Study finds that video games may be the key to teams being more productive

Turns out video games can be both entertaining and help a team work better together and more efficiently, according to a new study.

Photo: Lalesh Aldarwish

Four BYU information system professors reported work teams to experience a 20% increase in productivity after playing video games together for just 45 minutes a day.

“To see that big of a jump—especially for the amount of time they played—was a little shocking,” said  BYU associate professor Greg Anderson. “Companies are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on team-building activities, and I’m thinking, go buy an Xbox.”

The study was based on 352 individuals. These subjects were indiscriminately organized into 80 teams. The first part of the experiment had participants compete in a geocaching competition called, Findamine. The competition presents players with text-based clues to find landmarks with the hopes of winning a cash prize. After the first round, teams were randomly assigned to commit 45 minutes to either 1. Video Games (Rock Band or Halo 4) 2. quiet homework time 3. a goal training discussion. After these conditions, teams were sent back to the geocaching competition.

The goal-training teams reported a higher increase in team cohesion than the video game team, but the video game team scored significantly higher in the second round of the game itself.

The researches concluded that the immediately noticeable effects were not dependent on how much experience the participants had with video games. In fact, players that were novices tended to be more readily able to establish communication norms, and build working relationships.

Video games bring teams together

The games chosen for the experiment were games agreed to require team coordination. Video games are an optimal productivity booster because it exercises so many fundamental aspects of maximizing focus. It reinforces repetition, it inspires both trust and communication between employees, and it positively impacts part of the brain responsible for memory, information organizations, and fine motor skills.

The study acknowledged that using video games to inspire bonds works best with employees that don’t already know each other. They went so far as to imply the contrary might even be likely to “reinforce biases” and “negative relations” hitherto developed. Still, lead researcher Mark Kieth, feels optimistic at the prospect of utilizing alternative methods of boosting productivity:

“Video gaming may truly be a viable — and perhaps even optimal — alternative for team building,” Keith said.

CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.