From the research carried out for the purposes of the Game Changer Organisation study (Game Changers; where are they in your Organisation?), there were mixed views about the role of the Game Changer and their future within an organisation.
For those enlightened leaders who really ‘got’ what Game Changers were, there were many views on their place in the business. The characteristics of Game Changers made them more difficult to manage and their inability to ‘tow the line’ meant that many managers felt they could be more trouble than the contribution they made. They were certainly not included in HIPO programmes as they simply did not conform to what ‘good’ looks like. Surely this has to be a waste of the very talent an organisation should be nurturing to avoid the creation of the conforming clone?
The place of a Game Changer on any high potential programme was not seen as a rite of passage; indeed many organisations spend so much time, effort, money and resource on their top 250, but fail abysmally to focus on the more junior talent in their businesses. This can result in the rising stars and ‘natural born’ Game Changers getting frustrated by their lack of progress/ability to change their environment and moving on.
How interesting that the start-up teams of innovative organisations often consist of a mix of the more ‘traditional’ executive plus those with a less ‘vanilla’ background but a demonstrable track record of making change happen. One has only to look at the make-up of the teams of the new wave of Challenger banks, for example, to realise that if you want to do things fundamentally differently, you need a blend of talent otherwise you end up recreating a traditional bank. Highly successful organisations want to push their boundaries and need Game Changers who will constantly challenge the status quo and do things better and differently.
I recently came across a neighbour I had not seen in seven years; his teenage son, Ben, who I used to see tearing about the field on a dirt bike, has grown up and founded a business inspired by his grandfather who had developed Alzheimer’s disease. He found that there was a lack of suitable activities available for people and carers living with dementia; this meant families and carers would usually resort to using children’s toys to provide stimulation to those they cared for. However, these were not age-appropriate and were therefore unsuitable. For this reason he created a range of activities as part of a University project for adults living with dementia. He was offered funding by the University to turn it into a business venture. So, at just 23, he had founded a business, Active Minds, which is now successfully supplying Activity Products for Dementia to a host of organisations such as the NHS, Bupa, Alzheimer’s Society and Age Concern. Would this individual be on a HIPO programme? Unlikely. Is he a Game Changer? I think so.
Only by harnessing the true power of their Game Changers, can organisations future proof their businesses – the sooner they wake up to this and radically change the way they develop their talent, the better.
Fiona Makowski, May 2015
Fiona Makowski is a founding Partner of Theron LLP and is the author of ‘Game Changers; where are they in your Organisation?’ published in December 2014. A copy can be obtained by contacting Fiona at Fiona.firstname.lastname@example.org.