Sooner or later you will be working in institutional settings. What works there?

Games are strategies come alive!

By now we are getting pretty good at creating context  – we should have an agenda in mind to work on. That was stage one. We are building focus. on what our groups are focusing on. That was stage 2.

These skills are essential building blocks to make our group connections more successful. But there is something more to this. Groups don’t just talk and focus. They have to produce results as well. As Peter Drucker wrote long ago, this is at the core of the value of “effectiveness”. He argued in his classic book “The Effective Executive” that becoming more effective is the key to becoming an effective institutional leader. So we need some tools that help us understand effectiveness and use this concept in our work. By the way, when we do this, we find that we are “institutionalizing” our work. We are building routines where groups can add value faster because of their membership in the institution.

So, how does this work? In the old days, we thought of this in terms of “command and control”. One needed a strong boss who had a clear vision and who could translate that vision into orders to be carried out. More recently, we see this a bit differently. Command and control works when the commander is in a position to see what needs to be done and can transmit orders efficiently. But as Tom Peters brings out, usually commanders don’t actually have daily contact with clients. Lower level staff do that, and they are usually the first to see what needs to be done. Moreover, we know well the dangers of “micromanaging”. In that setting, workers use the excuse of “waiting for orders” to do nothing. Institutions slow down. So how do we get beyond this?

We know from Jim Loehr that staff are far more productive and creative when they are “engaged” in what they do. So we can take the idea of “engagement” as a goal for our institution. We want everyone in the institutional framework to be engaged. And how do we produce engagement? The best way is to “gamify” work.  This may sound like we are making work trivial, like play. But we should keep in mind that in fact, we take games very seriously. Think of sporting contests where athletes unleash enormous effort and creativity to “win”. This is the effect that we are looking for to make our institutional arrangements “effective”.

We do this by asking and answering a simple question – in this situation, what is winning? The question is simple, but there is a trick here. Winning is not based on abstraction. Like saying, I win if I feel good. Winning is based on achieving a measurable goal. In basketball, more points than the other side in a set time period. And there is a skill set involved in learning how to create winning ambitions within institutional structures and measure how folks perform. This is our focus in level 3 training.

The better we get at gamification, the more we can learn from our experiences.

Books to read

  • Creativity, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi
  • Playing to Win, Lafley & Martin
  • Moneyball, Michael Lewis
  • The End of Competitive Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath

Here are a few questions that we are working on

  • How do I construct a game that will pay off?
  • What is the difference between low and high margin work?
  • What makes institutions go brain dead?
  • Can I gamify my location (where I live)?
  • Can I gamify getting older?

And here are a few links that might interest you


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