“If we have good chemistry, and we have a shared vision, then there’s a good chance we can partner for long-term success.” —Mark Stanley, GameStop VP of Internal Development & Diversification
It’s been a busy few weeks over at GameStop. The video game retailer—owned by Barnes and Noble from 1999 to 2004—has seen a host of financial struggles due to the precipitous drop in the video game retail market in 2015. With the news just last week that the company was being dropped for the S & P 500. shows just how predictive the S&P “topple rate” —the rate at which firms lose leadership standing in the index—can illustrate veracity of market disruptions. And reinvigorating its leadership position is exactly what Mark Stanley hopes GameStop’s new venture, GameTrust, will accomplish.
With the launch of this new digital platform, GameStop is making a foray into intellectual property development and cross-channel distribution, both growing sectors in the gaming ecosystem. GameTrust is designed for smaller video game developers who don’t have the resources or bandwidth to distribute their games to a broader audience without support. Rather than continuing to bet on the sagging retail market, with GameTrust, GameStop hopes to throw its hat in the ring alongside companies such as Steam, Xbox Live, and PlayStation Network.
For companies in an industry undergoing as much disruption as gaming has, evolving is vital, but transitions and growth can take a big toll on an organization if poorly executed (see the ongoing debacle with Zenefits). Can GameStop dramatically expand its core business offerings while remaining true to its overall vision? Leading this new venture is Stanley, who in a recent interview with Gamespot explained the importance of giving the new developers creative autonomy: “By allowing developers to fully focus on their craft,” he said, “GameTrust can focus on all other aspects of bringing a new IP to market, leveraging our deep expertise and retail channel leadership to support each developer and connect their games with a broader global audience.”
Having a clear and shared vision that gives team members the freedom to create and function within the structure of an organization will be critical during this upcoming period of change and growth for GameStop. I believe Stanley’s public commitment to respect the creative process bodes well for the company’s future. In a move consistent with that of a vision-driven leader, the executive explained that GameStop would not have any form of creative control over the developers they bring on or the games they create. This is a big plus for independent developers, who have traditionally had to use third-party distribution and relinquish a great amount of creative control, not to mention deal with the tension that often develops across teams when an organization is not operating according to a cohesive vision.
In the practical sense, it’s more crucial than ever for top management in quickly changing industries (which includes most industries at this point) to recognize the necessary shifts from a model of top-down control to one in which employees can innovate, be flexible, and adapt quickly over the longer term. This works when leaders embrace the notion of a structure that focuses on teamwork and cooperation. Grouping people based on the core processes they engage in—as GameStop is doing with this new venture—allows employees from diverse disciplines to know and understand one another and ultimately, hopefully, create something greater than the sum of their parts. This approach encourages tighter social relationships, joint decision-making styles, and collaborative work. Together, these serve to melt away the boundaries that result from employees working in silos, which stifle communication and creativity.
GameStop is a good example of the shrinking time frame for visions in some industries. The rule of thumb I use for clients—which is based on research I conducted back in 2000—is that organizational visions need at least a decade to take a firm down the runway. For the discombobulating technology shifts and consumer trends in video games, that life span is shrinking. But visions are still essential.
The business world has become an infinitely more complex, fluid, and unpredictable place, even for long-established organizations. By bridging the divide between brick-and-mortar and digital channels, GameStop is betting that this new venture will carry them into the digital marketplace with enough oomph to convince shareholders to stick with them for the long haul.
We’ll watch to see if they can use this revised vision for a return to market leadership.