Steering the Rocket<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
Disclaimer<br />Most images property of NASA.<br />All rights held by their respective owners.<br />Space Marine screensho...
preamble<br />Why are we here?<br />
Intended audience<br />Not a design talk!<br />This talk is for current or aspiring leaders of ‘creative’ developers<br />...
Who the hell is this guy?<br />Game director at Relic Entertainment<br />On Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine<br />3rd person...
..and before that…<br />Narrative director at Ubi Montreal<br />Creative director at Radar Group<br />Producer & AP at Rel...
Ok, but does he know what he’s talking about?<br />Have worked with creative people in a variety of environments, within a...
Don’t worry, folks. I must know what I’m talking about -- I have a microphone. <br />
Common themes<br />In all those varied roles and work, I’ve seen common themes emerge:<br />	Everyone needs to feel owners...
Why ‘steering the rocket’?<br />Because when you are guiding a team of highly creative people working in a productive, col...
“Gents…this is where we’re headed. Buckle up.”<br />
“Is that supposed to happen?”<br />
…but wait a second here…<br />…it’s kinda hard to steer a rocket you don’t have.<br />
“Gentlemen…we might have a problem.”<br />
Steering Building a Rocket<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
Building a Rocket, then Steering it somewhere cool<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
Making sure that damn rocket doesn’t blow up in your face!<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
WTF Rockets? <br />Run away!<br />
Woah, woah, woah…let’s take a step back for a second!!<br />
part 1: Build the rocket<br />
The question<br />Q: How do you turn a group of creative individuals into an ICBM of unified creative potential?<br />A: Y...
Some truths<br /><ul><li>To make games, we need our teams to be productive. </li></ul>People are most productive when they...
Paradox?<br />The creative act is rarely collaborative.<br />Creativity is a function of individualistic expression.<br />...
(Bad): “Having to work with these other guys is making me anxious…”<br />
(Good): “With combined our creativity, and got the job done.”<br />
Equilibrium<br />All this creative anxiety/energy can be incredibly destructive, if it is not properly channeled.<br />But...
framework<br />
Roles & relationships are key<br />You start with recognizing some key roles & relationships<br />and formalizing them if ...
Note the creative leader, at home in his element<br />
Role Breakdown<br />Creative leaders<br />Establish constraints<br />Remain high-level<br />Think holistically<br />Their ...
Why does this matter?<br />Creators need the freedom to push against boundaries<br />Creative leaders provide the constrai...
Foster a creative culture<br />Origin: bef. 1000;  ME; OE fōstor  nourishment, fōstrian  to nourish; c. ON fōstr;  <br />T...
Atmospheric conditions<br />What’s the weather like out there?<br />
Q: How do you create an atmosphere within which incredible creativity can emerge and thrive?<br />A: You first evaluate yo...
Organization<br />Getting into details on this is an entire presentation of its own…but ask yourself these Qs:<br />Do you...
(BAD) “I hope someone knows what I’m supposed to be doing…”<br />
(GOOD) “I am confident and without anxiety.”<br />
Communication<br />Org chart /= communication flow<br />(Thanks, Pixar!)<br />Encourage maximum interactions<br />No meeti...
Address your team often. Get them excited.<br />
Proximity<br />Co-locate<br />Remove obstructions<br />Team structure and locations should be dynamic<br />…but don’t go c...
PART 2: Steering the rocket<br />How to lead a creative team<br />
Go for launch?<br />Are you ready to fly?<br />
Necessary conditions<br />Target<br />Does your team know what you’re trying to accomplish?<br />Tension<br />Will your te...
Surface tension<br />Creativity benefits from positive tension:<br />Constraints<br />Passionate debate<br />Varying POVs<...
Walls & Waypoints<br />People need boundaries to push against<br />Problem-solving depends on knowing the problem that you...
Roles & authorship<br />Communication and idea-sharing needs to be freeform and with minimal obstruction<br />But, roles n...
Dialogue & debate<br />Discussion is critical to fostering an environment where successful creativity thrives<br />When pe...
Varying POVs<br />Multi-disciplinary teams are one of the best catalysts for creativity<br />You combine people with diffe...
“Hell yeah…we figured it out!”<br />
Telemetry<br />Cast a clear vision, articulate it with finesse, and communicate it tirelessly<br />Use all the means at yo...
Comms<br />Establish clear roles and lines of authorship/ownership<br />Every major feature or content area needs an owner...
Let your creative evolve<br />Provide the opportunity for ideas to evolve based on new knowledge, or better inputs!<br />B...
(GOOD) “That’s an even better idea. I can adapt to that.”<br />
Be honest & agile<br />Acknowledge that creativity is a living process constantly unfolding…<br />it is not a static prop ...
“Listen up, people. This chart says it’s time for us  to be creative!”<br />
The hardest truth<br />Your vision will be tested every day.<br />Your team will push against you every day.<br />You will...
Don’t worry, it’s no big deal if you fail. <br />
Get it right, and there is nothing you can’t accomplish. <br />
Q&A<br />“But, but…we have so many funny questions!”<br />
Contact<br />Raphael van Lierop<br />Game director, Relic Entertainment<br />Email:<br />rvanlierop@relic.com / raphael.va...
Thank you!<br />
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Steering the Rocket -- Leading Creative Teams (GDExpo 2010)

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This is the PPT deck for a talk presented by Raphael van Lierop, Game Director at Relic Entertainment. The talk was presented at the Vancouver Film School's annual Game Design Expo 2010. The talk was about the challenges of leading large teams of creative people, finding the balance between directing them effectively and ensuring maximum empowerment and self-expression.

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Steering the Rocket -- Leading Creative Teams (GDExpo 2010)

  1. 1. Steering the Rocket<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
  2. 2. Disclaimer<br />Most images property of NASA.<br />All rights held by their respective owners.<br />Space Marine screenshot is copyright 2010 Relic Entertainment Inc./THQ Canada Inc./Games Workshop Inc.<br />All my text, words, and thoughts are my intellectual property. You are welcome to use extracts from this talk, but please ask me first.<br />
  3. 3. preamble<br />Why are we here?<br />
  4. 4. Intended audience<br />Not a design talk!<br />This talk is for current or aspiring leaders of ‘creative’ developers<br />Deck will be published, so don’t bother with notes<br />Not meant to be prescriptive – these are just one person’s ideas! <br />
  5. 5. Who the hell is this guy?<br />Game director at Relic Entertainment<br />On Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine<br />3rd person action-shooter set in one of the most beloved science-fiction universes ever created<br />Triple-A, multiplatform, blockbuster, 120-person team, etc.<br />
  6. 6.
  7. 7. ..and before that…<br />Narrative director at Ubi Montreal<br />Creative director at Radar Group<br />Producer & AP at Relic Entertainment<br />Freelance game writer/designer<br />Copywriter<br />Technical Writer<br />
  8. 8. Ok, but does he know what he’s talking about?<br />Have worked with creative people in a variety of environments, within a variety of relationship dynamics:<br />Supporting/Directing<br />Highly creative/Not creative at all<br />Internal/External<br />On-site/Off-site/Virtual office<br />Big teams/Small teams<br />
  9. 9. Don’t worry, folks. I must know what I’m talking about -- I have a microphone. <br />
  10. 10. Common themes<br />In all those varied roles and work, I’ve seen common themes emerge:<br /> Everyone needs to feel ownership for their work<br /> Everyone wants to contribute something meaningful<br /> Every creative person needs to express themselves<br />But, creativity is not – by nature – a collaborative act. This is the conundrum.<br />
  11. 11. Why ‘steering the rocket’?<br />Because when you are guiding a team of highly creative people working in a productive, collaborative environment…<br />…you have a thing with a tremendous amount of force and momentum, that be harnessed for good…<br />…or explode disastrously.<br />As creative leaders, our responsibility is to steer the rocket to its intended destination. <br />
  12. 12. “Gents…this is where we’re headed. Buckle up.”<br />
  13. 13. “Is that supposed to happen?”<br />
  14. 14. …but wait a second here…<br />…it’s kinda hard to steer a rocket you don’t have.<br />
  15. 15. “Gentlemen…we might have a problem.”<br />
  16. 16. Steering Building a Rocket<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
  17. 17. Building a Rocket, then Steering it somewhere cool<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
  18. 18. Making sure that damn rocket doesn’t blow up in your face!<br />Harnessing the Power of <br />Creative Teams<br />
  19. 19. WTF Rockets? <br />Run away!<br />
  20. 20. Woah, woah, woah…let’s take a step back for a second!!<br />
  21. 21. part 1: Build the rocket<br />
  22. 22. The question<br />Q: How do you turn a group of creative individuals into an ICBM of unified creative potential?<br />A: You embrace some truths.<br />
  23. 23. Some truths<br /><ul><li>To make games, we need our teams to be productive. </li></ul>People are most productive when they are motivated and empowered.<br /><ul><li>People feel most empowered/motivated when they feel self-determining, and able to express themselves.</li></li></ul><li>What is creativity?<br />Solving problems <br />Sometimes in unconventional ways<br />An exploratory process, towards discovery<br />Sometimes gradual<br />Sometimes event-based (Eureka!)<br />Applying one’s unique mixture of knowledge and experience to find optimal, usable solutions<br />Combining ideas or things into new ideas or things<br />
  24. 24. Paradox?<br />The creative act is rarely collaborative.<br />Creativity is a function of individualistic expression.<br />We need to work in teams.<br />Q: How do we reconcile the need for individualistic self-determinism with the need for a team to work as a cohesive unit? <br />
  25. 25. (Bad): “Having to work with these other guys is making me anxious…”<br />
  26. 26. (Good): “With combined our creativity, and got the job done.”<br />
  27. 27. Equilibrium<br />All this creative anxiety/energy can be incredibly destructive, if it is not properly channeled.<br />But, there are ways to strike a balance between these seemingly conflicting wants and needs.<br />The first step is to establish a framework for positive creativity to flourish within.<br />
  28. 28. framework<br />
  29. 29. Roles & relationships are key<br />You start with recognizing some key roles & relationships<br />and formalizing them if necessary.<br />Two key roles in this relationship: creators, and creative leaders<br />Creative leaders establish the parameters<br />Creators exercise their creative process within those constraints<br />
  30. 30. Note the creative leader, at home in his element<br />
  31. 31. Role Breakdown<br />Creative leaders<br />Establish constraints<br />Remain high-level<br />Think holistically<br />Their creativity is expressed through the assembly of pieces<br />Are few (or one!) <br />Creators<br />Work within constraints<br />Dig into details<br />Thinkatomistically<br />Their creativity is expressed in their interpretation of the piece<br />Are many…<br />
  32. 32. Why does this matter?<br />Creators need the freedom to push against boundaries<br />Creative leaders provide the constraints so good exploration can happen<br />Creators want to work along a ‘what’ axis, not a ‘how’ axis<br />Creative leaders provide ‘Command Intent’<br />Creators need to be able to focus single-mindedly on their goals<br />Creative leaders keep their eyes on the horizon line<br />Exist in a state of symbiosis<br />
  33. 33. Foster a creative culture<br />Origin: bef. 1000;  ME; OE fōstor  nourishment, fōstrian  to nourish; c. ON fōstr;  <br />This is the paramount responsibility of the creative leader, and their primary reason for existence.<br />A damaged or broken creative culture is one of the most destructive problems to have, and one of the most difficult to fix.<br />
  34. 34. Atmospheric conditions<br />What’s the weather like out there?<br />
  35. 35. Q: How do you create an atmosphere within which incredible creativity can emerge and thrive?<br />A: You first evaluate your creative environment:<br />Organization<br />Communication<br />Proximity<br />
  36. 36. Organization<br />Getting into details on this is an entire presentation of its own…but ask yourself these Qs:<br />Do you have a team structure that empowers individual creators?<br />Do you have the right people in leadership roles?<br />Does everyone on your team understand who provides them direction?<br />…everyone else provides guidance.<br />
  37. 37. (BAD) “I hope someone knows what I’m supposed to be doing…”<br />
  38. 38. (GOOD) “I am confident and without anxiety.”<br />
  39. 39. Communication<br />Org chart /= communication flow<br />(Thanks, Pixar!)<br />Encourage maximum interactions<br />No meetings without documented decisions!<br />Get things onto walls<br />Regular broadcasts to team<br />Email blasts<br />Team stand-ups<br />Milestone celebrations<br />
  40. 40. Address your team often. Get them excited.<br />
  41. 41. Proximity<br />Co-locate<br />Remove obstructions<br />Team structure and locations should be dynamic<br />…but don’t go crazy.<br />
  42. 42. PART 2: Steering the rocket<br />How to lead a creative team<br />
  43. 43. Go for launch?<br />Are you ready to fly?<br />
  44. 44. Necessary conditions<br />Target<br />Does your team know what you’re trying to accomplish?<br />Tension<br />Will your team be challenged by the goal?<br />Energy source<br />Do you have the people, culture, layout to build positive momentum?<br />
  45. 45. Surface tension<br />Creativity benefits from positive tension:<br />Constraints<br />Passionate debate<br />Varying POVs<br />…and can be greatly damaged by negative tension:<br />Anxiety over roles and authorship<br />Divergent POVs<br />Destructive discussion<br />
  46. 46. Walls & Waypoints<br />People need boundaries to push against<br />Problem-solving depends on knowing the problem that you are trying to solve…<br />…as well as what you have to work with in finding the solution.<br />They also need navigational markers<br />How to know you are on track…<br />…or lost in the wilds. <br />
  47. 47. Roles & authorship<br />Communication and idea-sharing needs to be freeform and with minimal obstruction<br />But, roles need to be clearly defined<br />Everyone wants to feel like they own something, after all<br />And lines of authorship need to be clearly understood<br />Who provides guidance<br />Who provides direction<br />With all this made clear, creative collaboration can happen more openly, honestly, and in a ‘safe’ environment.<br />
  48. 48. Dialogue & debate<br />Discussion is critical to fostering an environment where successful creativity thrives<br />When people understand the constraints, roles, and lines of authorship, dialogue becomes a powerful force for idea generation and validation.<br />
  49. 49. Varying POVs<br />Multi-disciplinary teams are one of the best catalysts for creativity<br />You combine people with different skillsets and varied POVs, and point them at a problem<br />If you have the right people and you point them at a well-defined problem, this can be an incredibly potent engine for driving creative work and solutions.<br />(Note: This can take many forms; not a scrum endorsement, per se)<br />
  50. 50. “Hell yeah…we figured it out!”<br />
  51. 51. Telemetry<br />Cast a clear vision, articulate it with finesse, and communicate it tirelessly<br />Use all the means at your disposal:<br />1:1s<br />Infographics<br />Team talks & presentations<br />Bibles<br />You know you’ve won when people start converting you with your own evangelism!!<br />
  52. 52. Comms<br />Establish clear roles and lines of authorship/ownership<br />Every major feature or content area needs an owner<br />Everyone needs to know who that owner is<br />Encourage lively debate that is open and honest (but respectful!) and free from censorship<br />Identify the constraints and communicate them effectively and consistently<br />Use your leads and supervisors to spread your message<br />
  53. 53. Let your creative evolve<br />Provide the opportunity for ideas to evolve based on new knowledge, or better inputs!<br />Be willing to replace ideas with better ideas<br />Not just different, but better<br />Your ideas are not necessarily better<br />…in fact, an equivalent idea from someone else is always better.<br />
  54. 54. (GOOD) “That’s an even better idea. I can adapt to that.”<br />
  55. 55. Be honest & agile<br />Acknowledge that creativity is a living process constantly unfolding…<br />it is not a static prop to be rolled out once a milestone<br />or a bullet on a marketing checklist<br />Truth: You cannot plan for everything<br />…you’ll need to be able to adapt.<br />
  56. 56. “Listen up, people. This chart says it’s time for us to be creative!”<br />
  57. 57. The hardest truth<br />Your vision will be tested every day.<br />Your team will push against you every day.<br />You will need to prove yourself every day.<br />You will not always have the answer…<br />…but the team still needs to move forward.<br />…that’s why it’s like ‘steering a rocket’, and you can never ever ever ever stop, not for a second.<br />
  58. 58. Don’t worry, it’s no big deal if you fail. <br />
  59. 59. Get it right, and there is nothing you can’t accomplish. <br />
  60. 60. Q&A<br />“But, but…we have so many funny questions!”<br />
  61. 61. Contact<br />Raphael van Lierop<br />Game director, Relic Entertainment<br />Email:<br />rvanlierop@relic.com / raphael.van.lierop@gmail.com<br />Blog: <br />particleghost.blogspot.com<br />Social: <br />twitter.com/raphlife<br />Professional:<br />linkedin.com/in/rvanlierop<br />
  62. 62. Thank you!<br />

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