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Alicia Blain

Video Games

I came across this great blog written by a Gen Yer called Derek Singleton titled “How Manufacturing can Attract Young Talent Again“.  He is an ERP Analyst for a company called Software Advice and he covers the manufacturing software market.  In the blog he ponders why he never thought to choose a career in manufacturing.  He realizes that there are many reasons why young professionals like himself would never think of it either.  Things like not having popular role models in manufacturing. Can you think of even one person in manufacturing that you’ve heard of?   For that matter, when was the last time we heard a positive story about manufacturing?  All we hear about are plant closings and how the factories are being moved overseas.

Derek goes on to explain why it’s important to pursue manufacturing careers and his points are well taken.  What I liked best is that Derek had some suggestions to making  manufacturing cool again to attract Gen Yers.  Take gamification for instance.  Did you know that there are 3D games that show new hires (aka Gen Yers) how to operate oil refinery equipment? Or that there’s a game called Plantville which is similar to Farmville designed to teach manufacturing processes and technologies to new hires?  Companies like Invensys and Siemens have been investing their money in the gamification of manufacturing.  How cool is that?

Derek also had a great idea about having manufacturing summer camps!  Isn’t that great?  What about restoring shop classes back in high school?  The point is that you can’t expect young people to get excited about a career in an industry they have no exposure to or is not perceived in a good light.

It’s by attracting young talent that manufacturing can get a facelift and perhaps become cool again.  Derek’s blog reminded me of several blogs I’ve written this past year on a similar vein. Last year, I wrote about Kristine Harper who followed her father’s footsteps and choose a career in mainframes.  Yes, that’s right – mainframes.  She started an IBM Share user group called “zNextGen There are over 700 engineers, all of them Millennials, that are “looking to improve mainframe technology skills and find places to use them.” 

The manufacturing sector needs a Kristine Harper to jumpstart change, make it cool again and get Gen Yers excited about being a part of the change.  The Armed Forces is another example.  I’ve blogged several times about how different groups within the Armed Forces are using gamification to attract Gen Yers.

But first, Gen Yers have to know the industry exists in the first place.  They have to be exposed to it, hear about it, learn about it, see role models in manufacturing that are making a difference, that are making change.

What do you think?  Do you like Derek’s ideas on making manufacturing cool?  Do you think it will atract Gen Yers? What ideas do you have to make it cool? Or do you think it’s too late? I hope not.  Because if there’s an industry that needs the creativity, fresh blood and curiosity of Gen Yers, it’s manufacturing.  Here’s to making “Shop” cool again…


You probably wondered if there was a typo in the heading of this post.  Video game concert?  What is that?  Well, it’s another great example of innovation at work in the 21st Century.  I was watching my local PBS station yesterday and came across a segment called Video Games Live.   This is a concert event put on by the video games industry to help encourage and support the art behind video games.  For any of you who have played or experiemented with video games, you know that the music in most games is truly beautiful and moving. For me, the music is an integral part of the video game experience and apparently is was for many others.  Tommy Tallarico, a veteran video game composer,  was constantly asked why the music from video games wasn’t made into a CD for people’s listening pleasure.  That gave the composer the wonderful idea to create a concert where the music in popular video games would be showcased.

And what a showcase it is ! The idea led to Video Games Live.  The best way to describe this concert is that it is a highly creative fusion of 3 distinct but very well suited forms of entertainment:  a symphony orchestra, a rock concert and the interactivity and fun of video games.  According to their website, the Video Games concert is an event where the ”top orchestras & choirs perform along with exclusive video footage and music arrangements, synchronized lighting, solo performers, electronic percussionists, live action and unique interactive segments to create an explosive entertainment experience!”

“Explosive” is an understatement.  I sat there mesmerized watching the Los Angeles concert being televised by PBS.  Not only did they show the music and videos of today’s most popular video games such as World of Warcraft, Civilization and Halo  but they blended it with earlier Baby Boomer classics such as Pong,  Donkey Kong & Tetris.

To me, Video Games Live is  much more than a way to encourage and support the video games industry, it is an innovative medium to bridge the generational gap between Millennials and their parents and/or bosses.  It has 2 immediate benefits.  One is that the Millennial will develop an appreciation of a symphony orchestra.  How many times has a parent been successful at cajoling a young person to attend a symphony?  Well, with Video Games Live, Millennials can’t wait to attend a symphony concert because not only do they know the video game music but they appreciate the show behind the music.  Many of the Millennials that attend the video game concert go dressed up as their favorite video game characters.  Isn’t that neat?

The second benefit and the one that appeals to me the most, is that the Baby Boomer/early Gen Xer parent, can finally get a taste of video games.  Most parents and leaders who are not video game lovers have this bad image of video games which I believe is very unfortunate.  In the concert, people can see the beautiful imagery and complexity that video games bring to the Millennials.  They can see how educational the games are and that not all of it is blood and gore.   To me the video game concert can be the “game changer” in getting parents and corporate leaders to understand the power they have when leveraged and utilized in the workplace.

In my C.A.R.E. System for leadership, demystifying the world of video games is at the heart of the techniques I show in the “C” for Connect segment of C.A.R.E.    Millennials’ love of video games contributes to one of their 5 puzzling traits for corporate leaders.  That trait is their need to be experiential in what they do at work.  Their love of video games makes them gravitate to trying things out, being hands-on and not being afraid to fail at something.  Failure is the key to getting to that next level in the game.  The more leaders understand the power of video games the more they will tap the goldmine of talent Millennials bring with them to the workplace.  It’s also they way they learn best.

So here’s a great idea for you as the holidays approach.    As a parent, why don’t you click on the link above to the Video Games Live website and see when the next concert will be held in your town.  Buy tickets for yourself and your kids and attend.  Your Millennials will think you are so cool and you can finally immerse yourself in their puzzling world of video games.  Maybe you’ll find a game that you like and it will encourage you to experiment with the real game at home.  Chances are your kids already have the game.

As a leader,  I would find out when the next concert will be held in your town and plan a team outing to see it.  Your Millennial staff will not believe what got into you to make you so cool, all of a sudden!  You will finally get to see what video games have to offer from a team perspective.  Sit next to Millennials so you can get a synopsis of each of the games they showcase.  See if one of them hits a nerve and ask one of your Millennial staff members who knows that game well to show you how to play it when you get back to the office.  Maybe use the game as a team exercise.  As you become familiar with the game, play close attention to how Millennials interact with the game and how they view playing the game.  This is an invaluable way to see how they think and work which oftentimes is very different to the Baby Boomer way.  Because you are not familiar with it, you have no way to tap it and leverage it within your team.  And you need to.

So take a page from Tommy Tallarico’s Video Games Live event and see how you can learn from and utilize the incredible power of video games for bottom line payoff in your team.  All it takes is an innovative way of thinking and keeping an open mind to experiementing out of your leadership comfort zone. 

Love to hear your feedback if you attend the event in your local area.  I’m planning to attend when it comes to South Florida next year.  Keep an open mind and let the games begin…