AvoLead blog: Evolution

A place for exploring personal evolution in areas of career transition, leadership, and personal development.

Can gaming REALLY change the world?

What a mind-bending thought this was when I read a book review by Rohit Bhargava of Dr. Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken: How Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Save the World. Bhargava writes, “The basic premise of this book is that game mechanics are an intrinsic motivator for behaviour change simply because of how humans are wired. All people love games.” I wasn’t convinced, but I was intrigued and kept reading…here’s some of what I learned:

McGonigal directs games R&D at the Institute for the Future and is devoting her life’s work to harnessing the enormous time,  energy and skills now devoted to gaming (which at its core is problem-solving) and applying them to solving real-world problems. As I clicked one link after another to learn more about this, I found her website, Gameful, and her definition of the word gameful: “It means to have the spirit, or mindset, of a gamer: someone who is optimistic, curious, motivated, and always up for a tough challenge. It’s like the word “playful” — but gamier! Gameful games are games that have a positive impact on our real lives, or on the real world.”

Then I was astounded to find the following video of her compelling presentation to the prestigious TED audience (an organization devoted to spreading good ideas). We’ve included it below because it’s so thought provoking. Here is McGonigal’s goal in her own words: “Instead of providing gamers with better and more immersive alternatives to reality, I want all of us to be become responsible for providing the world with a better and more immersive reality.”

AvoLead professionals are trained to bring transformational change to organizations of all sizes, domestic and global. Call us to discuss ways that we might bring the power principles of gaming into your organization, so the world can be made better by what you offer.

Do you think this is crazy…fascinating…pie in the sky? We’d love to know.

Boundary Spanning Leadership

BOOK REVIEW: Boundary Spanning Leadership:Six Practices for Solving Problems, Driving Innovation, and Transforming Organizations by Chris Ernst and Donna Chrobot-Mason

How refreshing and empowering to find a book on contemporary leadership that not only frames relevant issues that organization leaders face by identifying boundaries they are likely to encounter, but it also offers practical solutions to spanning these boundaries based on a decade of real-world research by leadership professionals at the Center for Creative Leadership. I’ll wager that readers of this book will: 1) either already be dealing with many of the issues presented and find the discussions a veritable lifeline or 2) they will instantly recognize situations they have encountered in the past and understand for the first time why they were so intractable and challenging.

The rapidly shifting landscape of corporate and nonprofit leadership creates unique pitfalls as well as opportunities. Research surveys of over 125 senior level executives revealed an appallingly low number who felt they were very effective at knowing how to collaborate effectively across boundaries in their current leadership roles. Five primary boundary types were identified for discussion purposes, though the authors recognized that often they are closely linked:

  1. Vertical boundaries between hierarchical levels of the organization
  2. Horizontal boundaries between functions
  3. Stakeholder boundaries with customers and vendors
  4. Demographic boundaries in working with people from diverse groups
  5. Geographic boundaries of distance and region

Concluding that boundary spanning practices can turn boundaries into frontiers ripe with untapped potential, the authors explore what these practices might be, providing compelling actual stories/examples to illustrate them, and offering exercises and strategies to implement them in your own situation.

The authors first discuss the boundary management practices of Buffering (Creating Safety) and Reflecting (Fostering Respect). Then they move into practices that forge common ground: Connection (Building Trust) and Mobilizing (Developing Community). Next in the evolution of boundary-spanning are the practices that develop new frontiers: Weaving (Advancing interdependence) and Transforming (Enabling Reinvention).

“Together, these practices combine to create what authors Chris Ernst and Donna Chrobot-Mason call the Nexus Effect. The Nexus Effect allows groups to be more agile in response to changing markets; be more flexible in devising and deploying cross-functional learning and problem-solving capabilities; work with partners in deeper, more open relationships; empower virtual teams; and create a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive organization that brings out everybody’s best.” (From the Editorial Review in Amazon)

While the challenges described here will be familiar to those who follow leadership trends and practices, I believe the authors have developed and presented what many will find to be an original, useful and implementable approach to thinking about and managing them.

What boundary-spanning practices has YOUR organization used? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Strategy Lesson from History: Be Ready to Adapt

“The only constant is change.” First attributed to the Greek philosopher Heroclitus.

In his fascinating review of the best writing on business strategy[1], Walter Kiechel III guides his readers through the relatively recent history of “Strategy” as a business concept and corporate planning tool. It emerged in the 1960s from a corporate culture in which business leaders “felt themselves largely at the mercy of market forces, with little of the knowledge they would need to truly determine their own future.”

In Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise, first published in 1962 by MIT Press, author Alfred D. Chandler Jr. first established the principle for which he is remembered: “Structure follows strategy” and “A strategy is a response to changes in a business’s environment.”

Kiechel next credits Kenneth R. Andrews, and his 1971 book The Concept of Corporate Strategy, with the definition of Strategy that has driven much modern-day perspective: “the pattern of major objectives, purposes or goals and essential policies and plans for achieving those goals, stated in such a way as to define what business the company is in or is to be in and the kind of company it is or is to be.” Andrews went on to include a long list of criteria for evaluating a strategy, many of which have clearly been ignored in light of recent corporate failures. These criteria are now back in the spotlight as bank regulators and corporate watchdogs ask probing questions about sufficiency of available resources, risk versus reward, management communication with those who must implement their strategy, and alignment of values with goals.

The evolution of Strategy continued with Michael E. Porter’s 1980 publication of Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, in which he most famously stated that Strategy involves only three alternatives: 1) Cost leadership; 2) Differentiation; or 3) Niche domination. He warned that companies trying to do all three were doomed.

Backlash to this came from the bestseller In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.. Despite the embarrassment that many of the companies cited by them as “best-run” failed to live up to expectations in the years following the book’s publication, Kiechel reminds us that Peters and Waterman introduced the essential concept that Strategy must include consideration of “human energies and aspirations” as well as “an exercise in numbers and charts.

As business cycles have exposed the strengths and weaknesses of different theories, the temptation to abandon strategic planning as a viable tool is tempting. Kiechel concludes, “Probably the hottest term in discussions these days is adaptive.”

So what is an organization supposed to do? Many leaders say their most formidable challenge is deciding how to guide their organization through iceberg-littered channels and wondering if they’ll ever get back to open seas again. They face unhappy choices and wonder how to scale back for efficiency without stripping their organization of the human and physical assets it needs to grow again when the economy turns around.

AvoLead is the leadership consultancy with the tools to equip leaders facing these and other challenges. Besides having professionals with Change Readiness GaugeTM certification that enables them to help their clients survive and thrive, AvoLead offers workshops such as Leadership Resilience: Leveraging Your Strength in Turbulent Times. Call us today at (919) 450-8930 to find out how to put our expertise to work for your organization.


[1] Kiechel III, Walter, “Seven Chapters of Strategic Wisdom.” strategy+business magazine, Spring 2010, Issue 58, February, 2010: http://www.strategy-business.com/article/10109.

Photo credit: Jeu d’échecs en pierre” by Pascal Thauvin, via stock.xchng

Tweeting our way to Leadership Learning

AvoLead has been busy…too busy, in fact, to pay much attention to Twitter until recently. Seeing the error of our ways–and in the spirit of Evolution Leadership (e.g., embracing change)–our intrepid co-founder, Sarah Albritton, with the help of her faithful sidekick Elizabeth (that would be me), have taken the plunge and activated our Twitter account. So please connect with us by Following AvoLead/Sarah on Twitter!

We will waste neither your time nor ours, but we understand that there are those who find this to be a fast, easy, and effective way to get out information bytes in a timely manner.  And we’ll also share thoughts and quotes from time to time that speak to personal and professional growth and leadership.

For those who are still under the impression that Twitter is a waste of time, I suggest that it certainly can be if you let it or if you tweet with wild abandon and lack of consideration for your audience. It is, however, a remarkable tool for engaging in — or starting — conversations with like-minded people and making connections with clients and potential clients. But a Leadership tool? Yes…because before you can Lead, you have to Connect, and Twitter is just one more way to connect with the people in your industry who are already having conversations with you!

So AvoLeaders and friends of AvoLead, please be sure to Follow Us on Twitter and we’ll follow you back!

Let the tweets begin!

PressTime Sim: Train-the-Trainer (Step One)

Listen up leadership coaches! Here’s your chance to get PressTime Simulation Step One certification easily and affordably.

We all know this statement from Andrew Carnegie is true:

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision…the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

Your clients’ organizations need PressTime Simulation, Discovery Learning Inc.’s dynamic and engaging simulation that’s now distributed with web-enabled software. The powerful program has garnered worldwide praise for its effectiveness in teaching team leaders and participants how to cut through limiting thoughts and behaviors to achieve common goals more quickly and efficiently.

Certification is required for product use, so your clients need you to step up to the plate and be there for them. You need this certification to round out your credentials. Don’t miss this opportunity coming up in Greensboro, NC, on October 21-22, 2010, to take the first step towards certification. Certified trainers will be listed on the DLI Website, be eligible for DLI referrals, and gain access to an experienced survey user group.

Register by calling 336-272-9530 or email smetzger@discoverylearning.com and ask about subsequent certification steps. The price is only $250, and the experience will be priceless. Invite a fellow trainer and add a new arrow to your quiver of tools.

Click here for more information about PressTime Simulation.

Click here to register now.

For a downloadable brochure, Click HERE.

Don’t miss it!

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.

Henry Ford