The Anatomy of a Game Changer

Adrian Furnham

What is it about people with great business insight and creativity?

KNOWLEDGE @ BI: Leadership

The search is on: For real sustainable growth and success we need people whose insights, visions and actions really change things. They are more than simply high flyers from the talent group. They are not just disruptive either. They seem to be different. They are called Game Changers.

All organizations seek out highly talented people who ensure the (longer term) success of the company. The question is how to define that relatively small group of identifiable people whose motivation and talent lead them to become and stay "game changers."

Challenge how things are done

Game Changers tend to be both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. However, they often have a reputation for being difficult as they keep challenging how things are done. Some leave organizations out of pure frustration at the resistance to their ideas.

Their biography often offers some clues as to what drives them. What is often the case is their history of "differentness," or "discontinuity."

They often don't fit in very well but when the corporate culture is right they thrive: and so does the company.

How to spot a Game Changer?

So how to spot a Game Changer? They seem to have lots of characteristics: creative and quirky; ambitious and a go-getter; focused and also resilient; bright and have vision.

A London based group led by Dr. John Mervyn-Smith, an old friend and widely respected consultant led this research.

They found two factors or dimensions which characterized these people. What is interesting from a psychological perspective is that they don't often seem to "go together."

The dimensions are:

  • Imaginativeness: This is associated with creativity thinking but in very applied settings. It is associated with the desire to "do things differently;" invent products and systems which are more efficient; and an interest in how technology can be used to solve current problems. It is at the heart of innovation and divergent thinking. But this is "scientific" not "artistic" creativity which is often problem oriented.
  • Productive Obessionality: This is associated an ability to become highly focused on work related issues. It is not associated with compulsivity and related disorders but very clear focus and dedication to solving problems, a trait often observed in inventors. It is about getting "in the flow" and having a healthy, all absorbing passion. But it is about "getting it right", making it more efficient, cheaper and user friendly.

Original and dedicated to a practical outcome

Imaginativeness and creativity is often associated with being difficult and unreliable. Equally, Obessionality is often associated with self-defeating compulsive behaviors. To be both original and dedicated to a practical outcome in business is indeed rare.

The team have come up with an unusual and unique test which identifies preferences on these dimensions. People who have done it are seriously impressed. It is for many an "aha" experience which helps them understand themselves and others. It describes and explains the behavior of others at work.

At a glance the key behaviors of a Game Changer may seem quite common, but it's the combination of these characteristics and their "Obsessive Imagination" that makes them so difficult to spot and unleash within the corporate world.

This article is first published in Psychology Today on September 26, 2016.
Link to article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201609/the-anatomy-game-changer

Published 7. November 2016

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