakers.
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Sure. If there are any ideas, concepts, case studies, it is going to be
very case-study focused. What did come out from 3D TLC, Rob, as I think you’re aware,
was, people liked to see the practical applications of the kind of things that Margaret and
others are doing to leverage this technology for business benefit. So that is going to be a
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great. Well, I think that’s about all the time we have for
this opening segment, but, Tony O’Driscoll, thanks so much for joining us, telling us about
your book on learning in 3D and the upcoming Conference. Everyone can check. I believe
the website is just 3DTLC.com. Is that right?
TONY O’DRISCOLL: That’s right. And also there’s the folks at Virtual Worlds News have
broken out a 3D TLC blog as well because they’re getting a lot of news items that they
feel--they want to give it its own channel.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! Well, I’m always glad to see enterprise applications of
Virtual Worlds, to get some traction. So congratulations on having such a successful first
conference. They asked for an encore, and I fully expect to be there myself.
TONY O’DRISCOLL: Thanks, Rob.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Thanks for joining us on Metanomics, and I’m sure we’ll
see you again next season. Okay. Now it’s time for our main event. Our main guest today
is Margaret Regan, president and CEO of the FutureWork Institute. The FutureWork
Institute is a global virtual web of alliances that models and co-creates flexible, inclusive
workplaces. I am, of course, taking this from their official documents, and I am very much
looking forward to hearing what that actually means. I do know the Institute operates in
four continents: North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, as a global incubator of
innovation and change. And it particularly focuses on addressing diversity, work-life
balance, the future of organizations and their employees. Margaret, welcome to
MARGARET REGAN: Thank you very much, Rob. It’s a pleasure to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I guess just for starters, tell us a little more about the
FutureWork Institute. What exactly do you do?
MARGARET REGAN: Well, as you said, we are a global consulting firm. We’ve been in
existence for over 20 years, first as the global diversity practice of Towers Perrin. And, as
of seven years ago, we spun off about a hundred people around the world into the
FutureWork Institute. And what our tagline line says is that we translate future trends to
transform organizations. And because we operate on four continents and we work a lot
with large companies, what we do is prepare them for the workforce and the marketplace
of the next ten years. So for the last 20 years we have been studying the next ten years,
wherever we are. In 1990, it was 2000, then 2010, etcetera. And we have a particular
specialty coming from our roots in Towers Perrin, in diversity and inclusion and human
So this takes us very often into broad culture change issues because, if we’re going to
prepare for the workplace of the future, we have to make sure, with a much more diverse
workforce, that everyone there feels welcome or valued. And, of course, that takes us into
sensitive issues, issues of race and ethnicity and gender and sexual orientation, religion,
generational differences, people with disabilities. And all of the things that sometimes
make people feel like an “other” in an organization.
So when we work with our clients, we are actually engaging them in three different ways.
We’re looking for a mind shift. We’re looking for a heart shift. And we’re looking for a skill
shift. And the mind shift comes when they see the compelling business case we make for
the changing workforce in the marketplace. The heart shift comes when they hear the data
from our organizational assessments, when many of their employees are actually
speaking very emotionally of not feeling included because they happen to be different from
the majority. And the skill shift comes from our education and training around creating a
more inclusive workplace. So that’s what we do.
Who we are is a little bit different. Who we are is a virtual global consulting firm that
operates in three different ways. We have a principle called “My Job, My Way.” Another
one called “My Business Our Way.” And the third one called “My Perks Our Way.” So as
you can see, we are modeling what we think work will be like in the future, as we consult
the companies on how they can prepare for that future.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You mentioned that you have a close relationship with
Towers Perrin, and I’m just wondering. They were in the news just this week. They’re
having some major organizational changes there: a merger with another firm. Do you see
that affecting FutureWork Institute?
MARGARET REGAN: Actually, it might have seven years ago, but right now they’ve
announced a merger with Watson Wyatt. Towers Perrin was an investor in FutureWork
when we spun off seven years ago, but, in these seven years, we’re really developed our
own reputation. We’re out on our own. We’ve paid back their investments, and so it really
won’t impact us, except that I was a partner there for 15 years so I definitely have very
close relationships with some of the other partners there, who will be very much impacted
by it. So on a personal level, yes. On a business level, we really have been operating on
our own for the last seven years. So on a business level, it won’t, but on a personal level,
we’re certainly concerned to see them succeed in this new merged company.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And let’s move on to some of the things that you’ve been writing
lately. In particular, you wrote an article for Money Magazine’s thirty-fifth anniversary issue
on the future of work. The headline, which no doubt an editor wrote rather than you
personally, but it was “Goodbye Wired Desks, Hello Wearable Wireless Networks.” And
then you say in the article by the year 2042, quote, “There will be no workplace as we
know it.” What forces do you see driving us that way, other than just the fact that wireless
technology exists and presumable will get better?
MARGARET REGAN: Well, I know when I give a lot of presentations on the future of
work, it frightens people a bit. If they like change, they love it. If they don’t like change,
they basically say, “When can I retire?” So I generally start talking about maybe in the next
five years, before I go to 2042, and what we’re really seeing is that people will work, first,
about 40 percent of their time in the office, 40 percent of the time at home, and then
20 percent in what we call the third place, which could be Starbucks, the local park, an
internet café, anyplace where they can get a wireless connection. But we will be
connected all the time, and that will blur the work and life boundaries even more than
they’re blurred today.
The virtual reality experiences that we’re going to talk about today will be integrated into
this real life so people will attend meetings, participate in business-learning simulations.
They’ll travel to distant places, and they’ll create their digital clones or avatars, but they
won’t be necessarily physically going anyplace.
When I was talking about 2042, as they asked me to do for that particular article, and I
said we’ll go from wired desk to wireless personal wearable networks so we’ll
communicate from everywhere, and it will really have little meaning to demand that
someone comes to work. This is the face time that we hear about in so many of the focus
groups that we do today. So we will have left behind the role-based, the rote application of
the job description, and work will feel more like a Hollywood movie.
And, if you think about it, managers, directors and team members come together around a
specific project. They collaborate intensely, and then they disband. That’s the Hollywood
movie production schedule, and that’s what we’ll see. And we’ll have smart machines
that’ll do everything that can be programmed into them. And there will be jobs that exist
that will demand problem-solving, managing teams, they’ll probably go global virtual
teams, and creating new ways to make life easier. We’ll see a lot more outsourcing and
home-choring, which is doing it within the home. And you’ll see people outsourcing part of
their personal life to concierge-type assistance in India. MyManInIndia is one of them. And
people in other countries will be glad to perform personal tasks for you while you sleep.
So work will look very, very different, and there will be few people coming into the office
with their manager insisting that they make sure they’re there at 5:00. And we will also
have a new generation taking the power as the baby boomers rewire themselves, who will
understand that work is really about results and not about physical presence. Right now
that is a very tough concept to get across to most people in power. It won’t be so tough 20
years from now.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: As you talk about this, I see lots of challenges both to
businesses and to the employees. I’d like to start with a couple issues facing employees in
the future of work. And the first one is, I hope you don’t mind my pointing out that I got an
email from you about this Metanomics event at about 3:30 in the morning. And so as we
go global, do we get to sleep?
MARGARET REGAN: Yes. I think one of the things I’ve been studying a lot, although
people who know me don’t quite believe it, is the importance of sleep as we live in this
world where we have an umbilical cord of the electronic tether all the time. And you got an
email from me at 3:30 in the morning because, when you run a global firm, many of your
clients are up, and that’s the beginning of their workday. Now the question do I get some
sleep, I actually do. If I go to bed at 3:00, I do not get up at 6:00, and everybody who
knows me knows that. So I do arrange my life so that I get at least six, seven or
sometimes even eight hours of sleep a night.
And I think that’s very important because what the studies are saying about our
always-connected life is that people are taking the time from one or another end of the
day. They are either staying up later to get their work done or getting up early in the
morning, and they’re cutting back on the sleep that they need. So when you look at the
younger generation, the Millennial, the Gen Y, the studies on this generation say they are
the most overtired generation that we have, and they are sleepy at work at least two days
a week because of the time and the multitasking that they’re used to doing with texting,
watching television at the same time they’re working. So it is a very big concern in this
always-on world, that people’s health will suffer from the lack of sleep.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And now a related question actually comes from an
audience member Devon Alderton, who asks, “Won’t there be multiple revenue streams,
less of the traditional full time employment that most people have now?” As we go virtual,
as you talk about this sort of film production model where people come together on a
project and disband, that sounds like a very stressful life. We’re all going to be seeking
very short-term jobs without the job security and the benefits that we know and love, those
of us who are employed in this economy. So how do you see that playing out?
MARGARET REGAN: We actually do a lot of focus groups around the world on this issue
of job security, long-term jobs, etcetera, and we do see that we’ll be moving from these
long-term relationships to more situational employment relationships. And people will build
portfolio careers with multiple employers. Now if we talk to the different generations at
work, every time I speak to a large audience in a company, I say, “How many of you been
here 10, 20, 30 years?” And the hands are still going up at 30 and 35 years. And then I
ask the question, “What about the newest generation coming in? How many of them do
you think will be here for 20 years?” And the audience shouts out, “Probably none.” Which
is a very big concern to the companies that we work with, who are used to these long-term
careers. And, if you look at the statistics just in the United States, the baby boomers
tended to stay on a job an average of 8.9 years. The Generation Xers, 2.8 years. And the
Millennials or the Gen Y, which is the youngest generation at work, 1.8 years.
So for a younger generation who are going to have ten careers in their lifetime and maybe
six or seven of them don’t even exist yet, the idea of staying at one company for 20 years
doesn’t make much sense. And there is another social dynamic that plays out here. When
we talk to the Gen Y’s in their focus groups, they will say, “Our parents stayed with a
company for 20 years for job security. They got laid off. The psychological contract was
broken. We don’t think it’s a good idea to put all of our eggs in one basket, as the saying
goes, for one company. And we think it’s better to build our portfolio skills by concentrating
on “me incorporated” so that I can have, as I move from employer to employer or go into
my own business, which a lot of people aspire to, I am building these portfolio skills, and I
am not doing the same job over and over again for ten or fifteen years.” So there will be a
different definition of job security. There will be a different definition of what loyalty means.
And I know it’s hard for a lot of people who’ve grown up in the traditional work world to
see, but when we talk to the younger generation, even in large companies, they really do
not see themselves as dedicated completely to their company. They are committed to the
work. They’re energized. They’re excited about it, but they do not see themselves there 15
or 20 years. Now I’m speaking in generalities. I do not mean everyone. I do mean what the
research is saying about how differently people look at loyalty, job security, etcetera, and
it’s even in this recession we’re finding that the Gen Y’s will stay longer, but they’re still
looking around for something that helps them balance their work and life more. And when
you see the switch, the research says that the boomers were more work-focused and work
came first. The Gen Xers are more in between work and life as important. And the Gen Y’s
are definitely more life-focused as the primary focus. So the switch in how you look at work
is going to bring a big switch into how we do our work.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me turn to the challenges facing the businesses, and
another audience member MrsAishaLaDon Xenno gets at this by talking about why face
time is important, and she says, “They want to watch you and micromanage. So if I’m
leading a global virtual team, the type that you describe, where people are not coming into
the office, how do I maintain control and make sure that what’s happening is what I want to
MARGARET REGAN: This issue of face time is a very big generational debate we have
all the time. We have baby boomer managers who do walk around the office at night, to
see who is there. And when we run what we call generational debates in live debates, the
younger generation says to them, “Why do you care where I am? I actually can get this
work done better if I’m at home. Maybe if I put my child to bed and then do it for a couple
of hours after. All you should care about is that you have the resulting deliverable at 9:00
the next morning when you need it.” And the future will have to have managers that
manage by results and who do not believe that presence equals performance.
It is one of the biggest issues we have when we work with executive teams on this issue of
work-life flexibility, my job my way, DeLoitte calls it “mass career customization,” where I
kind of design my career and how I relate to work very differently from the person next to
me. But you will see more of that because, if you see what’s happening in the four
generations, the baby boomers are rewiring themselves. They’re not necessarily retiring,
but they don’t want to work the way they did and just live to work. The Gen Xers are
absolutely going through the work-life frustrations as they try to get flexibility, and they
have to model their life on their baby boomer managers.
And the Gen Y’s are coming in and saying, “If you don’t give me flexibility, I’ll just go
someplace else.” So we have three or four different generations asking for a new way to
work, and the paradigm that’s shifted is that the workforce has changed dramatically over
the last ten to fifteen years, but the workplace in many of our large organizations has not,
and it will have to shift as we look at the future.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thank you. The first item on my agenda was just to look at
the future of work and hear your ideas, and those are fascinating ideas. I guess I’m almost
a baby boomer. I’m just, I think, a hair young, but certainly there’s some things in there
that excite me, some things that make me a little nervous, but I think we’re all going to look
forward to the next five, ten years.
Let’s then move on to what appears to be a central part of what the FutureWork Institute is
doing today to help companies deal with the challenges of today, and a lot of that, as you
mentioned, focuses on diversity issues. And a good deal of that addresses something you
call micro-inequities. What are those?
MARGARET REGAN: Yes. Micro-inequities is a word that’s really come into the diversity
and inclusion vocabulary probably in the last four or five years, and the two most popular
topics globally when we do training around diversity inclusion are how to manage across
four generations at work. And then how to deal with the micro-inequities that happen every
day to people. Micro-inequity is what it sounds like: little inequities. They’re the everyday
acts of exclusion, of devaluation and discouragement that are very often unconscious
when people do it. They’re subtle slights that really sap people’s energy. They can be a
gesture, a tone or snub, but what they do is, they de-motivate employees, and they erode
trust. And they also really impair productivity and performance.
If you’re looking for innovation, they kill innovation. They disconnect team members, and
they absolutely sabotage diversity efforts. We just recently did a global survey on what are
the micro-inequities that impact people in different parts of the world. One of the biggest
ones right now is when you are telling somebody something that you’re very emotional
about and it’s really important to you, and they take out their Blackberry, their PDA or
something, and they’re checking their messages while you’re telling them something
because they’re multitasking. And what people say is, “It’s really devaluing my time and
me when I’m not important enough in what I’m saying for you to just look at me and have a
The other one we hear a lot that goes on at meetings is where somebody offers an idea,
the manager dismisses the first idea pitched and says, “Great. Thanks. Now who wants to
get the ball rolling?” Or many women say they put an idea forward; it doesn’t seem to be
heard. Five minutes later, very often a man puts it forward, and the manager will say,
“Great idea. Let’s go with that.” And the woman will say, “Am I invisible? Didn’t anyone
hear me?” The message is, “Why should I take your idea seriously?” So it’s not a big thing,
but, when that happens over and over, it grinds exceedingly small, and it’s very wearing on
Another one we see a lot is that he counts. You don’t count introduction. So two people
will be being introduced, and you’ll say, “This is Jane who graduated from Penn State. She
runs all our terrific marketing campaigns,” etcetera, etcetera. “And this is Fred. He’s from
Bridgeport. Shake his hand.” So you go on and one about one person, and then the other
person gets a very kind of short, to the point, not very excited introduction. They’re very
little things, but when they happen over and over and when I am a person of color,
suppose I’m a Black person and you’re constantly coming up to me and saying, “You’re so
articulate. You’re so articulate,” that’s nice, but the rest of that sentence can be, “You’re so
articulate for a Black person.” And so for someone who is a young Black man, who has
always been articulate, who comes into a workplace, and he’s told that over and over, and
he notices that other people aren’t told that, it begins to be wearing. Or you look at a
Chinese person [CROSSTALK]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Could I ask?
MARGARET REGAN: Go ahead.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Actually another audience member Bevan Whitfield is saying
there’s never an excuse for rudeness. And one of the things I’m wondering is, a lot of the
things you’re describing are, frankly, just plain rude and could happen to, you know,
anyone could say them to anyone. But then there’s the other layer to it, which is that
people would be systematically rude in these little ways to people of certain races or to
women or whatever. Do you see the bigger issue being, you know, dealing with the
diversity aspect of it? I probably do rude things by pulling out my Blackberry to everyone.
Are you focusing on both of those or more the diversity aspects?
MARGARET REGAN: Yes. We actually start by focusing on the overall micro-inequities I
was talking about. And the Blackberry is a big one. And, by the way, everyone doesn’t
agree that it’s rude. We have big debates on this. We have some cultures where
everybody does it so it’s okay. Other cultures where it’s not okay. And we have CEOs
telling people--we had one CEO who sends around an envelope, and you have to put your
Blackberry in there so you won’t do it. Somebody else has been putting a dollar every time
they take it out because there are cultures who feel it’s rude. There are cultures who feel it
is just the way we do business. But it does happen. I just saw somebody say people with
disabilities it happens all the time.
I was running around the world a few years ago. I hurt my leg, was in a wheelchair for
about six weeks. It was just amazing the way people talked to me. I went to give a speech
at a large hotel in Florida, for a big client, and they actually paid for my husband to wheel
me in because I couldn’t walk. I had really, really hurt my knee. And, as I got the door, the
bellman started to shout at me, “For people like you, we have this,” and he was shouting.
And so my husband said, “She is neither deaf nor is she mentally incapacity in any way.
Why do you insist on shouting?” And he kept doing that. And during those whole six
weeks, when I was quote “a person with a disability,” I can’t tell you how many micro-
inequities that I felt that made me very, very uncomfortable, and I realized I really wasn’t
good at this. So people with disabilities, as one of your participants said have it happen to
them all the time. But they do very much impact people.
If you look at levels of engagement connected to micro-inequities, and you look at even
global studies of people who are fully engaged, mildly engaged or disengaged at work,
you will see the people with the highest percentage of disengagement will say they are the
subjects of constant incivilities on micro-inequities. And, by the way, we don’t talk about
them because it’s not sexism, racism. It’s not any of the isms. It’s the more subtle things
because we’ve gotten more sophisticated about our isms. So it’s the more subtle things
that we do that really impact how people feel every day about coming in to work.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: This leads very naturally into the next topic I want to discuss,
which is: How do you, at FutureWork Institute, help firms deal with this? And we really
haven’t talked about Virtual Worlds at all. What role do Virtual Worlds play in that?
MARGARET REGAN: Okay. I’ll start by saying how we basically help companies and
then talk about the role of Virtual Worlds. As I said, we deal with the mind shift, the heart
shift and the skill shift. And, in the mind shift, we do a tremendous amount of research
globally on what these trends are, depending on the industry we’re working in, the country
we’re working in, so we have these multimedia presentations we do, to really wake
executives up, who are mostly baby boomers, about how quickly these changes are
For example, last week, in the middle of one of my speeches, I said, “Just look at this
week.” What happened in Iran got all over the world with Twitter. Michael Jackson’s death
meant that so many people went to where they get their news first, which was to Google,
that Google thought it was a virus and shut down. When you see how quickly this is
coming upon us, you need to really look at the whole landscape of the workplace and the
marketplace and realize that you need to change. And so we do a lot of mind-shifting that
way. We do scenario planning for the future, where people look at the trends that will
impact the future and what it means for their business.
When we get to the emotions of the heart, we do a lot of organizational assessments. We
have people of all the different groups, affinity groups, African Americans, Asians, people
with disabilities, gays, lesbians, whatever group is in the workforce, who tell us what they
feel like being in this company and what the climate for diversity inclusion is. We do
surveys so we have the quantitative part. And then we interview executives. We put all the
data together really to move people to say, “This is our house, and people don’t feel
And then we have to take them to the skill shift, if you think about head, heart and hands,
we have to take them to, “So what do you do? How do you deal with the micro-inequities?”
We do a lot of coaching, lots of mentoring programs, putting together diversity councils,
employer resource groups. We help people measure the progress and measure the
climate for inclusion.
And, in all of that, when you ask about the role of Virtual Worlds and what led us there, it
was really about four different things coming together at the same time. First of all, we are
the FutureWork Institute so our clients always expect us to be ten years ahead and to lead
them into the future of training and learning and collaboration. Then the economy hit, and
many of our clients had to cancel large meetings or anything that required travel, any kind
of travel and lodging because those costs just went--nobody was allowed to move. Put on
top of that the desire to be green, and then the diversity component of that is that much of
our diversity work that deals around an emotional reaction to being an “other,” if you want
to get to the heart part of it, requires people to walk in the shoes of someone who is very
different from them. And that’s hard to do.
We do exercises in our real training where you get a card, and, for that evening, you have
to think you’re that person, and come back the next day and discuss how your life would
have changed at home, how your manager would have acted differently, how your
colleagues would have acted differently. So we do that in live training. But when we came
to the Virtual World, we found a way to do diversity simulations that would allow people to
enter into that world by having an avatar of a different race, gender, generation, etcetera,
and going around the world and talking to people as that person. So those are the things
that led us into the Virtual World, and we have been, for about the last three years,
working on three different platforms in the Virtual World with our clients. So that’s really
what brought us into the use of the Virtual Worlds, as a way to get people to understand
some of the diversity issues that we talk about, in a very different way.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I understand you personally don a number of different avatars
of different races, genders, outfits and all that, and so you’ve experienced this very
MARGARET REGAN: Yes, I certainly do. It’s part of the research that we have been
doing about how you are received in this large world, if you just take Second Life, if you
appear as a different kind of avatar from what you are. And I’m not talking about furries
now or other types of avatars that I know are prevalent in Second Life. I’m talking about
someone from a different race or gender. So when I first appear, if I’m appearing at a
client meeting, I look like I do now in a business outfit. But, if I’m just Futura Cosmos, I
actually have an outfit that has the FutureWork template, my logo, on it, and I kind of fly
around the world that way. But I’m still a white woman.
If I want to really experience something different, I then turn into a number of different
people. I morph into an African American Gen Xer in a business suit, and I get a very
different reaction when I go around to talk to people in the World of Second Life. Then
sometimes I go right into being an African woman in native dress, and I get a completely
different reaction. Or, I might be a younger African American millennial, and I get a
different reaction. I have avatars; I morph into an Argentinean Gen Xer, which I’m just
doing the generations. The hardest one for me to do and even create in Second Life was a
Black woman who was older. As you know it’s very hard to kind of look older in Second
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes.
MARGARET REGAN: So I actually had to have someone make this one for me, even to
have the hair that might be more typical. So I do have another avatar, and when I go out
as an older Black woman, I have some very interesting conversations. I have a group of
Gen Xers. I have Puerto Rican Xer and Italian Gen Xer, an Irish Gen Xer. I’m a French
baby boomer. I’m a Swedish Gen Xer, Brazilian. I have another one that’s a Chinese older
baby boomer that gets a very different reaction from my young Japanese millennial one.
The Middle Eastern boomer that I have is a person who wears long garb and is quite
different looking from many Second Life avatars, and she has very interesting
conversations. And then I end up with a Latina boomer. The most unusual one I have is a
Maori Tribe millennial, a Malaysian and then an Indian Xer. All of these are personas of
The experience I have is completely different when I am those people. Last week--go
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well I was going to say, this brings up a question that
Valiant Westland posed earlier. All these people are coming in--and we’re doing business
virtually, and presumably Virtual Worlds won’t be just for diversity training, but people will
actually be collaborating in them. And this is Valiant’s question: Do you see the rise of
Virtual Worlds breaking down the micro-inequity barriers that you’re talking about by
potentially eliminating subconscious judgments made about age, sex, etcetera? Or will
they just have their own micro-inequities as Metaverse engineers suggests?
MARGARET REGAN: Yes, I think it’s both. I definitely see and when I talk to people and
people come up to me when I speak to large audiences, they will tell me, people with
disabilities especially will tell me that, in the Virtual Worlds, especially in Second Life, they
can fly, run, walk. They can run businesses, etcetera. And they can meet lots of other
people. If you look at the people who are agoraphobics and can’t go outside the house,
they can practice doing that. So you have many people who can lose some kind of a
disability behind an avatar. You also have very interesting reactions.
I had an older Black man who came up and told me that he experienced so much
prejudice in his life that his son does not experience because his son operates globally
with lots of friends behind an avatar, and he’s very knowledgeable about technology. So
he teaches people much older than him, who are White and very traditional, that would
never have listened to his father at the same age. So he said to me, “I do see the positive
part of it.” So that’s one thing.
On the other hand, then there are other micro-inequities that come about, about how you
should look in these Virtual Worlds. At the conference that Tony did, one of professors
talked about sending out some students dressed in these outfits that looked like Kool-Aid
bottles. And she sent three of them into one of the clubs in Second Life, to see how long
they would last, looking like that. And they came back, as she explained it, actually
emotionally changed by the experience because they were rejected by people in that club,
saying, “You’re not like us. What are you doing here?” And she thought it would take them
15 minutes to come back, and they came back in five minutes, feeling really terrible about
being an “other.” So it’s another kind of rejection by how you decide to present yourself
and whether or not other people will accept you as a furry or a dragon or, you know, a
Kool-Aid person. So I think it goes both ways. In some ways, it’s very helpful. In other
ways, other micro-inequities will come about in that World.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Fascinating stuff. There are so many questions from the
audience chat, but we’re running out of time, and I wanted to move on to a last topic that is
your three-step approach to introducing people to Virtual Worlds. That you first bring them
into Unisfair and then into ProtoSphere and then into Second Life. We don’t have a whole
lot of time, but if you could just quickly sort of walk us through what you do and why you do
MARGARET REGAN: Yes, I’d be happy to. This was great learning for me because our
audience are corporate executives who buy our services. But the learners are corporate
managers, many of whom are baby boomers, and I refer to them as digital immigrants, as
opposed to the digital natives who are coming in from the younger generation. And so
what we have to do is, we have to meet them where they are and move them to the next
stage. So if I take our clients and the client example and start with the first stage of
Unisfair. This was our client Sodexho, a very large client who usually has a diversity
summit every year in Paris. They fly executives in, etcetera. It’s a wonderful event.
This year, as most of my clients did, they had to cancel because of the cost of bringing all
those people together, but they said to me, “This is such an important event for us. We
have to find another way to do it.” So we introduced them, not to Second Life, by the way;
they asked us, “Can we all meet in Second Life?” They wanted to bring a thousand people
in, who had never been there before, for this meeting. And, because I know all these
different Worlds, I said, “Not yet. You’re not ready for that. You’re just graduating from
WebEx. And, if you want to go the next step from WebEx, go to another platform.” So we
used Unisfair. And Unisfair, different from the other Worlds, is web-based. They think that
they have avatars. And when you look at the visual of Unisfair, there are actually no
avatars there, but all my clients think they’re avatars. They’re actually shadow people, but
they really think they’re avatars. And that’s fine because it at least feels like a Virtual
There you do an approach that’s called video/audio SimuLive so you can record part of it,
and then you go live, talking to thousands of participants, and you hope the technology
works and luckily it did for us. The good part of that is, you can do a whole event, as we
did. We did a global inclusion summit, with people from four or five different continents.
We had close to a thousand people there in one day. And it’s now up on demand for
fifteen hundred people a day can come in and have that same experience so it makes it
What they experience when they go in is, they come into the main hall. I appear. I actually
just kind of come out of nowhere, and I appear, not as an avatar, but as myself walking on
the path of this Virtual World. I welcome them, and then I disintegrate. I disappear. They
go into the conference center. They hear their executive’s speech. We have panels from
all over the world. They go into exhibit halls. We had interactive theater, which we
recorded beforehand. They all go into a networking lounge, and then they can collect
documents for the resource center. That’s what we called stage one.
We had a very successful event, and it was Sodexho, and it was Microsoft people who
came in. We had a great learning from that event, which was--we had all kinds of topics
set up in the networking lounge so people could talk about all these diversity topics. All
anyone wanted to do was stand in the lounge, find their friends, talk in many different
languages about what a cool thing this was, how they could use it, wasn’t this great and
basically just do a lot of social networking.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m just paying attention to the time and hoping we can hear just
a little bit about stage two in ProtoSphere.
MARGARET REGAN: ProtoSphere is our second level. It is designed for an enterprise.
It’s secure. You do have avatars. They’re much easier to manipulate. It has [voice chat
and text?] chat. You can share applications. We have a generational training simulation in
there. And there people can have their own spaces to collaborate, to work. There’s a
Wikipedia. We have a client who’s using this to bring in all their [MBAs?] from different
parts of the world and to onboard them into the company. And that is very successful, and
that is what we suggest if people do not want an open World like Second Life, but they
want their own secure World.
The third stage, we did this for Cisco who wanted to use Second Life to bring all of the
women together from all of the women’s networks. And that’s where we have FutureWork
Island, which has the amphitheatre, a lot of simulations on diversity aspects, a World Café.
You can go on a [Paradigm Blanket?] and work in different parts of the World. There’s a
building on the Future workforce and workplace. And you can also come in there and
choose one of the 16 to 20 avatars we have alive on FutureWork island and go through
the simulations, without having to go through a lot of the “Come on to orientation island,
build your avatar,” which frustrates a lot of our clients. So we go from there [CROSSTALK]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And, of course, the people have the experience first with
Unisfair and then with ProtoSphere.
MARGARET REGAN: Yeah. So some of them are ready for--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Gentle introduction.
MARGARET REGAN: Right. To be ready for Second Life, you have to be a company
[AUDIO GLITCH] where you’re already meeting people [in there?] so it’s not so strange.
It’s very hard to take a company like Sodexho, which is more traditional, and move them to
the third stage. So they were very happy with stage one. They’ve done recruiting in
Second Life, but for a meeting of a thousand people, there was no way to get through the
firewall, the learning curve, etcetera.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, fascinating views today on the future of work, on the
nature of diversity and micro-inequities, the role of Virtual Worlds in training companies
and changing hearts and minds and skills in the business world, not in politics. So thank
you, Margaret Regan, for joining us today on Metanomics. It was really fascinating stuff,
and I hope we’ll be able to get you back.
MARGARET REGAN: Thank you. I enjoyed it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now it’s time for our regular closing comment, Connecting The
Dots. Earlier this week, former Metanomics producer, Lynn Cullens, passed me some very
welcome news about Peggy Sheehy. Peggy is a library media specialist and instructional
technology facilitator at Suffern Middle School in New York State. And, as viewers of
Metanomics know, because she’s been on twice, she’s been working tirelessly to bring
students and teachers into Second Life. So what’s the news? This week, Peggy Sheehy
won the Making It Happen Award, which is issued by the ISTE, the International Society
for Technology in Education, and was conferred during their big convention just this week.
The name of the award is a pun, by the way, because Making It Happen can also be read
as Making I-T Happen, and that is exactly what Peggy has done, by bringing what by now
must be more than a thousand students into Second Life.
From the ISTE website, I read, quote, “Making It Happen is an internationally recognized
awards program for educators in the field of educational technology integration in K-to-12
schools. The program identifies and rewards educational technology leaders around the
world for their commitment and innovation. Commitment and innovation indeed. This is a
real honor for Peggy, and it’s a success not just for Peggy, but for thousands of educators
who are active in Second Life and see Virtual Worlds as an important part of the future of
education. As John Lester, Pathfinder Linden, said on Metanomics last summer, the
educators in Second Life are an unusually innovative and collaborative group, and
businesses have a lot to learn from their successes.
One thing we can learn, and this is my point today, is that we need to change the way we
talk about the current technological state of Virtual Worlds, just like some people, because
of their jobs, have to change the way they talk about the weather. Now everyone’s
probably heard the old saw that everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does
anything about it. Well we, who are active in Second Life and other Virtual Worlds, are
constantly talking about the platforms that feel like our homes or our classrooms. And we
talk about them like people so often do about the weather.
We make small talk about firewalls and crashes, the problems with search, and we debate
whether clunky interfaces are a bigger problem than high bandwidth demands. Just like
we would complain about rain or snow and debate whether it’s the heat or the humidity
that makes us feel so uncomfortable. There’s some entertainment value in that, but it’s not
all that productive. But when we are trying to, as Peggy’s award says, when we’re trying to
make it happen, we need to sound more like airline pilots and air traffic controllers. These
people talk about the weather, not because they’re going to change it and not for small
talk, but because they have to live with it and work around it. So we need to make sure
everyone knows which squalls are on the horizon, which storm clouds will pass first so that
we can plot our trajectories and use the right de-icing tools.
What Peggy has shown us is that, come hail or sleet or freezing computers, we can work
with the inclement weather that Virtual Worlds are continually handing us, and, as the
award says, make it happen.
Linden Lab says they’re going to remake their interface and make many, many other
changes, and I fully expect they will. And other Worlds will come forward with their
solutions too. The clouds will disperse, but right now we need to keep on our raincoats,
keep close tabs on the weather patterns and keep up the hard work because, when our
fair-weather friends and colleagues come into a Metaverse of sunny skies and stable,
approachable Virtual Worlds, we will need to have already figured out what these Worlds
are good for, what exactly is that “it” that we want to make happen and how we can do it in
a way that achieves our goals as educators, businesspeople, civil servants, political
activists. That isn’t easy to do, and I’m happy to see that people, like Peggy Sheehy, who
are doing it so well, are getting the recognition that they deserve.
Speaking of recognition, I would like to close by noting that this will be our last show for
the spring 2009 season. We’ll probably have a special event in late July, to explore some
new developments in the industry and then start up again in late August or early
September. For right now, at the close of the season, I’d like to give a number of people
the recognition that they deserve for making Metanomics happen throughout our spring
season. Obviously, special thanks to our friends at TreetTV for filming and broadcasting;
Remedy Communications for producing and promoting the show, particularly Joel Foner
and Dusan Writer.
Thanks especially to the long list of people who don their bad-weather gear every week
and work in the blustering winds of live machinima. So in no particular order, thanks to our
avateer, JenzZa Misfit, who makes us look so real; to Gentle Heron, for voice to text
translation; Transcriptionist Writer for complete text transcriptions; Jennette Forager, for
overseeing our volunteers. And, of course, our many volunteers--I hope this is a largely
complete list: Alleara Snoodle, Beryl Greenacre, Dev Alderton, Evansmom Goodspeed,
Farqot Gustafson, Ozzie Wozniak, Gwyneth Writer, Jane2 McMahon, Lyna Lagios(?),
Nanny KO(?), Tammy Nowotny.
And then, of course, we have our event partners: JenzZa Misfit, at Muse Isle; Cindy Ecksol
and Rose Springvale, of the Confederation of Democratic Simulators; Bevan Whitfield, at
Rockliffe; Hydra Shaftoe, at Orange Island; Stella Costello and Larry Pixel, at NMC
Outreach. And finally, special thanks to Bevan Whitfield for tirelessly promoting
Metanomics, along with many other fascinating events of interest to our Metanomics
community, events run by Nokia, Rockliffe University and any number of other venues and
I apologize for anyone I left out. Metanomics is one: it really does take a village, and I just
don’t have that good a memory. So if I left you off, thank you. Thanks, of course, to our
audience and community who join us every week. This is Robert Bloomfield signing off.
Take care. And, I hope to see you at the Second Life Community Convention in
San Francisco. Bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer