Creativity, Inc.

I’d suggest that reading Creativity, Inc. is mandatory for anyone who’s managing anyone in videogames. Again, just to make sure this is clear, I’m in no way equating myself with Ed Catmull. But Catmull’s approach, ultimately, is *very* similar to what almost all of my major priorities at Self Aware were. He had more time, and has WAY more experience, but the approaches were similar.

Most of what I learned, I learned from working under terrible managers, even extraordinarily recently. People who had to “message” the truth. People who claimed to want creativity and initiative, but really just wanted everything to be “right” and someone to blame when it wasn’t. People who didn’t give a shit about the people on the team, but did things like hang “Open 7 Days” signs above the engineering pit (yeah, that’s awfully specific). People who had brilliant, creative, hard-working and dedicated people who only wanted the best for the team that they were working on, but then couldn’t let their ego actually *listen* to them, give them any freedom, or do anything other than 100% what they wanted to do.

And as I write all that, almost every sentence in there (save one) is applicable to *multiple* people I worked under. So if you think, “Ah, I know THAT GUY,” THAT GUY is multiple guys, because this kind of shitty management is so prevalent in the industry that it’s the rule, not the exception.

But it can be done better. You can have autonomy. You can work towards mastery. You don’t have to just have a job, you can have a *purpose* (via Daniel Pink). You don’t have to be stuck with someone telling you how to do everything you’re supposed to do, you can be told *why* you’re supposed to do something and then actually have the room to exercise your expertise. You can be tactical AND strategic, because your team is made up of extraordinary people that you’ve grown to trust – because you didn’t work insane hours, because you had the time and space to bond as *people* and not just as co-workers, and because everyone, up and down the chain, had to trust in your judgment for the process to work.

There is a LOT in Creativity, Inc. that I feel like I can learn from in a new venture when given the space to try it out. There’s a lot I *didn’t* learn about how to deal with a larger-but-still-small team. How to deal with the culture as it starts to unravel, and how to deal with new people who’ve only worked at a successful company, and who didn’t go through the process of wondering exactly when you were going to have to pack it in and find different jobs.

But mostly, it’s affirmation that what I believed would work *can* work – it wasn’t just a fluke that Self Aware was what it was. It *has* happened in other places, and even larger places – the kinds of places where bullshit is “inevitable”. So, I’m inspired to push forward, to try to do this *again*, because it is not just possible, it is the *only thing worth aspiring to*.

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