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One Little Thing for Pokemon Go – CEOs Take Note

08/19/2016
comfort zone

I was working with a client recently and the phenomenon we all know as “Pokemon Go” came up in conversation.  The IT professional in the room made a comment that really grabbed my attention.  Not that I am a fan or a player of the game by-the-way.  My interest in the game has been and still is more analytical than anything else.  I mean really! A group of engineers walked into my class recently talking about Poke stops or whatever it is called.  I am quite astonished that I am really writing about this but stay with me as I think you will find value in my interest.

This IT guy said the game as we know has been around for several years.  My response was really!  I have not heard of it before.  He said yes the game had different characters but was essentially the same game.  I have tried to vet his information to the best of my ability so I definitely want to preface these remarks by saying what I did find supports his statement but is not all together conclusive.   Please feel free to share any new information to support or refute my findings. 

My research stated the company called Niantic created the game called Ingress around 2012.  However, it was not until Niantic partnered with Nintendo in 2015 and later released the game in July 2016 that we saw the world-wide phenomenon that we now know as “Pokemon Go”.

So you might be thinking, thank you for the history lesson but what is the big deal?  So what?  My oddly-wired brain quickly starting thinking (not about the game itself but) about the change that created success for the two companies.  I started pondering about the ingredient – that one little thing that created buzz all over the developed (and probably undeveloped) world.  Think about it.  We are less than two months into this change and hundreds of millions of people all over the planet are involved. Oh, and by the way “Pokemon Go” made over $200 million in its first month and literally crushed “Candy Crush” (pun intended) and “Clash Royale” according to an August 8, 2016 CNBC article.  Can you say BOOM!

Alas, you know what they say about all good things.  And yes, the trends are indeed slowing down and even my own children and their cronies are losing interest.  I do believe the explosion is short-lived.  I also believe the game’s creators are hard at work trying to sustain the growth and “Pokemon Go” will settle as a money maker for the near future.

Let us examine the one little thing that changed the game.  In the organizational development world, we are always looking for a “game-changer”.  However, most organizations lack the intestinal fortitude (guts) to make real change.  That is often where I (or people like me that is) come into the picture.  We have made careers out of helping organizations overcome the cowardice of change.  Look it is not always their fault.  Many CEOs are handcuffed by intrusive boards that relish the steadiness of mediocrity.  In reality, very few CEOs are afforded the freedom to make dynamic moves to find that one little thing that could change the world.  The desire to change may indeed exist, however the confidence and/or autonomy may not.

Change is a scary thing for organizations that do not make it a core value and live by that value.  Mediocrity or the illusion of success rather than potential is most common. In 2002, Rob Abrams published a wonderful book titled “A Good Hard Kick in the Ass”.  Chapter one is titled, “Good Ideas are a Dime a Dozen”.  He states great ideas are everywhere and I whole-heartedly agree.  The challenge comes when it is time for implementation.  This is when fear creeps in and CEOs start to hedge their bets or even crawfish.  What looked good on paper now gets diluted over the time.  The effort required to maintain the course for change decreases and the organization begins to revert to the comfort of the past.

We are a baseball family.  Both my boys love the game.  Very early in their careers for any sport, I attempt to differentiate between interest in a sport and commitment to a sport.  Interested players play the game, while committed players put in hours of work and thought that no one else ever sees.  My older son became committed to baseball in high-school and earned a chance to play at the collegiate level.  My younger son who is blessed with amazing raw talent is still on the fence.

The corporate world is not different.  I work with CEOs who are blessed with raw talent but have yet to become committed to change.  Yes, it is most definitely change for the sake of change. And you are probably thinking that it is just a little irresponsible to change for the sake of change.  I argue that unless we are prescripted to change constantly, we will likely never find that one little thing to make our organization explode out of the safety of mediocrity. I mean come on – someone surely mixed chocolate and peanut butter before H.B. Reese decided to leave Hershey and start his own company.  Think about the guts that took.  Ironically, Hershey bought the company back from (a probably smiling) Reese and now owns the brand. 

I want readers to take note.  There are chocolate and peanut butter ideas in your company as we speak.  I promise that the magic ingredient for making a dent in the universe exists.  You can indeed condition your organization to adapt to change.  You can encourage mixing chocolate and peanut butter or adding Pokemon to an unknown game.  Great members of your team desire to make changes at this very moment.  They are afraid the organization will not fully support or commit to the change so they remain silent.  Great organizations foster and fertilize the change while simultaneously learning from mistakes.  Steve Jobs failed with NeXT, the Lisa, and the Apple III all before he changed the world with the iPod that became the iPhone.  Suck-it-up! If you do not have a list of failures in your past, you are probably hand-cuffed with mediocrity.  I further surmise that the larger the failures of your past, the closer you are to finding that one little thing for your organization.  Hire great people, let go of the bicycle seat, and encourage them to fail often.