J. Leighton Read, M.D., is a General Partner in four Alloy Ventures funds from 2001-2007 and a successful entrepreneur and CEO. His companies have created outstanding financial returns by delivering extreme innovation to solve needs in discovery of new medicines, life science research and public health. For over two decades, he has also been interested in the psychological principles that underlie successful electronic games and is currently devoting substantial time to his role as Executive Chairman of Seriosity, an organization which applies those principles to improving collaboration, innovation, productivity, and engagement. Leighton is the co-author of Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete.
Alloy Ventures in Palo Alto, California is an early-stage venture fund with over $1billion under management. Before joining the firm in 2001, Leighton spent 14 years as a biotechnology entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded Affymax NV, under the direction of Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni, setting the stage for two successful spin-outs: Affymetrix and Maxygen. He founded Aviron, a biotechnology company best known as the developer of FluMist™, the intranasal influenza vaccine, where he served as Chairman and CEO until 1999 and Director until its acquisition by MedImmune in 2002. While at Alloy, he funded a spin-out of Maxygen and served as the first CEO of Avidia, Inc, later acquired by Amgen.
Leighton is a director of a number of young companies in the fields of biotechnology, medical devices, nanotechnology, cleantech and software. He also serves as a trustee or director of The BeneTech Initiative, BioVentures for Global Health, The UC Berkeley Foundation and School of Public Health Council and the Santa Fe Institute. His awards include several as co-inventor of technology underlying the Affymetrix GeneChip™ and Ernst & Young's California Life Science Entrepreneur of the Year.
How many times have you heard of an ex-employee saying “It just wasn’t fun anymore?” That’s a refrain all leaders ignore at their peril. There is a rich body of research and philosophy that argues that the psychological experience of play is a fundamental ingredient in engagement and satisfying, productive effort. As this Moonshot suggests, making work more playful is a serious and urgent undertaking with potentially dramatic implications for the performance and vitality of all organizations.
Byron Reeves and I have been studying video games as examples of engaging play. The most compelling model that relates to the world of work is the wildly successful genre of massive multiplayer online games—the archetype being World of Warcraft. We matched up tasks in this one game to each item in an inventory summarizing every kind of task found in modern enterprises, from leadership to diagnosis to selling and communication. Think of it as group problem solving based on diverse skills of a volunteer workforce on a massive scale.
Leaders ought to begin thinking about these ideas right now because engagement is essential in a distributed workforce where we rely on employees’ tacit knowledge to deliver the results. Innovation and...