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This article was published on February 18, 2018

What Game of Thrones can teach you about developing your organization

What Game of Thrones can teach you about developing your organization
Andres Angelani
Story by

Andres Angelani

As the CEO of Softvision, Andres is responsible for both the day-to-day operations and the strategic vision of the firm. He most recently se As the CEO of Softvision, Andres is responsible for both the day-to-day operations and the strategic vision of the firm. He most recently served as the Chief Solutions Officer at Globant, responsible for the design and development of digital solutions while leading strategic customer engagements globally. His areas of expertise include product development, agile transformation, and gaming. Before becoming Chief Solutions Officer, Andres founded and served as the EVP and GM of Globant’s gaming studio, leading business on the West Coast, as well as VP of Engineering and Director of Global Presales Consulting from the U.K. Andres has spoken at many leadership, strategy, and tech conferences and co-authored the book The Never-Ending Digital Journey: Creating New Consumer Experiences Through Technology. Originally from Argentina, he speaks English, Spanish and Italian. Andres holds a Bachelors of Science in Business from University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires, and enjoys cross-fit training, skiing with his wife, Laura, and their four kids, running and playing classical piano.

My first reaction after having finished watching the seventh season of Game of Thrones was probably the same as yours: We have to wait until 2019 for the final season?!  I mean, it’s six episodes, some of this should be on cruise control at this point, no?

But, like a fine wine cultivated from the best grapes, GoT will not rush its final season to market until its creators are absolutely, positively convinced it’s ready.

In light of the patience and painstaking detail that GoT has taken in creating its pop culture phenomenon, development organizations can learn a great deal by taking a page out of the GoT playbook (and no, it’s not murdering the competition). This applies both to George R.R. Martin’s brilliant story and the way GoT showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have brought it to life on HBO.

Using guilds to build tradition, legacy, and standards

Guilds are often associated with medieval times, when craftsmen or merchants, organized by skill set, guided their members from journeyman beginners to masters in their fields. GoT is full of guilds, where older and more experienced members oversee and teach their craft to others.  

The Night’s Watch is a guild committed to holding and defending the Wall; the Maesters of the Citadel represent a guild that helps heal the sick; even a common blacksmith is part of a guild that teaches others to follow through and maintain standards whether creating a new sword or a new horseshoe.

Guilds in today’s developing organizations are similar in nature, rising in popularity and more influential for a few reasons:

  • Managers and developers need ways to scale cost-effective products and services while staying responsive to technology disruptions;
  • Hiring and retaining top talent continues to get harder, especially when it comes to staying ahead of technology’s rapid growth and complexity;  
  • Lastly, demand for more specialized programming or even design skills is increasing

With the help and guidance of their respective guilds, Jon Snow rose from a lowly member of the Night’s Watch to both Lord Commander and now King of the North, while Samwell Tarly learned to be a respected member of the Night’s Watch and now has an opportunity to be the most important Maester in the history of Westeros. Each GoT hero leveraged their respective guild to learn from their peers, collaborate and lead teams, ultimately making themselves more valuable to everyone.

Looking for Jon Snow in today’s developing organizations

This is exactly what is needed in today’s developing organizations. Today’s technology ecosystem is much more complex, with interconnected devices, new user interface platforms, and artificial intelligence — and the proliferation of technologies, design, and development frameworks at an increasingly accelerated rate.

Much like Jon Snow and Samwell Tarley, developers, designers, and project managers want to seek out new challenges commensurate with their abilities. Like our GoT examples, they are:

  • Quick learners who thrive in a group setting
  • Frustrated when confronted with micromanagers who frown on thinking differently
  • Motivated by team dynamics

Today’s traditional talent platforms tend to isolate potential employees from their peers, expecting them to tackle networking, education, engagement, and negotiation tasks on their own.

Guilds, in contrast, represent structured communities organized by talent. Unlike top-down, command-and-control hierarchical structures, guilds are peer-to-peer, horizontal structures whose members share a common interest.

The newfound interest in guilds is due, in part, because of its widespread adoption in the gaming community. For example, millions of World of Warcraft players have used guild membership to participate in massive multi-player online games. Millennials transitioning into the workforce are naturally attracted to the guild model.

For organizations that adopt a guild approach, I see a number of short- and long-term benefits, including:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins

Nothing says loyalty like standing guard over the Wall and protecting the Seven Kingdoms. A guild’s team-like structure fosters a sense of place and belonging, while also providing framework and freedom to service clients.

Guild leaders clarify goals and deliverables, facilitate communication, and provide individual contributors with an opportunity to develop their utmost potential while offering long-term, rewarding career paths. As acknowledgement and rewards grow, so too does loyalty and retention.

You know nothing Jon Snow

Guild members are collaborators, sharing resources, and cross-pollinating insights and knowledge. An individual’s skills will place him or her in one talent community, such as iOS development, while offering a path for career advancement by joining the 3D gaming developers’ guild.

Mentorship and ongoing learning are built-in characteristics of the guild’s DNA. Leveraging this quality enables guilds to drive critical talent creation and offer new learning opportunities to new members who join.

Winter is coming

Every project has stumbling blocks. Guild members can turn to others in their community to ask questions and find agile solutions. The power of the individual is multiplied by the combined wisdom in their community, capturing the same benefits of crowd-sourced knowledge or open source software development but with ongoing social ties.

Companies using the guild system enjoy talent growth and retention rates far surpassing most competing organizations. Clients get the right developer skills for each project, and guilds enable delivery of agility, innovation and responsiveness. Guild-based talent platforms are a return to basics, one that aids the seamless evolution of the digital workplace in this realm or any that can be imagined.

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