Supercell on the Power of Purpose

I play Clash of Clans.

The main reason I don’t often bring that fact up in professional settings is that imagethe game does not make me better at my work.  “I play games” provides common ground with students but not very many adults.  I could make a connection to the power of applying the “rules” of gaming to learning, but that case has been very well made by others already. I see oodles of opportunities for application and professional reflection in many of the in-game features, the psychology of the game and the social interactions it facilitates. Ask me for those insights next time you see me if you are interested.

Supercell is the name of the company that created Clash of Clans. I visited their website today for the first time.  What I read in the section titled Our Story inspired this post.  In the words of a colleague, here are my two “takeaways”.

1.  “…the sole mission of the founders and management [is] to acquire the best talent, create the best possible environment for them, and then get out of the way.”

Is it possible that this approach could work for schools too? What if we spent time hunting down the very best folks, recruited them to be on our team, equipped them for their work and then let them do it?  Supercell leaves no illusion that their employees are free from oversight. In fact, the piece talks about how they “kill” projects that are not working (and how they celebrate their failures and then move on).  But between the point of starting a project and its ultimate launch or abandonment, their very small, very talented “cells” of people “have complete control over their own roadmap.”  Autonomy does not mean freedom from responsibility, high standards, or direction. It does mean the ability to do excellent work by finding the best path. Supercell seems to think that approach is part of what makes them successful.

2. “…the best people … make the best possible impact and nothing [stands] in their way. Everything else, including financial goals, [is] secondary.

Most people would say that the purpose of establishing a company that makes games is to make money. Success is determined by how much money the games earn. Supercell, however, seems to be saying that the only way to be successful is to refuse to be driven by the bottom line.

The measure of the success of a school today is its performance on standardized test scores. We are great at offering endless reasons and rationales for that fact but ultimately “improvement”, “growth”, and “success” are all essentially synonymous with higher test scores. What if we took our cue from Supercell in this as well? What if we began acting like the only way to get test scores up is to stop trying to get test scores up? What if we focused on producing more learning instead?

Public education is not a business and our work is not a game but I believe we have something to learn from Supercell about priorities.

By the way, even though “financial goals” are “secondary” for Supercell, they do just fine in that department too. They take in about $5M (five million) dollars every day.

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