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.
Dr John Mervyn-Smith

S?: Welcome to The Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon. Future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.

Toby Mildon: Hello there. Thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Show. I am Toby Mildon, and today I’m joined by Dr John Mervyn-Smith. I’m really excited to be sitting down and chatting with him today. So, John is one of the Co-Creators and Chief Psychologist of the GC Index, also known as the Game-Changing Index. So, the GC Index is an organizational metric system that empowers organizations to drive performance and achieve innovation by creating game-changing teams and cultures. The GC Index is a radical rethink of how organizations identify and nurture key talent, identifying how people at all levels in the organization make their best impact. And I came across the GC Index quite a few years ago now when I was working at the BBC. I was organizing 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. And for the participants, we enabled them to take the Index so that they could better understand where they make an impact. And it was a really valuable insights tool for the attendees. So, it’s really great to be catching up with John, actually, to understand a bit more about what the tool does and how it’s been developed. So John, welcome. It’s great to see you.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Yeah, lovely to see you again after all these years. Good to be with you.

Toby Mildon: So that was my intro. Could you let us know a bit more about your background and what led you to creating the GC Index?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Yes, I can. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll go back a bit to a significant point in my life, I think, that’s strongly influenced me. At the age of 17, I was asked to leave school. I was thrown out essentially, Toby, and…

Toby Mildon: Yes.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: And I could laugh about it now, but it was painful at the time. And some of your listeners may have had that experience of actually being excluded. I was a 17-year-old feeling like I’d been written off, really, in terms of academic achievement. And 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, 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, working with people as a coach to develop them. Primarily around leadership, but nonetheless that development theme has been there. I’m interested in people’s talents, I’m interested in people recognizing, fulfilling their potential if they choose to.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. So you co-created the GC Index, could you let us know about what it is and what it does?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Yeah, yeah, I can. Your intro, I must say, sounded rather grand and quite complex. I get that, but I wanna go back to basics because I always go back to basics when I’m talking about the GC Index because at the heart of it… Well, listen, we all wanna make an impact upon our world. No one gets up in the morning and goes to work to feel impotent or incompetent. We all like to make an impact on our world. 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 recognize that feeling. If we continue to get frustrated, we can lose energy, we can drift into despondency, we can drift into depression. All of us have that human drive to have an impact upon our world and to bring energy to that. And that’s at the heart of the GC Index. Essentially, it will give an individual, or a team, or an organization a profile of where they like to have energy for impact.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Broadly speaking, that impact falls under three areas: The energy for ideas and possibilities, the energy for getting stuff done, getting tasks done, and the energy for working with and through people. I can give a bit more detail on that, but I’ll be guided by you at this point.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, I think it’ll be good to go a bit deeper into the specifics that make up those three areas. So, for instance, when I took the tool, I came out as a very strong polisher. And there are four other areas or characteristics. So I think it’d be good to go through what those other four are and then we can spend a bit of time maybe doing a bit of a deep dive on polishers, because I’m a strong polisher and you’re a polisher and strategist. So, if you could go over what the other areas are?

Toby Mildon: Okay. Well, let’s start with those folk who get their energy and seek to make an impact through ideas. You’re right, 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 as well, for me. I like to make sense of the world in order to take a view of what’s gonna happen in future. So my ideas will be based upon understanding a pattern that leads to a prediction about the future, it could be an epidemiologist right now Toby looking at COVID-19 data, looking at patterns, describing what’s gonna happen in the future.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Game Changers like ideas, they like possibilities, but these are all creative folk, who will bring original ideas to their world, to the world of work. And we realize with Game Changers, we’re not just talking about art and literature and music and so on, that sort of creativity is very evident. But 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 getting stuff done, some of you listening will recognize what we describe as the Implementer, that person who has the to-do list, their energy comes from making a tangible impact upon their world, getting stuff done, ticking things off the list, pointing to things, “I did that, I made that, I built that.” And so on.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: We’ll talk about Polishers in a moment because they get stuff done, as you all know, but their drive is slightly different. And then we have our Play Makers whose energy comes from building consensus in groups. They like people to be included, they like people to be 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 endeavor, being on a journey with other people, and the really sophisticated ones do that consensus-building very well.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. So how does the GC Index compare to some of the other tools out there? I mean, our listener has probably heard of things like Maya’s Bricks, Business Chemistry and there’s quite a few out there, but how does GC Index compared to those other tools?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: I suppose to put very simply to start with it, it’s a difference between being and doing. So, personality instruments are designed to tell us what we like as people, if used in an organizational setting, people will usually take a personality profile, Maya’s Bricks or Insights or whatever and then try and understand what that means in terms of action. GC Index starts at the other end, it says, “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’s doing impact focus rather than being.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. I think that’s why I was interested in your tool because a lot of the people that I speak to working in HR and implementing diversity and inclusion, they really want to make an impact, and I think that’s where some of the biggest frustration comes for them, they feel like they are not making an impact when it comes to diversity and inclusion, so I think the GC Index could go a long way to helping people understand what it takes to be able to make that impact.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Yes, that’s what we would hope for, that’s where our experience has been. Our journey started in 2012 and with a big focus on the research end of the instrument. 2017 we took the GC Index to the world and gained some momentum in the last five years, and thankfully we are experiencing exactly that, it’s giving people real insights into how they can make the impact that they want to, channel that energy into doing things that they want to rather than feeling the frustration of being squatted.

Toby Mildon: Could we spend a bit of time talking about one of the five areas which you cover? So, the Polisher, the reason why I want to go into Polisher is because that’s the key area that I am strong in, you’re a Polisher and a Strategist. Could you explain in a bit more detail about what a Polisher is and how they make their impact?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: So we talked about Implementers a moment ago, Implementers get stuff done, you’d have to argue they’re probably the engine room with most organizations ’cause they do get stuff done. And Implementers are comfortable with good enough in ways that Polishers aren’t. I’m sort of smiling too, because I remember an early conversation about you, but Polishers struggle with good enough, ’cause somewhere within them there’s a striving for excellence, if not perfection. Polishers are all folk who bring energy to learning, review, continuous improvement, pursuit of excellence, getting things right. It’s the old, I’m convinced my father was a Polisher ’cause I grew up with him saying, “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” You know those childhood messages, but that’s part of the Polisher drive, they wanna do things to the highest possible standard. And we often see them in those roles that allows them to channel that energy. An interesting one, for example, will be sports coaches, you sort of 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?” Whatever it might be. So hopefully, that gives the listeners a bit of a picture of these Polisher… If you live with one, you know all about it.

Toby Mildon: And who the Polishers work really well with?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Oh, what a good question. Well, I see them working very well with Game Changers who have ideas. And 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, I can make it as good as it can possibly be.” So that’s what they bring to Game Changes. 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.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: If you like, hopefully, that gives you a bit of a flavor of… But I think you’re also raising the obvious point, Toby, is that GC index works well in a team context.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: When people say, “What can I expect of you?” Personality doesn’t always lend itself to that question, “What can I actually expect of you in terms of what you’re gonna do?”

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: And, if I know what to expect, how do I compliment you?

Toby Mildon: Yeah, yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: If I’m an Implementer, how do I compliment my Strategist Colleagues?

Toby Mildon: I feel like I’ve made the biggest impact in organizations, 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, 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. Yeah, 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. Definitely.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: And I think listening to you, Toby, I think it’s important for our listeners to understand that we’re not talking about strengths and limitations and weaknesses here, we’re talking about energy that someone has within a context. Your Polisher energy in the right role in the right context is brilliant, that’s what that context needs. 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.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: So context is key, it’s making that match between, here’s someone’s energies, let’s put them in a world where they can thrive.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, and from a diversity and inclusion perspective, it’s really enabling people to operate in those roles that energizes them, when we look at creating inclusive workplaces, where you look at, whether people feel respected or not, whether people feel like they belong to an organization, team or not, whether those people are empowered or not and whether they feel like they can progress or not in the organization. So I think if we look at how the GC Index fits into that, if you understand where you get your energy from, we can just make sure that you’re plugged in to the right areas and therefore you can thrive.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Yes. I mean, as we said earlier, people like to make an impact in their world. But typically, people 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 in a team.

Toby Mildon: So if somebody is interested in the GC Index, I remember like one of the first things that you do is basically do your assessment, to find out which of the five areas that you operate in. After you’ve done that assessment and you’ve got the report back and you understand a bit more about yourself, how do you then do the practical implementation?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: We have a very simple equation in our world and that’s that 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, most creative mind imaginable. They’re not necessarily gonna 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. Now, tuned in managers will recognize 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 team, a senior leadership team, with a number of strategists in it, who are very comfortable and capable when it comes to having that big picture conversation about a business. And there was a woman in the team who was a strong Implementer, got very frustrated with her colleagues constantly talking about big picture stuff and didn’t know how to make a contribution to that debate, but just got very frustrated. Through the GC index, she recognized, her colleagues recognized that actually her contribution was to say, “Come on, we’ve had this debate, we’ve been round this loop. This is all too abstract. What are we doing next Wednesday?”

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: So just a simple realization of where she brings impact allowed her to deliver that for her colleagues to recognize it, expect it and value it.

Toby Mildon: Absolutely. And, I mean, my specialism is diversity and inclusion. And how can the GC Index help organizations with their diversity and inclusion objectives?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: There’s a lot of talk is… Well, 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, to how to achieve its objectives and so on. So as soon as you create diversity around thinking styles, you have that potential to develop businesses in a different way.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: 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, it makes the quality of debate in teams, the quality of decision-making that much richer.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, and also, if we look back at those four areas of inclusion that I mentioned, so respect, belonging, progression and empowerment, I think using the GC Index could also help those as well, because if you understand your colleague’s proclivities and strengths, it helps develop that respect towards what this… 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 gonna have that sense of belonging as well. So I can see a direct correlation between your process and those four areas.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: And consistent with that, I’d like to think, is it encourages tolerance with that. As you know Toby, I mean, I’ve got some business colleagues who are strong Polishers like you, and they’re not easy to live with ’cause they have high standards, high expectations. Would I change them? Do I want them to go through some coaching program 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 [chuckle] that could make life a little bit difficult. Do you know what I mean? But I think it’s totally part and parcel of Respect and belonging, and 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.

Toby Mildon: And presumably, having that tolerance and being able to accommodate them is leading to a high-performing team that you run?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Well, and then also reinforces as you say, the whole diversity bit, because it’s allowing people to be themselves.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: Diversity doesn’t work if people feel they’re gonna behave like everyone else, you just end up with this modulus massive people mimicking each other and that’s a recipe for stifling any diversity that you might bring.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, so John, this is the Inclusive Growth Show, what does inclusive growth mean to you?

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

Toby Mildon: That’s brilliant. And if the person listening to us right now wants to learn more about the GC Index, what it can do for their team, where should they go and get that information?

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: If you Google GC Index, those stuff will come up. It will take you straight to our website but there will be all sorts of interesting videos and materials that will come with that search too, including around diversity and inclusion, Toby. So lots of stuff out there. If you get stuck, navigate your way to… On our website to me. Toby, is that okay? And people could just ping me an email and I’d be more than happy to pick up any queries that you may have.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, at the top of your website is the contact us link, so anybody can just click on that link and get directly in touch with you and the team to ask any questions that they may have. And as a bonus, you and I recorded a YouTube video, so I would suggest that people go on YouTube and try and find us where we were talking about being a Polisher.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: I thought that was alright actually, that video.

Toby Mildon: That was good.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith: I think we had some fun with that. [chuckle]

Toby Mildon: Yeah, it was good fun. It was good fun to do that video with you, so yeah, as a bonus treat [chuckle] there is a video of us on YouTube. Well, John, thank you ever so much for joining me today, it’s been really interesting to catch up with you and learn more about the GC Index, and hopefully it’s a tool that the person listening today would be able to benefit from if they are managing a team and they’re interested in creating a high-performing team and making an impact that really does matter. So thank you John. And thank you for tuning in today and listening to John and I have a chat about the GC Index. Please do reach out to John and his team if you’ve got any further questions about the tool and how it can help you run high-performing teams that make an impact. Until next time, I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the Inclusive Growth Show which will be coming up shortly. Thanks very much.

S?: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at

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