Saturday, June 5, 2010

The downside of making your own game

So I finished chapter two of Trust Agents. The chapter is about "making your own game." Brogan and Smith give a lot of examples how to do this, and they expertly use the analogy of "hacking" a game to improve your experience. They also reference, often, Gary Vaynerchuk, who created The Wine Library. I really liked this chapter for about 80% of the time I was reading it. I am all about trying to put a new spin on things. If I were an architect, I'd probably always want to put additions on to a perfectly fine house. Motivational stuff. I dig it.

But then...I got to the last few pages, which talk about "hacking" at work. And I have to raise my hand (because I can't raise my eyebrow) and say, to quote a cowboy, "Woah."

Is this realistic?

A few times at this point in the book, there have been references to the fact that both Smith and Brogan have been able to be game-changers within their various jobs. Brogan convinced his bosses that he could work outside the office and be more productive. Neither man has submitted a CV to get a job for a few years. I'm sure that all of this is true, but in the world that I live in, being a game changer is not so easy. And I think that it's important to emphasize, though it is touched upon in the book, that trying to create your own way of doing things can actually make other peoples' jobs really hard or can cause mistakes that companies previously did not have to deal with.

In my experience...

I have been on both sides of the game Sometimes the endings are happy, but a lot of the time, a lot of bad feelings surface in the wake of the wild and crazy ship. Here are some examples.

I was training a person at a job once and going through a step-by-step process of how to accomplish a specific task. This methodology was something I had put together, which had been a bit of a game change in and of itself, but every step had a reason. The game-changer I was training kept asking if they could skip this step, or couldn't they do this and then this. I didn't want to squash the person's desire to improve a process, nor did I want to squash the person's desire to try to increase productivity, efficiency, or anything else. However, it was kind of like a toddler telling me that there was a much better way to walk now. It might be true, but till you're walking upright, I'm going to be cynical.

So it is for many scenarios within a company structure, no matter how big or small the company may be, no matter what kind of company it may be. Accounting is complicated. Production work is complicated. Media buying is complicated. Manufacturing is complicated. And it all needs to be perfect. All the time. Until you can prove that you understand all of the possible ramifications of your game-changing move, I think it's dangerous to think that rushing off to your own groundbreaking ceremony is a good idea.

I have been in the game-changer's increasingly restrictive shoes on numerous occasions as well. I have been involved in groups where I brought up ideas and was told that I was trying to fix things that weren't broken (a common retort to the game-changing attitude that Brogan & Smith don't mention). I have seen game-changers succeed but instead of earning respect, they receive snubs and stabs in the back. I have seen game-changers succeed, then leave, creating a situation where no one else can pick up where they left off. These are all risks that should be considered carefully before engaging in "job hacking."

To be fair...

Brogan and Smith do reiterate that you need to learn the rules first and that you need to be real with people. They do emphasize that anarchy, though the subject of many great songs, may not always be the best approach.

Given that, the ending of this chapter lost me a bit. As is the case with any reading experience, different things are going to resonate with different people for different reasons. However, with a fair amount of varied experiences under my belt, I would just put in a little footnote that before you try to hack your job, make sure you consider why the rules you're hacking were put in place. If you can't answer why the rules were there, you're not ready to break them.

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