Lessons Learnt

How Gaming helped me become a better strategist

In the last five years, I can safely say that the majority of what I have unlearnt and relearnt, as far as strategy is concerned, comes from Gaming. I have learnt many things about strategy from the world of work and higher learning but Unlearning and Relearning have come from a different place. When I understood that the rate of change was happening faster than my ability to respond to it strategically, I started looking for another place - somewhere I could dismantle my well worn paradigms and see with a fresh pair of lenses. I think this desire to find an alternative space to improve my strategic capacity was also the need to embrace a way of thinking which was far more collaborative in nature and one which could take me as far away from Strategy as War as possible. I started losing my interest in beating the competition and all the metaphors tied into strategy as something which assumed generals on a battlefield planning the mighty overthrow. It didn't feel real anymore and was certainly not what I was seeing playing out in the markets I operated in.

Frankly, I am no longer that interested in the idea of competitors as a thing to study. Not because they don't exist but more because they come from places I am finding less likely to fathom. I believe that Executive Education is learning as a lifestyle. If I were to think about who my competitors really were, I would be more inclined to think of  travel agencies offering exotic destinations or the hard choice our customers have between a homeloan or a student loan. For these are often the choices people are faced with when decided what to do with their hard earned cash and its relationship to their own personal development. I love the story about SABMiller and their realisation that their competition wasn't just Brandhouse but Vodacom because both of them were hustling for the same R20 - a prepaid voucher or a quart of beer.

Games have given me an extraordinary place to experiment. I would like to share the insights I have gained from four games I have played and unlearnt and relearnt from.

The first is Fable2. I have a particular fondness for this game because up until then I had been playing mobile games. A games console was not something I had ever considered owning and it was only after my partner and I decided that it would be amazing to play together rather than alongside one another on our phones that we bought an XBox. I genuinely believed it was something I would do intermittently to relax and never believed that it could add real value to the work that I did.

What Fable2 taught me about was the need for kindness and generosity in commercial exchange. The more of this behaviour I showed the cheaper the weapons became from traders who liked me, the more followers I could call on to help me battle all manner of dragon and rascal and the more accessible and affordable the potions became. A far cry from holding your ideas close, going it alone and screwing your competition.

Next is Dragon Age2. This taught me about the importance of Agility and the capacity to change course mid direction. As long as I was prepared to move off the well worn path and try other alternatives I would be rewarded with surprise treasures and at times rare weapons. It taught me that being adaptable wasn't being wishy washy and that it in many casees saved my life and that of my team. Here, too comaraderie played a role and the value of building trust in a team.

Lego Batman showed me that if I wasn't prepared to work with my partner that we would get nowhere. As the game doesn't allow you to move too far from one another, my partner and I had to focus on what we were trying to achieve together. It created a real trust in one another and we became sensitised to always checking whether the other party was okay or whether we needed to help them get to the place we both needed to be. This I think is an invaluable lesson for teamwork.

Final Fantasy XIII taught me about Grace in Failure and the power of persistence. So much of our fear of failing is the belief that if we make a choice that the consequences will play out for the rest of our lives. I learnt here that choices, sometimes brave choices would result in me dying but that I could always respawn. In the real world this means that the risks I take might not always play out the way I want them to but that the possibility of reinvention is a real and energising one.

To my mind, strategy is inextricably linked to leadership development. The time I have spent gaming has genuinely helped me to develop as a leader and I think as a result, a better strategist.

Truths, Trends and Trifles in Business Education - A Hacker's Guide

Trends versus Trifles One of the most important issues we are currently facing as business educators, and certainly in the field of executive education is the ability to separate out the truths from the trends and the trends from the trifles. I am indebted to my partner, Dave Duarte for this elegant distinction between these three lenses. It is well worth reading his blog post on this as it relates to the problematics of Social Media strategies. Truths

The truth of what it is that you do will have an element which is unchanging. What is is in the nature of your work that is fixed and utterly aligned to your purpose? In my work it is the understanding that for leaders to have impact they need different practices - the ability to manage their energy and attention, working with questions rather than answers, seeing themselves as coaches and resources rather than controllers. This is the "why" of the work that I do. It is useful to spend an inordinate amount of time to really get to the nub of your why. In going slow to go fast here you really do create a landscape that you can align emergent trends around.Another way of articulating the "why" is perhaps around the idea of Purpose.

 

Trends

Trends, on the other hand, are what are appearing on your horizon that are creating shifts in behaviour and will impact on the work you do. Trends are the "What". A trend is something which you can choose to see and align to your Why. Not every trend will be meaningful to the work that you do but if you can pick two or three things that have impact these are the ones to spend time on crafting alignment and responses. In my world, the trends that impact on what I do are the drive  for responsible leadership, the attention economy, information overload, learning on demand, and the upsurgence of collaborative technologies. Understanding the importance of these trends allows me to craft responses that may well be meaningful in my search to help leaders bild practices that help them achieve greater impact -  like using Curiosity as a lens to filter the quality of our attention, building a model around Productive Presencing which helps us manage our attention and energy at work, constructing an attention audit to help engage with negative voices in our heads and agility as a leader's toolkit for building practises that help us change course mid direction and encourage the perspectives of others in our decision making. Trends generally have upwards of a 15 year lifespan which means that their impact is significant.

Trifles

Trifles on the other hand are those fabulously sexy tools which are here today, gone tomorrow. Like Zite, or Foursquare, Ning, Facebook or Twitter. They are the "How" of what it is we do - applications which we can use expediently to get our message across but which we can equally abandon for another platform which might serve us better at a later stage. One of the issues with the age we live in is that we are just too busy to make these distinctions and often risk pouring an enormous amount of energy and capital into trifles rather than the alignment of particular trends with our truths. Overinvesting in a trifle hurts your business and erodes your truth. Often the mistake trendforecasters make is to focus on the trifles whihc three years down the line are gone.

It is my hope that these three lenses will serve you well in your own decisionmaking around what to track and what to use. As a hack, it is really just about remembering what is the Why (Truths), what is your What (Trends) and what is your How (Trifles). In an information-rich world this might well be an important filter.

Happy hacking.

A talk to be given tomorrow at the EFMD Annual Conference in Brussels, Belgium.

 

 

Still Stranded in Frankfurt - Lessons Learnt

I was supposed to fly home on Saturday night. Instead, I have been grounded like 6.5 million other travellers. Rather than be furious, I thought this would be a really opportune time to reflect on the lessons I have learnt (and, sob) continue to learn from this experience. Gelassenheit

Letting things be. There is something quite extraordinary about giving up. Everything is an offer. Watch what happens when you stop fighting and trying to control things. Observe what you notice and how the world opens up with everything.

The Comfort of Strangers

There has been a joy and a sense of belonging in #ashtag and #stranded on Twitter. First, to see others in far worse off positions - One girl missed her wedding. The other is to really begin to understand Desiderata: Never compare yourself to others in life because you will always find people better and worse off. This comforts me.

Humour

RT @andylockran: Iceland go bankrupt, then manage to set their island on fire. Insurance scam written all over it.

So here's to all of those still #stranded. It's possibly the greatest lesson in going slow to go fast.

At the worst of times and the best of times, our humour prevails. It continues to remind me how important it is to laugh and how this is perhaps the most important form of Art.

Stay curious. See you on the other side.