GamesBeat: Assumptive thinking leads to that feeling of, it’s the same-old same-old. We see that in the industry now. We have mobile games that address a large target market. Large, public game companies have historically addressed that really well. What they’re trying to do is essentially one-plus that experience and not really think too far outside of the box to generate new types of content. Unleashing that larger creative process could lead them to experiences that can generate more profitable products in the future.
Gaiser: Totally. Here’s one example. When we were making games for girls, we were advised that if you were making games for girls, you had to make them pink. We made them un-pink and everyone came anyway. Stereotypes are limiting revenue opportunities, and they’re creating a dulling effect as far as what it means to be human. We’re missing out on new genres and market niches. It’s imperative that we start expanding our perspectives and views. There are as many perspectives as there are people. We’re only tapping a few.
GamesBeat: More so than any other time in the history of business or industry, we have a diverse workforce. You look at the product coming out of that workforce, though, and it’s pretty vanilla. There’s a dulling going on. The hesitation to take risks — taking that arbitrage equation of cost of acquisition versus lifetime value — leads to very uninspired decision-making.
What’s the difference in what you’ve seen in the industry between how we lead today and what an inspired leadership would be all about?
Gaiser: Creative leadership encourages what’s possible. It requires that we lead with creative intelligence — sensing, intuiting, imagination, feeling, perceiving — supported by analytical intelligence, which is logical, linear, and literal thinking. Traditional leadership leads with analytical intelligence, which may or may not be supported by creative intelligence.
Creativity has been dismissed and underestimated. It’s usually relegated to making art or products. The value hasn’t been quantified. But that’s no longer the case. The science of creativity has been proven. Whether you call it conscious leadership or facilitative or creative, the basic tenets are the same.
GamesBeat: It’s reflected in industry. The example that comes to mind is Popcap, pre-EA acquisition. It’s a company that was very inspired. They created products completely outside of the box. Try to find similarities between Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. The market, as they redefined themselves multiple times in their history, accepted and rewarded them for their ability to innovate creatively.
Google is another example. For a long time, and maybe even still, they had employees working on personal projects, completely untethered to whatever else was happening in corporate priorities. That leads to tapping into those diverse voices to create that fantastic experience that couldn’t have been done if it were being driven from the top down.
What happens if we don’t lead this way, if we don’t change the way we lead? What happens if we just keep that hierarchical structure associated with leadership?
Gaiser: Financially, we’re missing out on revenue opportunities, new market niches, new audiences. It doesn’t make sense. Next is the breadth of original stories and wide-ranging characters that we’re still missing. It’s leaving a dulling effect on us. It leaves us with a simplistic and homogenous view of what it is to be human. Creativity is the most important skill set in the 21st century, the most valuable leadership advantage we can employ.
We upgrade our computers when they’re not functioning at maximum capacity. Why don’t we do the same with ourselves?
GamesBeat: When you look at the industry overall, you have games like Monument Valley that are relegated to the indie category. They don’t see the light of day from the perspective of — let’s figure out what’s going on, why an incredible game like this has such broad market appeal. A lot of indie games are being denigrated and labeled — they’re indies, they’re one-offs, that’s not a sustainable model, let’s just focus on what we’ve done before. That leads to that dulling, what we in the investment business call the “red ocean” effect, that you have now in the game industry.
Gaiser: The past few years have been such a wake-up call for all of us. The quality of our leadership determines the quality of our workplaces, our cultures, and the media products we interact with. I think it’s time to do things differently. Leadership is behavior. People need to be inspired, not managed. Inspiration is what brings us meaning through our deepest values. That gives us a meaningful purpose, to innovate for good’s sake.
GamesBeat: In the diversity panel you talked about unconscious bias and its effect on dulling the ability for us to create inspired products, to think outside the box. How does unconscious bias and the assumptive thinking inherently associated with it hold us back? Not only from diversity of leadership, but also diversity of thinking and inspiration.
Gaiser: Before I get into that, I just wanted to note, I predict that those companies that do not invest in creative leadership in the next five years will lose market share to those who do. It’s linked to unconscious bias, because leading with the values of creativity diminishes unconscious bias. It dissolves the fear. It makes us more self-aware, which is the first step in embodying our full human potential and leading with our best selves. Once we’re inspired, we inspire others, because behavior is contagious.
Getting to unconscious bias, unconscious bias is a blind spot. It’s a bad habit we all have. It prevents us from letting go of our preconceived notions to expand our imaginations and welcome diverse people and perspectives. Because it’s unconscious, we often don’t realize we have it. What’s worse, we think we’re right. It requires raising our awareness to positively shift our behavior.
Mindfulness techniques are the first step to make that perceptual and experiential shift. When we’re fully present, we connect with rather than have bias toward others. We inspire ourselves so we can inspire others.
Right now there are great starts at eradicating unconscious bias, but I don’t think they’re it. I think some of them are Band-Aids, like unconscious bias training or quotas. They’re great steps, but that’s more informational. It has to be on a daily basis and it has to be intentional, that we’re thinking about our thoughts so we can start to change them and change our behavior. Then we can welcome diverse content, diverse leaders, diverse thinkers. All of us will be collaborating together.