Last week, Heads of HR, senior directors and Game Changers gathered at The London Edition for an exclusive workshop to discuss the role of Game Changers in the corporate world.

The event sparked a lively debate with some of the UK’s leading organisations and consultancies agreeing upon the pressing need for organisations to develop the sort of corporate cultures which Game Changers can both survive and thrive.

The evident reality is that in order to thrive in today’s digital world, let alone survive, organisations need a continued focus upon creativity and innovation. They need to seek out ideas with transformational potential, risk failure with experimentation and be constantly alert to exploring new possibilities. To do this successfully they need to create a ‘game-changing culture’.

One question raised was: “Do Game Changers need to be employed?” The workshop, through conversations with Game Changers, recognised that they don’t always fit into traditional corporate cultures. So, it was suggested that it would be best to utilise the skills of a consultant who can, perhaps, act as a catalyst to disrupt the status quo? Bring in the Game Changer when you need them.

While it maybe helpful to ‘rent a Game Changer’ at times, doing so will not shift the culture of the business, which means organisations are unlikely to really profit from Game Changers within their business. Moreover, Game Changers are not just about new ideas. Our study* shows that they bring an obsessive quality to getting things done; they drive change, not just initiate it. Successful organisations have known for years that ‘there are no prizes for good ideas’, they need to be converted into action.

Delegates also recognised that to succeed in creating a game-changing culture there needs to be more flexibility, iteration, and acceptance of the failure that comes from a willingness to experiment and take risks. It was also observed that this shift in attitude and focus maybe more readily achieved when Game Changers operate in cohorts, simulating, perhaps, the evident success of Game Changers in SMEs and ‘geographical cultures’ such as silicon valley.

The principle here is that ‘the pressure to conform is the enemy of creative change’. Some delegates noted that they have, consistent with this principle, created game-changing project teams with a degree of freedom that is at ‘arms length’ from the main business. This confines any risk or failure to a small group as opposed to the whole business.

However, confining the game-changing culture to teams or projects could mean that organisations miss out on significant change. Keith Willetts, Founder of international consortium, TM Forum, said, “It’s about bringing a great idea to life. The Game Changer may have this million pound idea but unless they happen to cross paths with the CEO, board member or a senior ambassador it is unlikely to be realised. It will simply remain an idea inside their head.”

What was clear from the discussion was that we have much to learn from Game Changers themselves about how they can best be incorporated into corporate life without stifling the special talents that they bring.

Two Game Changers, talked of their experiences. One very talented young man felt so stifled with corporate life that he left within eight months to set up his own business and, not surprisingly, been very successful. Another has managed to navigate her career and found an employer who both recognises and values her talents. One of the key ingredients, she observed, was a boss who can make the space within which Game Changers can be creative.

While they had very different experiences their ‘obsessive imagination’ was clear to see – with both of them sharing a compelling drive for expression, creativity and change. Both of them talked about how they feel different to their peers and see things that others don’t – they get extremely frustrated when they see a solution but no action/progress is taken.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith, Chief Psychologist at The GC Index said, “Game Changers have been described as people who can see around corners when the rest of the world sees in straight lines. This is likely to reflect, in part, the fact that they will not be constrained by ‘received wisdom’ and traditional ways of doing things. It also reflects the power of their imagination. It’s important that organisations recognise and harness these special talents.”

John also talked about the importance of Play Makers, one of the other four roles identified by The GC Index®, in realising game-changing potential: they derive satisfaction from getting the best from others individually and collectively.

Play Makers are ‘natural’ managers and leaders in this regard. At their very best, they demonstrate an emotional intelligence in understanding others: what drives and motivates them. This understanding will form the basis for engaging, influencing and motivating Game Changers in a way many other people don’t do.

Keith said, “Businesses don’t have to operate like a machine. It’s time to change and start operating more like an organism – looking after all the different bits within the organisation and this should include Game Changers.”

Game Changers do not fit into a traditional corporate culture but they have the ideas and the obsessive determination many organisations are crying out for. As the discussion evolved it was clear that, in order to make the most of game-changing talents, we also need to make a very clear distinction between those high potentials that will form part of a succession plan and game-changing talent that needs to be recognised, engaged and nurtured in different ways.