Are you a ‘game changer’?

I have recently had the pleasure of attending a series of events hosted by eg.1, a business insight and talent company. I was introduced to them by Keith Willetts, Founder and Director of TM Forum, who co-hosted the initial event. I found their core insight both professionally interesting and personally valuable, so I would like to share it with you.

Business renewal requires radicals 

All organisations need to continually renew themselves. The nature of the modern world is constant change, which requires meeting fresh challenges that were not foreseen.

This means that you need people who can “see around corners” at what is out of sight to most other people. This skill demands a particular kind of person: the “game changer”.

They can sense unseen risk in “business as usual” and notice undiscovered opportunity in “business as unusual”. As a result, such people may appear to be “off-message” and “off-plan”. They are only about 5% of the worker population, and appear at all levels of seniority. By their nature they don’t always fit well into the standard corporate hierarchy.

Yet their very value is in their novel insight and high drive, with the ability pioneer new ideas. They help organisations to create strategic optionality, which is vital for a world in flux. So how can you identify and nurture “game changers”?

Growing the “game changers”

The folk at eg.1 have done lots of quantitative psychometric research in a rigorous academic framework. As a result of these years of effort, they have identified two dominant qualities: imagination and obsession.

They categorise workers on these two axes into the following groups:

  • Implementers: LOW imagination and obsession. They are the “foot soldiers” of any organisation. They have a strong focus on getting things done within a predetermined framework, without being distracted by reviewing processes.
  • Strategists and analysts: HIGH in imagination, but LOW obsession. They guide the activities of the implementers, forming the processes.
  • Polishers: Those who are LOW in imagination, yet HIGH in obsession. They focus on incremental change.
  • Game Changers: Those who are HIGH on both counts, and pioneer new methods and mindsets.
  • Play Makers: These are MEDIUM on both, and act as the “glue” between all the other roles.

This GC Index methodology is summarised by chart below.

A question of balance

None of these skills is “better” than any other, and every organisation requires all of them. Furthermore, it’s not as simple as everyone being in one of five neat buckets. People aren’t like different fruit, ripe for picking off the talent tree by HR departments, who then assemble “mixed skills staff salad”.

Each of us has a balance of all of these behavioural characteristics. We aren’t just a simple single label we can stick on our lapel badges. My score results (on a scale of 1-10) are shown below. (Note that this is just a small part of a more comprehensive personal readout report.)

Each person’s fit to a role is interpreted through the group of scores. In my case, I get bored extremely quickly doing implementer work (red), and I am strongly biased towards game-changing activities (green). I plead guilty to having lots of imagination and obsession!

Supporting that is a balance of other skills I have:

  • strategy (which people thankfully sometimes pay me for),
  • play making (I have a huge industry network and like meeting people), and
  • polisher (I rather enjoy doing the ‘queer eye for the straight guy’ to my teammates’ presentations!).

Seeing behaviour in an organisational context

The ability of teams to achieve their objectives is determined by the collective interaction of these individual behavioural biases. The team dynamics will depend on having an appropriate portfolio and balance of these factors.

Thus the role of the recruiter using The GC Index method becomes one with significant added value. What is it you want to achieve as a business? Who are the in-house “game changers”? How and where can new “game changers” be appropriately added to teams? Do those teams themselves require re-examination and restructuring?

This model is a far cry for the simplistic standard approach to recruitment. It avoids over-reliance on naïve skills tick lists (“proficient in Excel pivot tables to advanced level”), which are often easy acquired through training. More importantly, it focuses on the propensity of the individual’s organisational behaviour, not their personality profile.

This is a critical switch from a supply-push model that characterises people as inputs, to a demand-pull one anchored in the desired business outcome. Traditional psychometric testing measures personality traits, which are only a weak proxy for how people might act. It is little more than corporate palmistry performed by higher-paid personnel psychics.

Why The GC Index resonates for me

I have been involved in a number of “game changer” roles in my career, as it’s a role and pattern I readily identify. For me, the key “aha!” is that “game changers” are distinct from “strategy” people. This for me was a legitimation of my existence as a corporate heretic and industry nuisance.

It also helps me to understand why I experienced the annual corporate performance appraisal process as something between a horror and a terror. Whilst there are many reasons to dislike these reviews, for me their nature was the antithesis of my game changer role in professional life. They were always designed for the other 95% of the worker population.

From a personal perspective, I will be rethinking my own commercial offer as a result. ∆Q and network performance science is one “game changer”; hypervoice is another; and I see more ahead. Unless my prospects and clients are in the “game changing” mindset, I should be directing them to other suppliers whose focus is on strategy, implementation or polishing.

Indeed, my own market is likely to be those very consulting, services and technology firms who need an injection of fresh thinking and game-changing ideas into their own plans.

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