I had the great pleasure of attending the IGDA Leadership Forum in San Francisco a few weeks back. It was great. There was a lot of interesting and informative presentations about leadership in the game industry. Especially interesting to me were the presentations of Scott Crabtree, Marc Merrill and Laura Fryer.
Managing Your Team with Brain Science
Scott Crabtree is the only presenter ever that got me to put away my laptop AND iPhone for his entire presentation. He even scented his handouts with a nice orange smell so we’d remember that smell is important to learning. Unfortunately for me, I was asked before the presentation to smell the handout and as he apologized for the odd request, he explained that he was weird. So now I will associate that orange smell with “Scott Crabtree is weird” forever.
But that pre-presentation apology was just the beginning of what would be an hour of apologizing that his brain science ideas were basically not “manly” enough. While he never stated that exact phrase, anything that was “warm and fuzzy” in his presentation was prefaced as such. And yet, he had the scientific proof to back up the idea of wafting the smell of fresh baked cookies through the office when investors toured it to get more favorable results.
Creating a Culture of Awesome
Marc Merrill, President of Riot Games, spoke about his culture of awesome at Riot. It did indeed sound awesome, but he apologized several times for the idealism in his culture during his presentation. Awesome needs no apologies, my friend.
Bold, Smart Management
Laura Fryer, on the other hand, had no apologies for her straightforward, yet idealistic approach to management. She spoke of really personal struggles. Still, she made the case for leadership as a truly noble cause and she didn’t apologize for any of her values.
Leadership means nothing without the people. A few days ago I was having a conversation about the Netflix Culture Deck with a mentor of mine. He also apologized for appreciating the idealism embodied in some of the values. He, whom I admire precisely because he cares so much about the people who work for him.
My frustrated response to his apology was, “It isn’t idealistic at all. It’s Human.”
Valuing things like social interaction, good judgement, honesty, commitment and even the smell of delicious baked goods are what makes us people. What is truly crazy is that by making the aforementioned values “ideals” imply a strange conception that people are interchangeable automatons and are stripped of all humanity in the work place. An organization is made of people, like soylent green.
So leaders, stop apologizing, embrace your humanity and lead as a human! It isn’t idealism.