It was a magical moment. Not just because I was with my wife and three children, nor that we were at a Parisian café with a view of the Eiffel tower, nor even because after a week of rain Paris decided to give us – on our one day in the city – perfect blue skies. What made this moment magical was what happened next.
My daughter said to her brothers, “Let’s play ‘I have never.’”
You see, we spent a week in Germany for a family reunion and were on our first leg of a four-day journey down to Barcelona. We’ll be there for the next two weeks, my kids practicing Spanish, and I writing the workbook for my next workshop.
Our plan for this road trip was to have no plans at all. We don’t know what town we will stop in or hotel we will sleep in. And on our first day we found ourselves waking up in Paris. By 10:30am we had visited Foucault’s Pendulum at the Pantheon and were enjoying hot chocolate and croissants.
The meal now done, my kids were itching to move on to something new, while my wife and I still wanted to enjoy the people-watching and buzz of the city. So my daughter proposed a game to her brothers.
Now this game had a name – “I have never” – but beyond this was still undefined. When her brothers asked how to play it, my daughter explained she had just made it up, but already knew the rules. Each player would line up, shoulder to shoulder, on one square on the sidewalk. The first player would finish the sentence, “I have never…” Whoever could honestly agree with the statement would stay in place and everyone else would take one step forward. Whoever reached the finish line last would be the winner.
Within five minutes the kids were giggling, entertained.
And at that moment, I knew, my daughter is going to be an amazing leader. Because what she just did – and honestly does all the time – is exactly what great leaders do:
- They create a game.
- That game compels people to collaborate – it creates purpose, establishes rules, tracks a score.
- People collaboratively change the future.
You could say any great company is simply a game. It has a purpose, a set of rules, and a way of keeping score. The same is true for any great innovation – from personal computers to the Internet. Indeed anything truly meaningful in the world – from revolutions to cathedrals – came about through their creation as games. A leader presented a game that created share intent, which encouraged collaborative action, which aligned the minds, passions, and hands of many people to what only a few people could not do on their own.
So I think now about what this means for my leadership. Have I designed my consulting firm, Outthinker, as a compelling game? Does it create purpose (do we have a mission), rules (roles and responsibilities), and a score (KPIs) that compel people to collaborate? Are we changing the future?
What about you?