Imagine a room filled with 40 National Guard officers, experienced military leaders who also serve as managers, directors, and vice presidents. What would attract them to a team-building workshop? The answer lies in the opportunity to learn something new and discover a fresh approach. Culture Kitchen, a workshop that utilizes a unique cooperative video game, offers leaders the chance to enhance their teamwork skills in a hands-on and engaging environment.
How It Works
Culture Kitchen employs a three-phase approach facilitated by a special cooperative video game:
Phase 1: Concept – Leaders learn key principles and concepts related to effective team collaboration.
Phase 2: Practice – Participants apply the learned concepts in the cooperative video game, experiencing the challenges and dynamics of teamwork firsthand.
Phase 3: Reflect – Leaders reflect on their gaming experience and how it relates to the challenges they face in their professional lives, fostering valuable insights.
What Culture Kitchen Teaches
Modern leaders recognize the need to adapt their motivational strategies, particularly with the shift from a muscle economy to a knowledge economy. Culture Kitchen equips leaders with the skills to create an environment where individuals can motivate themselves. By exploring the impact of emotions on performance, understanding the reasons behind emotional interference, and discovering actionable solutions, leaders learn how to foster a self-motivated workforce.
Practice handling Uncertainty and Urgency
The video game’s design allows participants to navigate cycles of competence and stress in a controlled manner. Challenging levels progressively introduce changes that challenge players’ confidence, exposing them to uncertainty and urgency. By experiencing and managing these emotions, leaders gain valuable insights into their impact on performance and mindset.
Why a video game?
Culture Kitchen employs a video game to create an inclusive and leveled playing field. With simple controls and no specific skill requirements, every participant can contribute. The game’s open-ended nature encourages debate and collaboration, mimicking the complex problem-solving scenarios professionals encounter in matrix and flat organizations. Teams learn to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, embracing adaptability and resilience.
Culture Kitchen delves into applied psychology and techniques that make it easier for teams to learn and grow together. The workshop equips leaders with tools and firsthand experience to cultivate psychological safety within their teams, fostering an environment where people feel safe to take risks and contribute their best.
Culture Kitchen is designed to let leaders learn about and practice creating
psychological safety. People lead better when they are proficient in
teamwork skills. These skills can be hard to build as normal business cycles
take months or years to complete. These long cycles only give your
employees a few repetitions a year. The power of the video game is that
project cycles happen in minutes. Participants gain many more
opportunities to practice working and communicating together. Professional
golfers hit hundreds (sometimes thousands) of golf balls before they step
into the tee box when it is game day. Culture Kitchen provides a similar
opportunity for the professional development of leaders.
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The movie Field of Dreams made the expression, “If you build it, they will come.” become world-famous. However, it later became a bit of a joke to describe many new products and companies. This article will expand on Demand vs. Supply.
The implication seemed to be that if you built the thing you dreamed about, others would want it too. It is easy to understand this thinking. After all, The Law of Supply and Demand seems to imply that supply comes first. Created in the 1890s by Alfred Marshall, the Law of Supply and Demand explains pricing in a free market. If supply exceeds demand, then prices will drop. If demand exceeds supply, then prices rise.
Shifting Perspectives on Demand vs. Supply
The Law of Supply and Demand worked very well to describe the price of commodities. The kinds of products that are widely available, like fruits and vegetables, or raw materials like lumber and iron ore. However, the law does not always explain the price of everything. As many business owners painfully discovered, if you build it, no one may come. A good friend of mine and successful entrepreneur put it better. “The Law of Supply and demand is wrong. It’s not supply and demand. It’s demand, then supply. Demand is more important than supply.” Specifically, he was saying that understanding demand is more important than supply is critical for a business owner.
The Power of Prioritizing Customer Demand
Why? Because of the word order. In his book, The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek noticed that people expose their true priorities when they speak. We do this unconsciously. Even CEOs with their meticulously curated conference calls and press releases do this. Sinek noticed that if a CEO talked about (1) profits, (2) shareholders, (3) staff, and (4) customers, in that order – her later behavior would put profits ahead of everything else. And guess who was the lowest priority? That’s right, the customers. Sinek shares multiple examples to make his case. CEO actions align with their spoken word order priorities. Regardless of what they print in pamphlets or marketing material, people talk as they think. When a business leader prioritizes supply over demand, they can shift the company’s attention away from the customer and onto the product and how it is delivered. One consequence of this shift in focus is that operations can become more important than sales or marketing. This makes the attention of the organization inward-focused instead of outward-focused.
As an entrepreneur, I want to own a profitable business. Focusing on the operations of my business ahead of the demand can become a dangerous attention trap. How so? With supply, you control most of the variables. When people focus on what they control it is easy to become lazy and complacent. Prioritizing demand, however, makes you think about how you can influence others to act. Convincing someone who doesn’t work for you (as a customer) to take action is a much harder problem to solve than telling your people what to do. Inspiring customer action, therefore, is where more value is created. My goal in my company is to make sure customer desire drives our business, not our own supply. I have watched this play out over the last 16 years in the mobile video game industry. Most independent mobile video game operators focus on the trailer. Video game trailers are cool! Imagine a living room on wheels filled with flat panel displays and loaded with every kind of video game console.
Delivering Celebrations, Not Just Renting Trailers
If you haven’t seen one you can go to gametruck.com to check them out. The concept is simple. It is easy to imagine towing a trailer to someone’s house for kids to play video games inside. And many owners focus on doing exactly that. Towing a trailer to someone’s house to host a party. As if that is what customers want; a trailer parked in front of their house. I contend that people do not want trailers. Customers want a celebration. In addition, they want a party that is easy, low stress, and most of all fun for their child. Parents are trying to create feelings of belonging, joy, and recognition for their children. The box on wheels is almost immaterial. I noticed that when we started to offer laser tag.
For a few years, we did not offer laser tag, yet people would call up and ask for it. When our sales team told them, “We do not offer laser tag.” The customers would go ahead and book a GameTruck Party with a mobile video game theater. Two thoughts crossed my mind. One, why were we not selling people things they wanted to buy from us? Second, what were they actually buying from us? I mean, we just told them we didn’t have what they were looking for, yet they continued to reserve a trailer with us. It was a clear sign the equipment was not as important as the experience they wanted their child to have.
The Impact of Understanding Customer Demand
From that time, we focused on delivering celebrations (instead of renting trailers). As a result, GameTruck owners have vastly outpaced their competitors in terms of consumer interest. The GameTruck system generates more than 10,000 inbound leads a month. These are calls and form fills from people looking to book a party for their child. Creating demand like this is not easy but has allowed us to become the price leader in every market where we operate. More revenue ensures we can hire the best staff, maintain our equipment, and follow through on our promises. Our dependability may be more valuable than any piece of equipment we use to deliver a party.
By focusing on parent demand, we can align our work to meet it. We created communication systems to increase parental confidence in the GameTruck brand. We train our Game Coaches to understand the parents’ expectations so they can manage them. Finally making sure the party guests have fun, benefits the coaches because of the higher tips they receive.
Scaling Vision and Creating Opportunities
Understanding demand first, made every aspect of our supply better. I am convinced if GameTruck had only been about renting video game equipment, we would not deliver 30,000 parties a year. Understanding our client’s demands has allowed our owners to scale their vision. More than half of GameTruck owners operate multiple units. GameTruck owners lead the industry in full-time managers, a sign of the size teams they employ. Focusing on customer demand not only made our business better but also created more opportunities for the people who run the franchises. It has become clear to me that a thorough understanding of demand is vastly more important than an understanding of supply.
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I recently took part in a panel on business execution. Everyone agreed that documenting their processes would improve their operations. However, telling people to document their processes ignores two nontrivial challenges. The first is understanding why it is hard to document a process. The second is how to get your people to use the process! By understanding these challenges and implementing effective strategies, you can maximize the benefits of traditional process documents and drive superior business performance.
The Power of Supplementing Traditional Process Documents
While traditional process documents are valuable, it is crucial to recognize their limitations and explore complementary approaches that enhance their effectiveness. Documenting a business process sounds like it should be easy right? As Simon Sinek noted, the part of our brains that makes decisions is not the part responsible for language. When we become proficient at a skill, our actions are reduced to muscle memory. Studies show when someone asks us to explain our actions, our brain can unconsciously make up stories. Baseball legend Ted Williams believed he could watch a baseball hit the barrel of his bat, but he couldn’t. It is a physical impossibility. It happens too fast. Describing what we do is more challenging than most people realize.
How can you address it? Try to capture only what matters most, like the 20% of steps that deliver 80% of the results. Too much detail can reduce clarity.
How do get people to follow best practices?
Often, staff ignores process documents. Why? A couple of reasons. One is pressure. People find it hard to learn under pressure. Another is expectations. Performance suffers when learning a new skill. We avoid that which makes us look bad.
I find it helpful to remember that my true goal as a business owner is better business execution. I want to help my people consistently deliver what our brand promises our customers. The most effective way to do that, I have found is to supplement processes with stories and tools. Stories create meaning and shape our feelings.
Feelings fuel behaviors.
When we capture our processes, we also capture the stories of the problems solved. A great process should make the user a hero who solves a problem, not a monkey who flips a switch.
A tool complements the story because it shapes the user’s actions by constraining them. This is where proven process documents are essential. I try to never automate a process I don’t understand! Having a fun tool that minimizes errors and maximizes results has a massive positive impact on performance.
The next time you set about creating a standard process, think about the story and automation. Can you make the person running the process the hero of a story? Is it clear the problem they are solving? Do they have great tools to help them achieve that outcome? In my experience, when my people have a key role in solving a problem, and they have a great tool to do it, their performance soars.
If you’re interested in exploring more strategies for effective business execution, check out this insightful article on improving operational efficiency in business for additional tips and techniques or check out our article on “Business Opportunity on Wheels at GameTruck“.
Remember, by addressing the challenges of documenting processes and getting your team to follow best practices, you can enhance your business operations and drive better results.