Written by
Nathan Ott

Published
19 Jun 2016

Are you a game changer?

19 Jun 2016 • by Nathan Ott

For organisations across all sectors, faced with globalisation, digital disruption and a rapid pace of change, transformation is not an option – it is a must. However, this evolution must be managed alongside ‘business as usual’, satisfying shareholders and delivering expected returns on investment.

The strategy for overcoming these challenges will not lie in an everspiralling expenditure on technology but in understanding and recognising the characteristics and strengths of the current workforce and anticipating what will be required for the future.

We are living in a digital world, but still have analogue people and talent frameworks. In order to survive long term, we must alter our approach to talent management.

A multi-dimensional view of leadership

We’ve known for years that people lead effectively in different ways and it’s counter-productive to clone leaders or to recreate what has gone before. Taking a multi-dimensional view of leadership brings different perspectives to the notion of organisational talent. This is the view needed in today’s digital world – it allows people to play to their innate strengths and focus on their potential in a way that a uniform view of leadership does not.

We must break the cycle of creating risk-averse, innovationstifling organisational cultures – through vision and action. Our leaders need to drive this change and they need to do it now.

But how should we recruit? We need to shift our focus to employees’ potential, rather than previous experience and to embrace difference. This theory is best illustrated by the words of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, in Apple’s 1997 ‘Think Different’ commercial: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things.”

Game-changing contributions

How do we incorporate these people, who have the ability to transform the future, into our workforce? Our new research, The DNA of Game-Changing Teams, looks at precisely this challenge: while not everyone is a game changer, everyone can make a game-changing contribution.

Managers should look at the bigger picture, considering what it is their team needs to achieve.

Do they have individuals with the potential to change the game? Sure, we need game changers, but we also need others to support, encourage and facilitate these innovative individuals. A product innovation team may require gamechangers to help generate gamechanging ideas but also ‘polishers’, who work on the idea to help make it be the best it can be. At Changeboard’s 2016 Future Talent Conference, England’s Rugby World Cup-winning coach, Sir Clive Woodward, spoke about picking the England squad and making sure he put the right people on the pitch at the right times. There was no point in having a team of excellent kickers running around if no-one was there to challenge tries. It’s the same principle in the office or on the shop floor.

While game changers are visionaries, they need others to support them in planning and implementing their ideas. Making sure we focus on the contribution and impact of each team player is key. 

Reinventing talent management

For leaders, it’s not just a question of shaking up talent management, it’s time to reinvent it. Current models are largely based on past experience and focused on employees’ skills on paper rather than on their contribution and impact. High potential employees (HiPos) are old news. They climb the ladder, but not everyone can – or wants to – be a leader. What about everyone else? It’s time to bring everyone on board, to start thinking about the diversity of skills required and every individual’s contribution.