Gamebreaker (Beat Welte & Jean-Paul Thommen)

book review Jan 07, 2020

The new book “Gamebreaker” from Beat Welte and Jean-Paul Thommen with illustrations from Achim Schmidt provides disruptive thoughts and practical advice for everyone, not just those in IT. Gamebreaker are those who use a radical shift in their mindset to deliver a substantial contribution towards a break-through compared to the status quo approach. Somebody not just following the recognised trends but setting the direction. This self-help book shows what’s in it for all of us in the tough digital age — to disrupt or be disrupted. It is a matter of choice after necessary reflection. Providing this reflective element with useful examples from all walks of life is the core task of this book.

The writing team consists of a seasoned IT expert on with an economy Professor on the other side who both published books and articles over the last decades. Beat Welte spent most of his time at two global IT vendors after leading a computer magazine in Switzerland. Starting his own consultancy, he comments on IT trends in his engaging column “Welte’s World” in a well-read IT blog. The practical aspect of the book with most examples from his experience is well combined with the theoretical injection of Jean-Paul Thommen. He is well-known for publishing a “gold standard” book in economy which still enjoys a top rank on the respective shelves in the bookstores in German speaking countries.

The subtitle “How to be successful in the digital transformation game” underlines the story flow of the book. The first eight chapters capture topics like the lost client, the disruption age, the digital pressure of large organisations afraid of the disadvantage against agile, nimble start-ups. Some of those chapters also capture gamebreaking vs. fakebreaking or how managers can foster the right attitude and mindset towards a gamebreaking culture. Chapter nine is for me the core of the book as it illustrates seven steps to become successful in the digital age from analysis and vision over radical customer perspective to the obstacles on the way to sustainable success of leading through constant change.

When two published authors come together, a range of useful quotes will stick with the readers. The author’s customer orientation is visible in “The disruptive potential is biggest there were customers’ pain points are most intensive.” Working on the mindset is crucial: “The gamebreaker must learn to turn existential threats or crises… to his advantage.” And this “requires a flash of ingenuity instead of years of research.”

This book has a high adaptability for own practice regardless if the reader is an entrepreneur and thus a top decision maker or a corporate employee who can indeed fight for the right level of autonomy towards achieving remarkable breakthroughs. Especially the seven mentioned steps provide a series of exercises in known situations evolving reflection and fostering change. The large number of examples support enough readers to find themselves in similar situations.

The underlying topic can be seen as a dangerous threat to our society. But instead of adding dramatic horror projections, the book is focused around the steps all of us can start in mindset and activities not just to be aware, but well positioned for the future changes. While many disrupting trends are coming from the Information & Communication Technology sector as a huge driver behind digital transformation, this segment is changing itself as well in high speed both in their technology adoption and for the employees. The biggest disrupters are younger generations who stopped taking the current status quo for granted. The authors provide suggestions how the other generations can learn from them.

The future book writer can learn from this book in many useful ways, small and big. In terms of structure, the “Lessons Learned” are well thought summaries of whole chapters to allow a quick scan with the structure. Many injected stories from large corporations and well-known leaders (at least in the author’s home market in Switzerland) underline the flow of the book in an entertaining way. That is also valid for the various illustrations from Achim Schmidt who supported the book launch with live sketching of the event in the same way. Formulated well to the point spreading across just 176 pages underlines the successful melange between a practical and theoretical approach.

Q&A with Beat Welte

1. What was the deciding moment to write this book?

As a member of the Senior Management Team for the Swiss subsidiary of a globally operating IT company, I experienced how difficult it was for the organization as well as for the management team and individual contributors to deal with the digital transformation. Ironically, the company claimed to completely understand the challenges, even claimed to be a main driver of the digital transformation for its customers — but turned a blind eye to the own organizational and personal failings. I therefore founded my own company and together with my co-author wrote a book to answer one fundamental question: How can companies and individuals stay in the game or even define their own game given the huge challenges of the digital transformation?

2. How long did it take from concept to launch?

About a year. It always takes longer than anticipated…

3. How did you perform the research to create the practical content?

We split the responsibilities. My co-author Jean-Paul Thommen is a renowned professor for Business Administration, teaching at several universities. He also wrote several business books before, the most successful being the “bible” for Business Administration, with a huge print. Jean-Paul already had a good overview on the books written on similar topics and could help with the research. I on the other hand interviewed about 50 people to get their perspective of what it takes to be a successful gamebreaker, an organization or a person thriving in the digital transformation.

4. What was the biggest challenge along the process (and how did you overcome it)?

The biggest challenge was also the biggest opportunity to create something meaningful: Jean-Paul and myself have completely different backgrounds — and we learned that a professor and a manager do not necessarily agree on things. Although we obviously knew that we generally shared a similar view on the topic, we had to learn that the devil is in the details… However, I think it is fair to say that we had (and still have) most lively dialogues and that the outcome is — hopefully — a better book.

5. What was your own reflection along the journey?

To write a book is an excellent way to self-develop and to gain new insights. Even if there were no readers at all (which I do not hope!), it would be worth the effort!

6. What is the outcome in having this book available?

Publish or perish — it may sound extreme, but it is true: To publish is not only valuable in terms of self-development, but it also is an excellent way to engage in meaningful and inspiring dialogues with other people who have read the book or provided inputs.

7. What would you advise others about writing their book?

Just do it. Writing is tough, but the result is rewarding. 

Beat Welte & Jean-Paul Thommen: “Gamebreaker”, Zürich: Versus Verlag 2019, ISBN 978–3–03909–262–8 (Paperback) or Kindle

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