The three things we need at work

Dan Pink’s book Drive is great. I do believe there are three key factors to creating a productive and profitable workplace.

• Autonomy: Independence or freedom to create

• Mastery: The urge to get better

• Contribution: Your work impacts the project.

Autonomy can be difficult to achieve in a production environment due to the fact that an Artist is usually working within several layers of constraints.

Note: assume my usage of Artist covers any creative person, including developers/programmers.

Technical constraints: how big”, how many”, the file formats, and all other tech specs”.

Aesthetic constraints placed by the Art Director. The artist is working to create something that meets someone Else’s vision.

Time Constraints: There is a finite amount of time allotted for tasks, usually not enough.

The best way for the team to allow Autonomy to develop is to consistently and clearly define the constraints and then support the Artist by deflecting any distractions. Then the artist is free to determine the best way to execute the task, which builds the autonomy we all seek. If the manager can repeat this time and time again, a culture of autonomy is created.

I’m a firm believer that Mastery comes from focused work. I put a lot of faith into the 10,000 hour rule. Simply stated that rule means that the amount of hours of focused work someone dedicates to something is the only variable on how well they do on said task. Not background, or being a natural”, or anything else; just practice practice practice”.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers really struck a chord with me. I think his notes on the 10,000 rule (which I’ve paraphrased above) are so true. It’s a great read.

The only thing missing from his book is the fact that if you spend all that time doing the wrong thing, or doing whatever thing wrong, well you won’t be very good. That’s where accountability and the team comes in.

As a team you can help fast track and specifically guide Artists on their path to 10,000 hours by providing feedback and guidance (free) and training if budget exists. Times are tough, sometimes training budget doesn’t exist, however, people are the greatest assets to a company. So get creative.

Can you do lunch and learns, where one artist discusses his/her process? Can you make a game jam happen at the studio? I’d love to hear the free training initiatives you’ve cooked up.

Measuring each persons contribution to the project can be difficult. Some tasks are unnoticed but need to get done. Rotate Artists through those as best you can and jump into the work too. Show off the work the Artists do. Print it and put it on the walls. Have an Artist talk about a piece from outside of work they’ve recently created. At minimum encourage the artists to critique each other.

Enabling all three of the these creates a workplace that people will not want to leave, and will enable higher profits in the long term. Watch this, it talks about these issues in an informative and engaging way.

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us


Posted on 10/13/2011

Where the Light Gathers is a blog by Chad Moore.

I write about doing less with technology, parenthood, working with creative and technical people, improv comedy, writing fiction, and woodworking.

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The three things we need at work