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What's in the DNA of a Game Changer?

It seems that we’re searching for a rare type of talent in our organizations these days, a talent with the potential to drive new frontiers. Commonly referred to as Game Changers, this breed of talent has a surprisingly large appetite for the ‘innovate-or-die’ future that is fast approaching. What’s more, they appear not to be phased by risk; they may even relish it.

We’re looking for these Game Changers because they offer a unique and rare ability – they can see what others do not, and they possess the drive to turn what they see into a reality. Not much stands in the way of their ‘future imagined’.

Many of us have come across these individuals, but how much do we really know about them? What are their defining characteristics? What makes them tick? How are they different from our traditional high potentials or leaders?

Every employer wants to recruit someone who has this ‘special something’ but the reality is very few can describe what ‘it’ looks like. – Nathan Ott
Game Changers don’t fit into our boxes

What we do know is that Game Changers do not fit into boxes, at least not into the boxes we have made up for them. Comparing traditional leaders with Game Changers illustrates this.

Traditional leaders want to be liked and respected. If you are climbing the corporate ladder, as most are, this is important. Your need for personal security is likely to be greater, and your aversion to risk higher.

Game Changers, however, are not scared of failure. They believe they will realize their vision in the end. They challenge the status quo, and they will have the difficult conversations needed to pursue their end result. While being described as likeable, they seem to have less interest in organizational hierarchy. Their focus is not so much on being liked, as it is on seeing an idea come to fruition. They avidly confront corporate comfort zones. A rung on the ladder is not a prize in their books. Game Changers can also exist, and contribute, at any level in the organization. They do not have to be leaders. All this has fundamental implications for the way our organisations are set up to attract and engage talent.

These insights into the makeup of a Game Changer are emerging from new research. And it is helping to answer some of our questions about whether we have the right types of talent for the future. Using a technique called the Repertory Grid and complemented by qualitative research, we arrive at a profile of those individuals who can conceptualise and drive paradigm shifts at work. The insights are underpinned by sound statistical analyses, but they will also switch on points of resonance for anyone who has worked alongside a Game Changer. “The DNA of a Game Changer” study is a pioneering addition to our understanding of leadership and of corporate leadership in particular.

The genetic code of Game Changer identified in the research is quite different from the traditional leader or impact player profile. It consists of the following qualities and capabilities:

  • Big picture thinkers
  • Very strategic
  • High on vigour
  • Creative idea generators
  • Passionate about the idea
  • Ambitious, obsessive drive to succeed
  • Risk takers
  • Strong influencers of people (above and below)
  • Great at articulating a vision
  • Likable

When asked: ‘Where do Game changers add most value to your business?” respondents answered thus:

This research deepens our understanding and appreciation of the different types of talent we need. Our traditional high potentials and leaders did not predict or mitigate much for the global financial crisis. Nor are they typically the creators of disruptive new entrants to the marketplace. Talent needs a rethink. And this work provides a new frame.

“Whilst every organisation needs
 a strong leader, the modern global economy demands instant results and continuous innovation. For this reason Game changers are one of the most valuable assets to organisations in terms of their growth and future stability”. – DNA of a Game Changer report.

Game Changers can be at the heart of new talent approaches and initiatives, and add value to corporate endeavour. Now that we know a bit more about their make-up, we can identify them, we can better understand and appreciate them for the value they can bring. We can also get a clearer picture of what makes them tick, and work towards setting the right conditions to optimize their contributions within a work context.

This is one in a series of posts on Game Changing Talent. In the next post, we’ll look at common challenges faced by Game Changers. For the truth is that Game Changers often end up leaving organisations, with the end result that we lose the valuable contribution that this incredible type of talent brings. (Here’s a clue as to why they leave – it is something to do with that ‘obsessionality’ identified within the code of the Game Changer.)

If you would like to find out more about this work, you can download and read the full research report here: “The DNA of a Game Changer”.

For more information about the research or the GCIndex assessment, contact Gaylin at

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