radical Insights.

Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

Unlocking Long-Term Success.

Feb 7, 2023

I recently caught up with Andy Billings, Head of Profitable Creativity at Electronic Arts. Andy’s insights on disruption, specifically his comment, “Is it really possible to be planful, thoughtful, effective, well organized, and linear in managing disruptive change? When you talk to the people on the front lines, they will tell you that it doesn’t look like what it is being described as in the books” kickstarted our journey of writing Disrupt Disruption in 2019.

In our conversation back in 2019, Andy stressed the importance of building and maintaining teams working on projects long-term (in the case of a computer game, often 3-5 years) versus the organizational norm in many industries of moving high-performers from project to project in short 1-2 year bursts. The latter regularly leads to innovation projects failing due to a lack of consistent vision and leadership.

During our follow-up conversation, I asked Andy how companies like Electronic Arts manage to retain and motivate talent to stick with a single project for the long run. Andy remarked it begins and ends with a specific type of person – people who are drawn to long-term product success and fulfilling customer needs. His company carefully selects for this attitude – and then creates an environment allowing these people to thrive. Promotions, salary increases, and status are available to people without the need to manage (more) people through promotion pathways such as “distinguished artists.” Management focuses on removing friction (something Andy calls the “path to yes”) by constantly asking, “what do the product and team need to succeed” instead of the all-to-common attitude of “let’s get together and see how we can kill the product.” And lastly, acknowledging that bandwidth is a strictly limiting factor and thus the necessity to remove tangential responsibilities from people’s plates, to allow them to focus on what truly matters are three key ingredients to achieve true long-term sustainable relevance in the industry.

Combine all of this with genuine care for your people – simply talking and listening to people and what excites them, gives them energy, and drives them, goes a long, long way in creating a culture and organizational structure geared up for long-term success by not only investing into innovation initiatives but also seeing them through. (via Pascal)