New game, new rules, new team

Written by
Nathan Ott

09 Nov 2015

09 Nov 2015 • by Nathan Ott

In our introduction to the new workplace paradigm, The Beautiful Game, we looked at how embracing new ways of working is going to be one of the critical factors driving success in the future economy.

We specifically looked a learning to identify, tap into and retain the skills of game-changing employees, those team members who act and operate outside the traditional ‘groupthink’ model will become a key competitive edge for businesses of all sizes.

It can seem like a tall ask for business bosses; take those employees who have traditionally been, and probably still are, key pain points in your organisation. These are the ones who don’t sit well inside your corporate hierarchy, they challenge your management team, alienate their colleagues; question the way things are done – and start to build your organisation around them.

Are you 'business as usual' or a 'game-changer'?

The most common feedback we hear from leaders is: “We need to change the game but how can we go from theory to practice in a realistic and economic way? We need to ensure business as usual.”

It’s an understandable dilemma. Over the last few decades, during the heyday of the traditional corporation, individualistic thinking was seen as a flaw. Businesses built ‘command and control’ hierarchies based on the army model with authority flowing down from top to bottom and rank dictating how each individual sat within the organisation. Fitting in and not standing out was the key to success. But change is possible.

The Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft was described by Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, as a “Game Changer”. But it’s not just the aircraft that’s changing the game it’s The Boeing Company as a whole, according to John Mervyn-Smith, chief psychologist at eg.1.

John says: “The business is constantly innovating to stay ahead of the game. It currently manufactures 42 aircraft a month and wants to increase this to 52 by 2018, which is no easy feat.”

To remain successful Boeing needs to ensure it is business as usual in order to produce the 42 aircraft each month, whilst giving employees the freedom to explore different ideas to change the game. And it’s this that creates the challenge for many of the organisations we speak to – they feel it’s aiming for the impossible.

But this is not the case and we only have to look at the world of sport to see this, where most things remain ‘business as usual’ in terms of the sport itself but innovation is key to success. Take rugby – players need to get out on the field and play, and the rules tend to stay the same, but it’s what happens behind the scenes to help players reach their peak that can be game-changing.

Why sport is the true game-changer

Japan’s rugby coach, Eddie Jones, is a great example. He appears to be changing the game for Japan having shocked the Rugby World Cup with their recent performance against South Africa.

In a recent interview with Sir Clive Woodward, published in the Daily Mail, Eddie talked about cultural issues. He said: “Japan rebuilt the country after the Second World War through a massive collective effort. The lads will do exactly what I ask in training and in a match, so much so that there might be acres of space open up unexpectedly and they will ignore it and go through the “process”.

“I’ve encouraged independent thought and personal responsibility. I issued them all with iPads – the younger blokes live on them these days, so why fight it? – and told them to do their own homework and research. Don’t be coach-led, do it yourself.”

According to John, business leaders need to embrace individuality and allow their people to have a voice, regardless of their role or background.

A rugby manager preparing for the World Cup doesn’t ask for a couple of ESTJ’s, a few introverts and a highly diligent individual. They will look for people with the right attitude who can kick a ball through the posts, tackle hard, run fast and link up play.

John says: “In the world of sports most talent management decisions are based on the contribution individuals make. It’s this contribution combined with the collaboration with other team players that will determine success.”

Do you need team players or individuals?

As every good team manager knows there are rules; players must be balanced and complementary. No matter how skilled they are, exceptional players still need to behave as part of a team and everyone needs to work towards one goal.

Sporting organisations have built their entire business around their talent – their team comes first. It’s a radical notion. The bosses are there to make the team’s work possible. It’s the opposite of army think but it works. Nations now realise the traditional army model is broken and are working hard to fix it and now is the time for businesses to follow suit and embed new ways of working.

For more information about identifying the Game Changers within your organisation visit The