The Culture Games

“I have a foundational belief that business results start with culture and your people.” Douglas Conant

Organizations have cultures, units and departments within organizations have cultures. Whether a newcomer or long-term employee, it can be hard to identify and operate within a culture.

Being within a culture is a little like being within a game. If you know the rules (starting with knowing if there are any), have the necessary skills and equipment, you can figure out how to help your organization win. Here’s some thoughts on what games might apply to your culture.

  • Chess: A chessboard has all the pieces out in the open, and everyone knows how it all works. However players can apply near-infinite (and invisible) strategies and complexity, and the goal is to mow others down and win. Chess cultures can be easy to get started in but difficult to master.
  • Pelmanism: Also known as the “memory game” named after Christopher Pelman.  All the cards are out there, but hidden. Arcane processes and scant documentation abound.  You’ve got to have a good memory and persistence to succeed.
  • Soccer: Cultures with strong teamwork, endurance even in the face of adversity would indicate a team sport (like soccer or basketball). The teams with the most resources have a decided advantage. High quality players are paid well; low quality players are pushed down and out as they impede the team’s ability to succeed.
  • Golf: Events like the Ryder Cup notwithstanding, golf is an individual sport. Strong tradition and fair play prevail, with clear cut rules. No indoor golf stadiums, so weather (market?) conditions have a big influence.
  • Pictionary: Fast-paced, loud, it’s marked by frequent misunderstandings as one person’s palm tree is another person’s spider. Ideas come and go within seconds. See also: Charades.

Regardless of the game you’re in, a common thread is the need for coaching and mentoring. Whether Go Fish or The Master’s, it’s difficult to win without a culture willing to invest in showing you the ropes and providing opportunities to improve.

“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” Babe Ruth

Worth thinking about:

Thinking about the Delta outage during the week of August 8th again. A power surge didn’t cause the failure. Lack of proper design – and testing – of purportedly resilient systems caused the failure. Let this be (another) lesson to CEOs, Boards, CIOs and the entire C-suite about the investments they chose – and don’t chose – to make, including investments in talent that truly know how to design, implement and run today’s critical sysstems.

A number of cities have launched Pokémon tours, like this one in Detroit, that bring gamers to locations where Pokémon are known to be. Austin, Reykjavik, and Barcelona are just some of the other places leveraging the popular game to draw tourists.

Found this William Shakespeare quote which was new to me, but immortal when it comes to business. “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”


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