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The Inner Game of Work – Book Review – Jin-Hyuk Ahn

by on November 9, 2008

The Inner Game of Work. W. Timothy Gallwey. Random House Trade, 2001. 256 pp. $14.95 (ISBN-10: 0375758178)

In contemporary society, the business environment continues to change at a radical rate. Under the fast changing business environment, most enterprises put endless effort into making their business process more competitive and reliable. Hence, the capacity for change management and logical thinking is a primary key for success. In the meantime, some predominant factors such as pre-existing culture, centralized business processes, hierarchic communication channels, etc., make it hard for a company to maintain its business resilience. These are general challenges that any modern company faces in its business operations.

With these challenges, many enterprises are engaged in tough competition, struggling to remain on top. Ideally, they want to gain a victory in the business competition to be the final winner. However, being a final winner in business competition is not enough to provide the fundamental reason for an enterprise’s justification for existence and purpose of work. An ideal enterprise should be the place not only to pursue financial achievement from an economic aspect, but also to offer the meaning of work to its employees from an ethical aspect. Then, the enterprise can reach the most optimal condition, making great productivity with respect for the employee’s life and dignity.
I also wondered how my own company could make our business environment productive on the basis of humanity and respect. Fortunately, I discovered that the Global Entrepreneur Conference 2008 in Seoul was offering a leadership program based on W. Timothy Gallwey’s model, and a core value of this leadership program was maximizing leadership skills for coaching staff through Gallwey’s model, ‘Inner Game.’
As I learned more about the Inner Game Model, I found that Gallwey had given tennis coaching lessons to a ski instructor. That seemed to be an unlikely situation to me:
‘How can a ski instructor who does not have any expertise in tennis coach tennis players?’
The Inner Game provides the key to solve this question. The Inner Game is based on the assumption, ‘Everyone has every single capability when they are born.’ In this sense, the coach who bases his operation on the Inner Game Model does not have to provide the technical support or teach standard know-how to the tennis players. On the other hand, the coach is a professional who can eliminate the emotional barrier of players. His function is just like a psychologist.
When I looked over Gallway’s publication history, he first put this theory into practice by teaching tennis, and then experimented with skiing, musical performance, golf etc. In this way, Gallwey has improved the Inner Game theory for thirty years. During this period of time, he produced several Inner Game series, such as ‘The Inner Game of Tennis,’ ‘Inner Skiing,’ ‘The Inner Game of Music,’ ‘The Inner Game of Golf,’ etc. His series have sold over a million copies as best selling books. Twenty one years after he wrote ‘The Inner Game of Golf,’ he published ‘The Inner Game of Work.’ In this book, he demonstrated that this theory was applicable to every field, even to the real business world.
So, I wanted to hear more opinions about the applicability of this theory from real business workers. Here are a few of their impressions of Gallwey’s latest book:
“A manager should work through careful observation without control. The purpose of work is to find pleasure by working” Sharon, Business Manager, Seattle
“This would not be suitable at the organizational level. If this could be implemented at the individual level, I bet belief and trust are significant” Tiffany, Natural Medicine Doctor, Seattle
“I do not want to do some tasks sometimes, but I have to do them because of a timeline or schedule. This makes me feel sick. So, I can say that having a pursuit of happiness through work is most important” Azad, Business Analyst, San Francisco
“It was boring to read the first chapter, but the rest was fun enough. I like the comment, ‘If you can not move forward, just do observe.’ The author pointed out the core value is observation. I think it came from the oriental way of thinking and approaching” Thomas, Service Agent, Seattle
From these impressions, it seems that this theory can be effective in the business world. From what I understand of this theory, the most significant factor in actualizing this theory is overcoming prejudice as well as internal restraint to raise the maximum potentiality of theory users.
The ‘Inner Game of Work’ is the Gallwey’s sixth book. As stated above in the quotes, everyone working in the business enterprise can get some benefit from reading this book and applying this theory in actual practice. Lower level employees can learn how to work in happiness and be crowned with great success. For managers and executives, they can learn leadership in a way of coaching, so that they help employees both to work in happiness and to resolve the problems which prevent them achieving a collaborative organizational culture.
Furthermore, those who can get full benefit from this book are not limited to the people who belong to a certain business enterprise. No matter what their specialties are (i.e. sports, acting, music, healthcare service, education, sales etc.), this theory can be the milestone to help facilitate their maximum capacity and develop the potentiality of any user.
Apparently, when Gallwey wrote this book, he already seemed to consider its pervasive effect. Unlike his last book, ‘The Inner Game of Golf’, he emphasized the know-how of Inner Game theory for the real business operation. In this way, this book is the final stage of Inner Game. Considering the fact that his age is over seventy, this might be his final work.

This book consists of five chapters as described below;
PART-1 is an introduction to the Inner Game theory. It describes ‘how Inner Game was created and adapted to the business world shifting from the sport world.’
PART-2 is explaining about the way to eliminate emotional barriers by concentrating on the core variables.
PART-3 is the main part of this book; it introduces several methods to enjoy working with an optimal result. In this case, Gallwey does not believe that work is closely related to its productivity. Instead, he defines work as a balanced- combination of three facts, ‘productivity, pleasure, and learning’, showing the actual implementation of this know-how in the business world. In addition, he adds one more concept, ‘mobility’, to the three facts for the Inner Game of Work.
PART-4 is all about tools and methods for practicing the Inner Game theory such as the STOP model and CEO seminars;
STOP Model: Step back, Think, Organize your thoughts, and then Proceed
This model is all about the thinking process. The most difficult thing in changing your thinking process is not learning new skills, but giving up pre-existing skills that you have had for a long time. Also, making your mind-set more stable with deep introspection rather than just trying to manage the level of stress.
CEO Seminars: Evaluate the most important thing the first time. Then, you can find out which is the point of weakness in yourself. If you know yourself very well, the productivity level will go much higher.
PART-5 is about the desire and aspiration to accelerate the energy to work. Gallwey’s point of view of desire is more insightful than our general perspectives. Generally people tend not to be fully honest in expressing what they want to have. So, he leads you to where the original desire comes from by the following questions;
‘Can desire be respected by a human nature?’ and ‘What is the original desire of a human being?’
In addition, the three key concepts to understanding Inner Game theory are Awareness, Trust, and Choice.
1) Awareness – Do not evaluate the fact observed, but recognize the fact itself
The initial starting point toward changing comes by observing what happens without judgment. So, more accurate observation without any judgment or prejudice can bring more opportunities to increase your potentiality with a maximum level of power because it steps over all the barriers from distraction by judgment and prejudice in your ego.
2) Trust – Do trust your real ego (Ego is Self-1 / Real ego is Self-2) [Self-1 is the teller and Self-2 is the listener from the bottom of our heart. Gallwey says Self-1 is continuously engaged in our decision-making from inside while Self-2 is representing the true nature in ourselves. These two components can work most effectively if Self-1 recognizes the goal and then makes Self-2 follow the task.]
Unexpected outcomes can be achieved by the potentiality of your real ego if you recognize as well as accept the present phenomenon naturally. So, believe that you can do anything. Both coaching staff and members should believe this without any doubt.
3) Choice – Set up your own purpose
If the members under the control of staff members want to realize that they can choose their own purpose, and feel that they can control the growth process on their own, they should be dedicated to their work. In this case, the real ego is very effective after realizing that it can control any situation.

There seems little doubt that the author, Gallwey, has a passion for work from the bottom of his heart. As I understood him, he wanted to make a better place via the Inner Game, so that more people can grow up as well as develop themselves. Thus, he spent most of his time researching and testing the principles of the Inner Game. His research results indicated that people could pursue free-will while working in the office, then learn and practice something they wanted at the same time. This creates the most desirable place to work that we all wish to have.
From what I understand, unconscious habit prevents us from seeing far and thinking big. If we start a journey to find our free-will, we can definitely realize the barrier inside which holds our mind-set from changing. This journey toward free-will can start by converting the original definition of ‘Work’. To better assess the definition of ‘Work’, moreover, increasing the capacity of oneself is indispensable.
The Inner Game leads us to a ‘Work free’ environment. This is not only because we can improve our capacity when working, but also because we can enjoy our life when not working. How much are you sure of being on the successful track or not? It all depends on how much you believe in yourself. We all want to be in happiness whatever we do and wherever we go. If we can not find purpose through working, we never imagine having a balanced-life.
Overall, this book is well written because it analyzed ongoing changes for the working paradigm in a detailed way; why lots of people fail to make changes and how they make better physical and emotional conditions in workplace. Gallwey contemplated a new approach for mind-change through deep understanding of the inner side of human-beings. I was impressed by reading this book because it gave me an opportunity to look back upon my when I had to work without purpose. Now, the Inner Game theory makes me understand how to work and what to work on. Otherwise, the final evaluation of this book can be different partly depending on each person’s different expectation and approach.

One Comment
  1. Charles permalink

    Well written on your thoughts to the academic criteria.
    Enjoy reading your post, Jin 🙂

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