Friday, May 2, 2014

Creative Time

Fangamer is a different company now than it was a few years ago. I've been trying to understand the difference between now and then ever since I noticed a bit of stagnation in our offerings. Perhaps it's all the Kickstarter fulfillment we've been involved in, filling up whole months with managing and shipping other people's packages. Or perhaps it's the months we spend preparing for conventions, or the time we spend developing and shipping out merchandise for our partners rather than our own stuff. I suspect it's a bit of everything.

So, a while back I had an idea to combat some of the less fulfilling parts of the business of fulfillment. I called it Creative Time.

The idea took root over a year ago, after I watched a video, sort of TED Talk in nature, in which John Cleese described his creative process. In short, he separated the creative process into two parts: play and work.

When you're working and accomplishing tasks, exhausting your body or your brain, it's difficult to be creative. Your mind is occupied within a structure, which hinders it from making the wild connections that mark creativity.

These sort of connections happen, instead, when the mind is in "play" mode. When the mind is given the chance to wander, it occupies itself by flitting from one idea to another, which results in odd connections sometimes; new ideas form from the connections, leading to... well, who knows? That's the point. Creativity breaks the bounds of the accepted and known, otherwise it wouldn't be very creative.

You can try it yourself. If you ever find yourself stuck on a problem, walk away from it. Stop thinking about it so much. Let your mind wander. Go outside and stare at a tree or something. After a while, your mind will likely circle back to the problem and reveal a solution you hadn't considered.

A solution in hand, you must immediately get back to work. As great as creativity may be, it isn't worth much if you don't do something with it. That is the essence of the play/work idea: you come up with ideas in play, then you make something of the idea with work.

So, when I noticed that for most of Fangamer it was mostly work and little play (even though I enjoyed the work), it hit me that perhaps that was having a negative effect on our creative output. We needed time to play.

And so, Creative Time. Initially it was envisioned as having everyone set aside a few hours each week to basically slack off and allow creativity to flow, but people quickly began to use their time for work again instead of playing. Perhaps it was a guilt thing, or maybe as long as you're in the office there's some pressure to look like your working or something. I'm not sure.

So, recently I reconfigured the idea so that employees take an entire day off each week to stay home or whatever to spend some time making or learning something new, or even to just think or play video games. In my case, I wanted to use my time to start working on a video game concept I'd been toying with for a while.

I'm hoping that this Creative Time idea leads to a renaissance in Fangamer's creative output: new products, new art, a closer community, videos, whatever. The success remains to be seen, but I'm hopeful.

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