Cube Prison

Seth Godin has a very back-of-the-napkin feel to his blog. But every once in a while he casually mentions things in passing that should be in every Tech Management 101 book. In his latest post, he talks about the “new rules” for face-to-face time.

I’ve worked in three companies that had lots of people and lots of cubes, and I spent the entire day walking around. I figured that was my job. The days where I sat down and did what looked like work were my least effective days. It’s hard for me to see why you’d bother having someone come all the way to an office just to sit in a cube and type.

I do this a lot and I know other designers here do it a lot – we come in, grab a Coke or coffee or cereal, sit down and type away, usually being distracted by the Internet or a new build until we are no longer really productive. Since my last two project were canceled, I’ve spent almost a year in a continual state of pre-production and very rarely did I have a support team beyond an art director. So for a year, I’ve come in, typed a bunch, did some decks, sent out emails/docs and spent the rest of the day sitting around trawling the web or updating my blog (guilty).

The real value of being in the office is when projects ramp up. The designers need to be there to answer questions, give/receive feedback promptly and respond to issues. But right now (and for the past year), I’ve been in blue sky time. There’s no reason I couldn’t do what I do from my laptop at home or on the beach. I’m isolated right now while here behind an impenetrable cube defense, it isn’t a big step for me to be three miles away at home.

This would be a great perquisite for game companies to adopt for their artists, designers and possibly engineers (given the infrastructure a company uses) that would cost said companies very little money.

Seth is right. I’ve felt so damn unproductive this past year even though I’ve actually produced some of my best work (that no one will ever see, damnit) because 90% of that time was spent spinning in my chair thinking or browsing blogs and photo sites looking for inspiration. The time I felt most productive in my entire career was when I was onsite with Santa Cruz Games when they were trying to finish Superman Returns DS. Yet, I did very little actual designing for the game! Yet I felt productive because I was interacting with the team and earning my way.

I doubt I could ever convince a studio as large as mine to adopt that policy, but it is a damn fine idea.

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