The GC Index: an Organisational Game Changer

In this conversation Dr John Mervyn-Smith talked me through The GC Index which is the world’s first Organimetric connecting people and business with data that organisations have never had before.

In this conversation Dr John Mervyn-Smith talked me through The GC Index which is the world’s first Organimetric connecting people and business with data that organisations have never had before.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith is one of the Co-Creators and Chief Psychologist of the GC Index, also known as the Game Changing Index. The GC Index is an organisational metric system that empowers organisations to drive performance and achieve innovation by creating game changing teams and cultures. The GC Index is a radical rethink of how organisations identify and nurture key talent and how people at all levels in the organisation make their best impact.

I came across the GC Index quite a few years ago when I was working at the BBC. I was organising a conference trying to get more women into technology and engineering jobs and I met one of the GCologists that works in John’s team. The conference participants took the Index assessment so they could understand better where they make an impact. It was a valuable insights tool for the attendees and it’s great to be catching up with John to understand a bit more about what the tool does and how it’s been developed.

We started with me asking John to tell me a bit about his background and what led to the creation of the GC Index?

‘I’ll go back a bit to a significant point in my life that strongly influenced me. At the age of 17, I was asked to leave school. I was thrown out essentially. I could laugh about it now, but it was painful at the time. I was a 17-year-old feeling like I’d been written off in terms of academic achievement. I’m sure that shaped me along the way, not so much in the need to prove myself in some sense but I’ve had an abiding interest in how people use their talents and finding ways in the world to use their talents. How they can apply their energies to make the most of what they can bring to the world. So in more recent years, I’ve spent a good deal of time as a psychologist, profiling people and working with people as a coach to develop them. That’s been primarily around leadership, but nonetheless, that development theme has been there. I’m interested in people’s talents, I’m interested in people recognising and fulfilling their potential if they choose to.’

As I said in my introduction, John co-created the GC Index, so I asked him to tell me more about what it is and what it does?

‘I always go back to basics when I’m talking about the GC Index because at the heart of it we all want to make an impact upon our world. No one gets up in the morning and goes to work to feel impotent or incompetent. If you can picture a toddler learning to walk, they get up, they wobble, they fall back over, but they get up again. It’s that human drive to have an impact upon our world that’s in us all. When we can’t make that impact, we get frustrated. We all recognise that feeling. If we continue to get frustrated, we can lose energy, drift into despondency or depression. All of us have that human drive to have an impact upon our world and to bring energy to that. That’s at the heart of the GC Index. Essentially, it will give an individual,  a team, or an organisation a profile of where they like to have energy for impact.

Broadly speaking, that impact falls under three areas:

  • the energy for ideas and possibilities
  • the energy for getting stuff done
  • the energy for working with and through people.’

I wanted to dive a bit deeper into the specifics that make up those three areas. For instance, when I took the tool, I came out as a very strong polisher and I know John is a polisher and strategist. But before we unpicked all that, I wondered if John could go over what the other areas are.

‘Let’s start with those folk who get their energy and seek to make an impact through ideas. One of my proclivities is as a strategist, and I like to make sense of things, I like to make sense of the world, so choosing psychology as a profession helps make sense of the world to take a view of what’s going to happen in future. So my ideas will be based upon understanding a pattern that leads to a prediction about the future. That could describe an epidemiologist right now, looking at COVID-19 data, looking for patterns, modelling what’s going to happen in the future.

Game Changers like ideas, they like possibilities. These are creative folk, who will bring original ideas to their world and the world of work. With Game Changers, we’re not just talking about art and literature and music, very evident creativity. Now creativity happens in all walks of life, and that’s what Game Changers bring, that need for creative expression, that leads to original thinking.

In terms of the second characteristic of getting stuff done, we describe that as the Implementer. That person who has the to-do list, their energy comes from making a tangible impact upon their world by getting stuff done, ticking things off the list, pointing to things, “I did that, I made that, I built that.” And so on.

For Play Makers, energy comes from building consensus in groups. They like people to be included  and involved. They like people to be happy. They don’t necessarily care about what the group is doing, why they’re doing it. What matters is that sense of shared endeavour, being on a journey with other people, and the sophisticated Play Makers do that consensus-building very well.

Polishers get stuff done, but their drive is slightly different from Implementers. You’d have to argue that Implementers are probably the engine room within most organisations because they do get stuff done. Implementers are comfortable with good enough in ways that Polishers aren’t.

Polishers struggle with good enough because somewhere within them there’s a striving for excellence, if not perfection. Polishers are all folk who bring energy to learning, review, continuous improvement, the pursuit of excellence, getting things right. It’s like the old saying and I’m convinced my father was a Polisher because I grew up with him saying, “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”

That’s part of the Polisher drive, they want to do things to the highest possible standard. We often see them in those roles that allow them to channel that energy. An interesting one, for example, is sports coaches. You want a Polisher as a sports coach, don’t you? Because the job is always about, “How can we get better? How can we get faster? How can we jump further?” Hopefully, that gives a bit of a picture of the Polisher. If you live with one, you know all about it.’

As a Polisher myself, I was keen to find out from John which people Polishers work well with?

I see them working very well with Game Changers who have ideas. They can latch on to the idea and say, “Wow, that’s a great idea. I can turn that into a reality for you. I can make that happen. Not only make it happen, but I can also make it as good as it can be.” So that’s what they bring to Game Changes. Working with Strategists, they’ll take the idea similarly and say, “Is that true? Is there evidence for that? Do we know that to be true?” So it’s polishing, but with a different focus.

I think this question also raises the obvious point, that the GC index works well in a team context.

When people ask, “What can I expect of you?” Personality doesn’t always lend itself to that question, “What can I expect of you in terms of what you’re going to do?” And then if I know what to expect, how do I compliment you?  So if I’m an Implementer, how do I compliment my Strategist colleagues?’

Thinking about what John has said, I feel like I’ve made the biggest impact in organisations when I’ve worked in a team where we’ve had a mix of those attributes. So with me being a Polisher, I was very much the person that kind of just rolled up my sleeves, got things done and got things implemented. But for me, to feel like I was making an impact, I had to work quite closely with, I suppose a Game Changer or a Strategist. Somebody who had that bigger picture, because I used to get so involved in the details and get stuck in the weeds. And I needed a Strategist or a Game Changer who could kind of operate at a higher level with senior leaders, get everybody on the same page, bring that kind of consensus together. So it’s a team effort.

John was keen to stress that this isn’t talking about strengths and limitations and weaknesses here. ‘We’re talking about the energy that someone has within a context. Your Polisher energy in the right role in the right context is brilliant. In another setting, it might drive you crackers, if you’re working with a lot of people who don’t necessarily work to your standards, let’s put it that way. So context is key, it’s making that match between someone’s energies and an environment where they can thrive.’

From a diversity and inclusion perspective, it’s enabling people to operate in those roles that energise them. So when we look at creating inclusive workplaces, you consider how much people feel:

  • respected and empowered
  • like they belong to an organisation or team
  • they can progress in the organisation.

Thinking about how the GC Index fits into all that, if you understand where you get your energy from, the workplace can make sure that you’re plugged into the right areas and therefore you can thrive.

I was wondering if John could tell me how the GC Index compares to some of the other tools out there? Tools like Myers Briggs and Business Chemistry.  There are quite a few out there, but how does GC Index compare to those other tools?

‘Typically, people not only want to make an impact in their world, but they also want to be valued for that impact. But how do you value someone’s impact when you’re not quite sure what it is? The GC Index helps to bring that into focus, this is the impact that this person can make in a role and a team.

In terms of comparison, to put it simply to start with, it’s a difference between being and doing. Personality instruments are designed to tell us what we like as people. If used in an organisational setting, people will usually take a personality profile, Myers Briggs or Insights or whatever and then try and understand what that means in terms of action. GC Index starts at the other end, it asks, “Okay, what’s the impact that you’re trying to make? As a Polisher, as an Implementer, as a Strategist, how can you be the best you can be when it comes to making that impact?” so it has the impact focus, the doing part rather than the being.’

I was initially interested in John’s tool because a lot of the people that I speak to working in HR to implement diversity and inclusion want to make an impact. That’s where some of the biggest frustration lies as they feel like they are not making an impact. I think the GC Index could go a long way to helping people understand what it takes to be able to make that impact.

John agreed. ‘That’s what we hope for and it’s what our experience has been. Our journey started in 2012 and with a big focus on the research end of the instrument. In 2017 we took the GC Index to the world and gained some momentum over the last five years. Thankfully we are experiencing that it’s giving people insights into how they can make the impact that they want to, by channelling energy into doing things that they want to.’

If you are interested in the GC Index, the first thing to do is the assessment, to find out which of the five areas that you operate in. I asked John, ‘How do you implement the findings once you receive the reports?’.

‘We have a very simple equation in our world: someone’s impact is a product of their proclivity plus their skill set. Let me make that very concrete. We might be working with a 23-year-old who’s a Game Changer, the most creative mind imaginable. They’re not necessarily going to make an impact until they can develop a skill set that’s about presenting their ideas, engaging others with their ideas, selling the benefits and so on.

Tuned in managers will recognise that potential in people to make an impact and at the same time, understand what’s the skill set that this person needs to make that impact in a role, in a team setting. Just to give another very concrete example, we were working with a senior leadership team. It had a few Strategists in the team, who were very comfortable and capable when it comes to having that big picture conversation about a business.

There was a woman in the team who was a strong Implementer and got very frustrated with her colleagues constantly talking about big picture stuff and didn’t know how to contribute to that debate. Through the GC index, she and her colleagues recognised that her contribution was to say, “Come on, we’ve had this debate, we’ve been around this loop. This is all too abstract. What are we doing next Wednesday?”

That simple realisation of where she brings impact allowed her to deliver that for her colleagues to recognise it, expect it and value it.’

I liked to think about the four areas of inclusion of respect, belonging, progression and empowerment. I think using the GC Index could also help those because if you understand your colleague’s proclivities and strengths, it helps develop that respect towards where they get their energy. You can then empower people if you know that they are the Implementers, you can set them up for success by understanding where they’re coming from. That will help them progress and if people feel like they’re playing to their strengths and their proclivities, then they’re more likely to have that sense of belonging as well. So I can see a direct correlation between the GC Index  process and those four areas. I asked John for his views on the ways GC Index helps organisations with their diversity and inclusion objectives?

‘Say you’ve got a team of five people, and they all think the same. Four of them are redundant, so the whole point of bringing teams together with what I would call cognitive diversity is to bring different styles of thinking to what a business is about, how to achieve its objectives and so on. As soon as you create diversity around thinking styles, you have the potential to develop businesses differently.

GC Index will give you insights into how people think differently about their world. So Implementers will think differently about their world from Polishers and they will bring that, and if they are allowed to bring that strength, it makes the quality of debate and decision-making in teams that much richer.

It also encourages tolerance with that. I’ve got some business colleagues who are strong Polishers and they’re not easy to live with because they have high standards, high expectations. Would I change them? Do I want them to go through some coaching programme not to be like that? No, because I understand what they bring and I value what they bring, and I can live with some of the other characteristics that could make life a little bit difficult.

I think it’s part and parcel of respect and belonging, valuing, and empowering people, rather than pointing and saying, “We want you to change, we want you to be more of this or more of that.” That’s not what it’s about. GC Index reinforces diversity because it’s allowing people to be themselves.

Diversity doesn’t work if people feel they’re going to behave like everyone else. You just end up with people mimicking each other. That’s a recipe for stifling any diversity that you might bring into any team.’

As I was speaking to John on the Inclusive Growth Show, I rounded off by asking what does inclusive growth mean to him?

‘We have the ambition to reach 10% of the world’s population with the GC Index across a range of settings, education, sport and corporate world. It’s all driven by my desire that people don’t have that sort of experience that I did at 17 of feeling excluded and written off because people understand where they can have an impact, they understand where they need to be to have that impact, and they can share their needs and expectations with others.’

To learn more about the GC Index and what it can do for your teams head over to

their website where there’s a wealth of information. To get in touch with the team, click on the contact us link at the top of the website with any questions. Or to watch Toby and John discussing the GC Index The Polisher role in more depth take a look at this short video.

The GC Index and diversity

Teams excel when they are made up of the right mix of individuals. Each needs to feel comfortable in their role and able to thrive.

The GC Index will identify whether there are sufficient Game Changers present in order to transform, Strategists to create a road map, Implementers to take care of completion of tasks, Polishers to refine the product/service and Play Makers to understand the value of each individual in order to hit set goals.

The offshoot is a working environment that garners respect, recognising each person for who they are and understanding that playing to their differences maximises potential.

Read more about how the GC Index can help you with diversity and inclusion in your workplace

The GC Index: an Organisational Game Changer - Mildon