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What are the rules for the “Technology Game?”

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 12, 2013  |  2 Comments

The prior post introduced the idea that the current IT game is a stalemate and that it is time to design a new game, a technology game.  That post suggests a different context and goal for a technology game, please follow this link to see that discussion.

A game is further defined by its rules which places boundaries on how players achieve the goal.  Boundaries are defined in two ways: positive and negative.  Positive rules describe what people can do to play and advance in the game.  Negative rules describe what you cannot do.  For example, you need to role the dice and move around the board in some games.  In others you are prohibited from sharing information with other players or pieces on a chessboard move in certain ways, etc.

Rules set expectations, commitments and give confidence to prospective players that they will be treated fairly and there is a level playing field to win.  These conditions rarely exist universally in an enterprise but there are some standards that I think we can all agree on.

  • Technology has a purpose.  It exists in service of achieving the goals, not for its own sake or for the sake of the players.
  • Technology should do no harm. It would be great if everyone can win, even win a little bit, but if there are losers their losses should be recoverable and not permanent. You can get back into the game.
  • Technology should be readily available and accessible; all should have the chance to play the game.
  • The rules are transparent and available to all.  Changes in the rules are visible to all.  The score is also available to all.
  • Responsibilities and accountabilities are clear and connected, those who stand to benefit the most should be responsible for doing the work and accountable for its results and consequences.

These are just suggestions and there are a deeper set of specific rules around the ones proposed above – for example security is part of do no harm.  Every organization will need to define additional rules just like every game has a number of ‘house’ or ‘side’ rules shared among players.  In the IT game these rules often took the form of restrictive governance structures imposing control.  The future of technology requires a game that is open

I welcome your ideas and input as these rules seem somewhat superficial and altruistic but they reflect the breadth and potential of technology.

Category: 2013  digital-edge  digitalization  it-epic-journey  re-imagine-it  

Tags: it-and-business  it-leadership  technology-game  technology-leadership  

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on What are the rules for the “Technology Game?”

  1. Paul Russell says:

    Love the game analogy and totally on board with the changing face of IT ( love the blog BTW ). My view is that many IT orgs are already playing a game – its that puzzle games where there should be a space to allow you to slide all the tiles around to complete the puzzle. The problem? There is no space because decades of legacy have created a log jam and there is no space to move around. And this game 10 years ago was sort of Ok because the business said “Golly you IT guys work so hard and are so heroic we will let you carry on and here is some more budget”. Now the rules have been defined by a new set of people who are off somewhere else playing a much more serious game whilst the IT guys are still figuring out their puzzle game. So the winners are the stakeholders who can win their game by agreeing rules outside of the IT org i.e. outsourcing, cloud services while the losers potentially are the legacy IT guys who insist on the same rules and the same blockages they have always dealt with. Who said “you cant fix problems with the same thinking as you created them”…..


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