What Videogame Designers Can Teach Us About Organizational Change

We do not love change in our careers, jobs and organizations. That may be an understatement.

Human resistance to unanticipated or uncontrollable change transcends the issues of power and politics and our place in the pecking order. This type of change is the stuff of neuroscience and chemicals and reactions.

Change pushed down from on high invites fear and resistance.

Change imposed upon us by outside forces breeds discomfort and fear.

Regardless of the source, when faced with change, the chemicals and synapses in our systems combine to trigger responses that more resemble fight or flight, pushing our deliberate and logical thinking to the back of the bus.

The ability to rewire our thinking about change may be a fundamental survival skill in a period of time where the big forces of our world have us measuring time not by the months on our calendars, but by the seconds on our smartphone stopwatches.

Change must be interpreted as challenge, and building a culture that embraces the pursuit of a steady stream of new challenges must be the mandate of leaders. 

I think the video game designers have already cracked this code. They readily apply the latest thinking in neuroscience, motivational behavior and behavioral economics to convince millions of people to participate (and pay for) work filled with twists, turns and arduous repetition at engagement levels that make the Gallup pollsters blush.

It is time to sound the death knell for change mandated from on high and then followed by the command, “make it so.” Instead, leverage the lessons of our digital generations and game designers who have grown up hand in hand with their game controllers.

3 Lessons of Game Designers and Players to Turn Change Into Challenge:

1. Help individuals and teams expand their individual and collective “field of view” to observe and strive to connect external changes and trigger events in far away places to their own industries, customers and organizations. It’s too easy to stare ahead at the immediate obstacles while losing track of the larger conflagration that will consume us regardless of whether we beat the monster in front of us. Gamers and designers understand the importance of being able to pause and view the big picture and then return to slaying the dragon blocking our way forward.

2. Compress time by changing our approach to trust. Teach and live the value of “swift trust” where individuals suddenly thrust together to solve a problem or exploit an opportunity give their trust immediately for the greater good of the mission. While a few will betray this advance of trust, the process will weed them out and spit them out of the culture. In the massive online role-playing games, perfect strangers from across cultures have mere seconds to combine their skills to stave off near-certain destruction. Trust is formed through contribution.

3. Coach teams to produce what gamers call “Raid Strength.” Instead of allowing collections of people to run through the onerous Tuckman cycle (not sequence) of form, storm, norm, perform, coach teams to compress the time-to-performance. Again, groups are assembled in real-time to execute. They have mere seconds to assess skills and strengths and then organize into roles, including that of leader. In our organizations, we impose too much unproductive human and process overhead on assembling and organizing. Groups must learn to identify and align on the objective, assess capabilities and deploy accordingly in near real time.

As a side-note: the highest and best use of coaching in an organization is not for high potential individuals, it is for our teams charged with innovating and executing.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Change…get over it and get on with it. It’s time for managers and leaders to make it the rule and not the exception and involve the collective gray matter of the organization in rising to the challenges.

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See more posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

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By |2017-07-04T13:40:38+00:00February 18th, 2016|Art of Managing, High Performance Management Teams, Leadership|2 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Gerry St. Onge February 19, 2016 at 12:50 am - Reply

    Awesome post Art!

    It is all about change. Most of us are so resistant to it, we’ll hold on to the norm even as we suffer because at least the suffering is predictable. Whereas something new that might be wonderful, might also be deadly – a man-eating lion might be waiting in the shadows 🙂 – something to be avoided at all costs…

    I love your gleaning of the wisdom of game designers! Perspective, YES TRUST! Its all about Trust! I Love the idea of “swift trust”! Yes, Trust is formed through contribution!

    And trust is also linked to creating an environment where there is freedom to make mistakes, learn from them and adjust accordingly, YES, in real time – on the fly. For the gamer, this becomes automatic, muscle memory, and a very powerful culture emerges – one that is very productive and powerfully co-creative… and FUN too!

    Great catch and a great weave Art! Thanks!

    Trust is the whole enchilada 🙂

    • Art Petty February 19, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

      Back at you Gerry! I always appreciate your energy and wisdom! Cheers, -Art

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