The Un-Game

Summary Written by Tracy Shea-Porter
"Competent observers have experienced the power of observation in producing extraordinary results."

- Un-Game, vii

The Big Idea

Be A Catalyst, Not A Controller and Corrector

"Uncovering unexamined assumptions with unflagging consistency positions you to produce uncommon results, often in an unusually short span of time."- Un-Game, page 93

“This is what the un-game is – identifying our most closely held thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and conclusions, and examining them to determine if they still serve us.”

What Sam learns along the way is the distinction between “wanting” and “being willing” and how this difference relates to choice. Sam is asked to not just “do something. Sit there” in an effort to avoid quick action and instead connect what you decide to do, with what’s really important. Here are some of the unexamined assumptions Sam is challenged to reconsider:

  • There’s a right way to do something
  • Tough conversations hurt relationships
  • There are difficult people
  • We make conclusions based on evidence we’ve gathered
  • There is such a thing as security
  • Action is the ultimate challenge
  • People can hide what they strongly believe
  • People don’t change much
  • Work is not expected to be fun
  • A manager develops his or her people for promotion

Perhaps, being uncomfortable with change can offer valuable information, Sam learns – in terms of achieving desired growth and real change.

How can a feeling of discomfort be valuable?

Insight #1

Lose your assumptions

"Our discomfort may offer us valuable information. It pays to be interested in it."- Un-Game, page 34

“Choosing who you are willing to be, moment by moment by moment as you move through life,” may sound simple. Really, it is observing your actions, in the moment, that can lead to new choices. Change is difficult since we are hard wired to seek comfort and – often – the idea of change threatens our peace of mind since it challenges our mental models of how we think things should be.

Throughout The Un-Game, Sam meets a number of great coaches and leaders who introduce him to COSA, the four step process which helps him learn the thinking which creates a great leader:

1. C = Choose
2. O = Observe
3. S = Say Yes
4. A = Act

At its heart, COSA, as Ingrid reveals, is really about learning to avoid the “three most dangerous words in the English language: I already know.” COSA is meant to create an “environment in which deep, authentic learning that makes sustainable change possible can take place.”

How can you create this environment?

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Insight #2

Engage Your Team

"Managers would do well to create a learning environment in which employees have the freedom to try and the courage to fail."- Un-Game, page 266

In The Un-Game’s afterword, Ingrid talks about the results of a large, twenty year long, world-wide research project designed and implemented by the Gallup Organization. This poll was meant to identify the core characteristics of great managers and great workplaces. There were more than a million employees interviewed, from around the world – companies of all sizes – various industries – hundreds of questions. In the end, just twelve questions were asked of employees. Employees must answer all questions with a resounding “yes” to create the foundation for a great company. The questions were:

1. Do I know what’s expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? (Stop here if you get any “no” answers for questions 1 through 6. Questions 7 through 12 would then be irrelevant.)
7. At work, do my opinions count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. During the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

How do your answers fare with regard to your company?

As a leader, I found The Un-Game to be a valuable, and supportive, guide to accomplishing the most important goal that a company should have: Fostering a passionate, engaged team. This is a theme I encounter in much of my business reading and yet it remains elusive to so many companies. As Ingrid says, “It’s not enough to be driven by financial goals and results. Any 21st century business must also aspire to benefit people, our global environment, and society overall.”

Read the book

Get The Un-Game on Amazon.

Ingrid Martine

Before immigrating to the United States at age eleven, I lived in Germany. My fascination with human behavior began as an eight year old who read–under bed covers by flashlight and against strict maternal instructions–mythological stories and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. They fired my imagination and a hunger to understand people. Since I wanted to solve the puzzle of people losing their early enthusiasm for learning, I became an educator. Starting in academia–I have a Master’s degree in French Literature and speak three languages fluently–and then moving into the world of business–first as a consultant, then as an internationally certified executive and team coach with clients in North America, Europe, and Australia–I got interested in unconventional models of learning.

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