Adult Games vs Kid Games

August 30, 2010

Kids games and creativityIn my blog post, “How Can Goals Enhance Creativity” I said…

“…As long as everyone in the organization believes they are playing a game which is designed to get them energized today, and it is not specifically about hitting the target, I can assure you that people will be more motivated.”

Games can be a useful tool for enhancing creativity.  They make work more fun, they reduce stress, and they get people in action.


Not all games are created equally.  There are adult games and kid games.

With adult games, there tend to be rigid rules, the games have an ending, and there are winners and losers.

Think about nearly every game we play: Monopoly, poker, or basketball.

They typically have a complex set of rules that all of the players need to adhere to.  If you break the rules you “go to jail,” are disqualified, or get penalized.

Adult games end.  The game is over when all of the other players are out of money, when the “clock” says there is not more time, or when everyone has had their turn.

And nearly every adult game has a winner and one or more losers.  They are competitions.

Contrast this with kid games.

Kids play games with very loose rules, the game continues until they say it ends, and there is no concept of winner/loser.

If you watch kids play.  They tend to have very few rules in their games.  And if there are rules, they make them up as they go along. They improvise. Even universal rules don’t apply to kids.  They can don a cape and fly through the air, defying the laws of gravity.

Rarely is a stopwatch involved when kids play.  They play the game until they get tired of playing that game.  And then they invent a new game.  The only clocks involved with kid games are the watches on the wrists of their parents.  The adults end the game when it’s dinner time or bedtime.

And there are no winners or losers.  They don’t even have that concept. Yes, they might have battles with imaginary swords or super powers.  And there are victims who get hurt or die in the heat of battle.  But they come back reinvented as a new character.  The play does not end at death.

Kids play for the sake of play and no other reason.

Adult games can limit creativity. The rules, deadlines, and pressure prevent the flow of new ideas.  They create stress.

If you want to enhance creativity, passion, and productivity, I encourage you to play kid games. These timeless, unbounded, and rule-free games can create an environment of free-flowing-thinking.  As mentioned in previous blog entries, studies show that 98% of 5 year olds test as highly creative, yet only 2% of adults do. We don’t lose our creativity; we learn habits which stop it from emerging.

I contend that the types of games we play reflects our level of creativity.  When people are most creative, they play kid games.  When they are least creative, they play adult games.

Maybe it is time to recapture our creative youth and start playing more kid games.

In future blog entries, I will discuss HOW kid games can be used to enhance creativity, productivity, and success.

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One Simple Action Can Change Your Life and Your Business

August 23, 2010

Innovation On Many PathsRecently, a number of people have asked me how I became an author and professional speaker.  I reflected upon it and realized that it all started with one simple action.  And maybe, to make major change happen, that’s all you need: one small move.

The year was 1993.  I was a relatively junior person at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).  I was 7 years out of college and was working on projects like everyone else.  I blended into the woodwork and was not distinguished from any of the other 40,000 consultants.

And then one day I had an idea:  I realized that I was interested in “cultural transformation” work and felt that Andersen’s culture could use a little transforming.  Therefore I decided to call the CEO, George Shaheen, and ask for a meeting to discuss this, um, idea.  Yes, I admit, it sounds a little crazy.

I moved into action.  I found a company directory, looked up the direct dial number for George, and placed the call.  I remember the call well.  His executive assistant answered the phone and asked what I wanted.  I said, “I want to speak with George Shaheen about transforming Andersen Consulting.”

I am certain she must have looked at the phone and thought, “Who is this crazy person?” She responded, “Excuse me.  What do you want?”  I repeated myself.  She was polite and said, “Ok, let me see what I can do.”  She hung up and I assumed that would be the end of things.

The next day, the partner leading the project I was working on came to my desk.  Although he was many levels down the totem pole, word got to him quickly. He asked me, “Did you call George Shaheen?”  I confirmed that I had.  I’m sure HE thought I was crazy.  He said, “Maybe I can help you.”  I proceeded to tell him my idea about transforming the company’s culture.  His response – “I know someone, Bill Stoddard, who is involved with an effort called ‘Enterprise Transformation.’  Maybe you want to meet him instead.”  I said, “I would love to meet with Bill.  And I still want to meet with George.”

Long story short, I did eventually meet with George, and it was an interesting meeting.  But the person who changed my career forever was Bill Stoddard.  Meeting him put my career on a totally different trajectory.  For some reason he liked me and asked me to work with him on a new initiative he was leading called Value Driven Re-Engineering (he was only an adviser to the Enterprise Transformation initiative). I stopped doing full-time client work and started working with Bill.  Our re-engineering work turned out to be big.  VERY big.  At one point, over one-third of the company’s revenues could be tied back to re-engineering.  I was busy leading training sessions and giving speeches around the world.

This started me on the path towards the career I have now.  A career I absolutely love.

And none of this might have happened if it weren’t for that one phone call to George.

Sometimes one action can forever change the course of your life, or your business.

Of course, I did not realize that this call would lead me down a totally new path.  But sometimes, we can predict possible futures based on actions.

What action can you take TODAY that could change the course of events for you or your business. If the action doesn’t seem outrageous or crazy, keep on thinking.

  • Who can you call that you would never typically have the guts to call?
  • What can you do that is out of your comfort zone, but could have life changing implications?
  • Where could you go that you would never go, but might open up new opportunities?

Sometimes, just taking the first step on a new path can change the course of future events.

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Pictures of My Baby, Delivered Today

August 20, 2010

No, I did not give birth to a boy or a girl.  I gave birth to a book.  I’ll be handing out cigars later.

But in the meantime, I wanted to share the photos of my new baby.  Here is the first copy of the Personality Poker book, hot off the press.  Previous photos were “glamor shots.”  These are the real deal. You have to see it to appreciate how cool it is.

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Looking for Reviewers of the Personality Poker Book

August 19, 2010

Today marks 10 weeks before the release of the Personality Poker book.

And just a few hours ago I received 100 copies of the “galleys” (the uncorrected paperback proofs).

Over the next few weeks, we will be compiling a list of those in the media, including bloggers, who we think would be interested in receiving the book, along with a deck of the specially designed cards.

Unfortunately, I don’t know everyone out there who might be want to read this “masterpiece.”  Therefore, I am reaching out to see if YOU want to receive a copy.

If you are in the media (TV, print, radio, internet, etc) and would like a copy, please email us at info (at) personalitypokerbook (dot) com.

P.S. Be sure to read my article, Is Your Organizations Playing with a Full Deck?, published on the Pearson Learning Solutions website.

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Everything Has a Personality

August 16, 2010

While developing Personality Poker, one thing I discovered is that lots of things have personalities: People, Political Parties, Products, Places, and Organizations (I could not find a “p” for this last one).

When you look at everything through the lens of a personality, you begin to see why individuals gravitate towards (or away from) certain people, companies, political affiliations, products, and geographies.

Contrary to convention wisdom, opposites do not attract.  Human beings prefer to be surrounded by people who are “like” them.

Therefore, the desire for “sameness” creates homogeneous personalities in everything we see.

Saying that people have personalities is nothing new.  Personality typing has been around for over 2,000 years, since the days of Hippocrates.

But organizations also have personalities.  In some circles, this might be referred to as a company’s “culture.”   The personality of a company impacts the people they hire and the methods they use to motivate and retain employees.  People who don’t fit the mold, never join or eventually leave.  The result? More of the same.  Although highly creative individuals may thrive in a company with an innovation-driven personality, they will most likely whiter in one which is overly bottom-line, short-term focused.  If you want to change your company culture, a good first step is to distinguish its personality.

The same is true with political parties, which are basically organizations with common points of view.  The Republican party has a very different personality than the Democratic Party.  Because like attracts like, the beliefs associated with each party get cemented. It also makes it difficult to understand and appreciate the perspectives of opposing party beliefs.

Even products have personalities.  The personality of an Apple MacBook is quite different than that of a Window’s based PC.  And the people who buy each product is a reflection of the individual’s personality.  A person who drives a BMW is making a statement about their personality.  Someone driving a Ford F150 is saying something quite different.  Yes, sometimes we buy  a product for its features and functions.  But more often, we buy things because they are a reflection of our personality.  [Or maybe we buy a product based on what personality we want others to think we are, such as buying a Ferrari during a midlife crisis].

Places (cities, states, and countries) have personalities too.  Although both are in Texas, Austin has a very different personality than Dallas.  Austin is weird (proudly so) while Dallas is more conservative.  Due to the perceived differences in personality, the influx of new residents into each city helps cement their personality over time.  What’s the personality of your hometown?  Does it reflect who you are?  Are there cities where you would not live because the personality clashes?

Maybe everything has a personality.  In a class I am taking, I am supposed to ask people a number of questions about me.  One of them is, “If I were on the cover of a magazine, which one would it be? And what would be the title of the article?” Nearly everyone I spoke with gravitated towards business magazines, saying that Fast Company, Wired, or Entrepreneur were the right choices for me.  Most felt that Forbes or Fortune were too serious.  Clearly that says something about my personality, and the personalities of the magazine.

It is fun to look at everything through the lens of personality.  And when you remember that we naturally gravitate towards those (people, places, products, etc) with similar personalities, you will begin to see why we make the decisions we make.

From an organizational perspective, there is a greater opportunity.  If you are struggling to innovate, it might be because you do not have a wide range of personalities in your organizations.  Your company’s personality might be repelling potential and current employees.  As a result, you attract and retain only those who fit the personality.  This is the enemy of innovation.  But more on this in future blog entries…

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How Can Goals Enhance Creativity?

August 4, 2010

Innovation Targets and CreativityIn my previous blog entry, I discussed how goals can either enhance or detract from performance.

Over the years, I have written numerous articles on “The Performance Paradox” that show how an obsession with the future reduces performance in the present.  And typically, creativity is significantly diminished in the process.

But given that businesses are driven by goals, how can we leverage them as a tool for enhancing creativity?

One way is to use stretch targets.  REALLY stretch targets.

For example, one client that I was with last week has a target of doubling their business over the next 5 years. I know MANY organizations that have exactly the same goal.   That equates to a 14% growth rate each year (assuming compounding).  I’m sure, with hard work, they could hit those numbers, even though it would certainly not be easy.

But what if they set a target of growing by 50% a year? It might have a fundamentally different impact on the organization.  That level of growth is unprecedented. It will certainly stretch the way they think.  A 14% improvement can most likely be attained through conventional thinking.  But a 50% growth target would require some breakthrough thinking; radical ideas.

It might also have an interesting psychological impact on the organization.

Because a 14% growth rate is viewed as doable, it might create an attachment in the minds of the executives and employees.  “We should be able to hit these targets.  Therefore it we don’t, there is something wrong.”

But a 50% growth rate is unheard of.  Clearly no one in the organization would be “attached” to that outcome.  Surely the executives would not expect employees to deliver on those targets.

As a result, the 50% target becomes a “game” without attachment.  Everyone knows it is designed to shift their thinking and to help create enthusiasm.

The future gives them the present, rather than present giving them the future. (to learn more about what I mean by this, be sure to click the link and read the article)

As long as everyone in the organization believes they are playing a game which is designed to get them energized today, and it is not specifically about hitting the target, I can assure you that people will be more motivated.  Creativity will be stimulated.  And even if the company does not hit 50% growth rates, they will certainly have a better chance of hitting the 14% improvement than if they focused on that as the goal.

Goals that are not goals, can enhance creativity.

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When a Goal is Not a Goal

August 1, 2010

This post marks the 500th entry on this blog.

Today I want to discuss how to have goals that are not goals.  How do you do this?

For most people the present is designed to give them a future they want.  For me, the future gives me the present I want.

Here’s what I mean in English…

Most people relate to their goals as something to achieve.  They will do things in the present in order to get to their desired future.

As a result, most people feel as though they are making sacrifices now (i.e., it is hard work) in order to fulfill on their goal and achieve happiness in the future. In fact, according to a survey I conducted, 58 percent of Americans are consciously and willingly “sacrificing today for the future.”  Unfortunately, 41 percent say that “achieving their goals has not made them happier and has only left them disillusioned.”  And that is for the people who achieved their goals.  Those who do not achieve their goals are typically even more unhappy.  And, as we know, most people don’t always get what they want (there’s a reason why the Rolling Stones wrote a song by a similar name).  In fact, according to my surveys, 92% of people say that they fail to fulfill on their New Year’s Resolutions, the most common goal-setting ritual.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have goals.  The issue is with how we relate to those goals.

For me, the future “goal” gives me the present.  That is, it provides a powerful “context” for the work I do now.  Here is an excerpt from the Goal-Free Living book that explains it with a simple example.

Book on Success, Happiness, and ProductivityContext is not a place to get to; it is something that changes your attitude and perception today. It is a mindset. To experience the power of context, imagine that as you read this, your phone rings. You answer the phone and the person on the other end notifies you that you won the raffle you entered last month. You and your family are going on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii sometime next year. You jump for joy and become energized—now. Although this vacation is many months in the future, it changes your attitude today. This vacation hasn’t happened. It isn’t even real yet.

Imagine your future as a big and bold vacation. A vacation that is so exciting that you can hardly contain yourself now. A vacation that has you in action and playing hard every day. This is a vacation that you will never take. This is a vacation whose day will never come. Its sole purpose is to generate passion in your life today. A context. Something that calls you forward.

For me, my goals are not about actually achieving the result (although that would be nice).  Rather they are about playing full out each and every day.  I wake up every morning excited about what is going to take place that day.  Every day is a new learning experience with new insights and obstacles.  My “work” is never work and it is certainly not a sacrifice.  It is a joy. It is exciting.  When the future gives you a powerful present, the result is less important than the process. There is no sacrifice.  Each day is a new adventure.

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