I'm a game designer, which means that my preferred space is taking systems of interaction apart and reorganising them to be fun. So when I wrote the business plan for my own company, I took the perspective of building the company from the ground up as a system that's going to create emergent properties that I want.

I want a company where creative people can work without feeling that they're being exploited or not recognised. I want a company where it's what you do, not how long it takes you to do it and where you do it from that matters. I want a company where teams work together easily, self-organising to fill roles as needed. And finally, I want a company where everyone else feels that this is their dream job (I already feel that way, after all).

Notice how those goals are all about the people at the company? That's probably my natural tendency towards interaction design coming out, but I really do believe that it's the people behind something that make it great. Especially for smaller and start-up businesses. Obviously I have financial goals for the company too (well on track on those, self-funding our first internally developed game after just 2 years - I'd high five myself, but I'm already on to the next goal) as well as goals for our products, but those both depend heavily on the people producing them.

So. Here's what I've done to make these wants of mine a reality. I fully expect some of them to be provably bad or just plain stupid - that's cool, I'm a gamer, I learn from mistakes like you can't believe - but so far things are going well!

1. We pay people at the beginning of the month. Small change, 1 month's interest on salaries lost. We still pay taxes at the end of the month. Big impact: Nothing beats saying "Welcome to the company, here's your paycheck, now earn it!" to the right kind of person.

2. We don't hire often or fast. In a way, this is cheating: I run a game development community so I get to cherry pick the best talent from it as we need more people. Sure, the community is a time investment of note, but the positives for us are immense.

3. We play games together. You want to know what someone's going to do under pressure? Be on their team when the zombies hit the fan. I don't think I can really explain this to people who don't play games themselves, either you get how a team can spontaneously self-organise in response to situations or not. Of course, as a designer I'm taking the games that do this the best apart and noticing the elements that make this work: Clear goals, metrics with good feedback (great metrics without feedback to the actual people doing the action are nowhere near as important as poor metrics with good feedback) and lots of opportunity to practice.

4. We see people as investing their creativity, not as pay-grades. This means everyone gets the same basic salary (yes, everyone, including the new guy) but basic is bolstered by revenue share off projects (after company/investor cut). Want to see something interesting and emergent? Watch a team decide how to split revenue based on their involvement.

So what parts of your business have you designed to change how people work for and with you?

Tags: business, design, emergent, plan

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There are some really brilliant concepts here for companies to take out...

 

The sense of entitlement of iGens means that companies have to work harder to make them feel welcome -which is what the 1st day salary does... brilliant idea...

 

And the revenue sharing is a great idea for young creatives to prove their worth... I really like your company structure...

 

Good going for designing a Economy 2.0 company...

Well, people work harder when they're enjoying what they're doing. The best way to stimulate that enjoyment is make it obvious how people's work is making a difference to the company and the overall business space the company exists in - this goes hand-in-hand with revenue share systems.

 

It's been working so far - we're not dead - but it's hasn't all been plain sailing. We've had people who we thought would gel with this type of work environment have very adverse reactions to our payment system, for example. Sometimes collaborative earning shares are so outside people's expectations of an employer that they're scared away.

 

In general that's probably a good thing for a startup that has to be nimble and creative all the time, but it might not be the best way to attract talent for the historically risk-averse positions that open up in companies as they get older.

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