Posted by: Tj'ièn | January 10, 2010

From playtime to no time

A while back I posted the Fun in fun out article stating that having fun while creating products leads to more fun products. Although I believe this principle works, one of the ideas that emerged from this principle did not. I’m talking about Playtime, an initiative within Playlogic Game Factory to spawn new ideas, to motivate people and led them be creative.

The basic idea was to provide time, during working hours, for people to spend on their own projects. Participants of Playtime had four hours a week to create what they always wanted to created, or so was the plan. I ‘borrowed’ the idea from Google and Royal Philips Electronics, who were successful with this policy.

Unfortunately it didn’t go to plan, although some projects still have a lot of potential. So what did go wrong? Here’s a small analyses.

No limits

Personally, I like limits and when I have total freedom to create what I want, I start limiting myself or I go nuts. For some people, the limitless nature of Playtime may have been too overwhelming.

“What should I create?”

”How will I proceed?”

“How long should I keep going?”

These may have been questions that participants faced and without any of these questions answered it is entirely imaginable that this may put people off.

No focus

Another side effect of having no limits is the fact that there’s no predetermined focus, no single goal to work towards. Without a goal there is no way to measure progress, which is a cornerstone to having fun. Without direction and without limits, participants of Playtime were easily lost.

No separation

At Playlogic, everybody is located in the same studio floor. Playtime projects happened in the same space. Participants of Playtime and non-participants were mixed. This had a bad affect on both.

Playtime participants could feel a bit guilty (that they are not ‘working’) while non-participants where distracted. This was exaggerated by the fact that Playlogic was understaffed at the time, putting more pressure on both participants and non-participants.

No competition

Competition is one way of providing motivation. Your (team’s) plan, solution or product needs to be better then the others. You want to portray your ingenuity and your skills. One of the reasons why PlayDays did work is because of this competition element.

No guidance

Although each Playtime project had its own coach, there wasn’t enough (consistent) guidance. Not all coaches had the skills or the time to lead that particular project. Together without any process, schedules and reviews this didn’t help the already pretty chaotic nature of Playtime.

No time

Pressure on regular projects became naturally higher when the advanced in development but rose even further by shortage of personnel. This made everyone more aware of the little amount of time they had, making it tough to choose for Playtime.

No value

All in all, the reasons mentioned above made Playtime of less value to its participant, which is totally understandable and actually shows that Playlogic personnel is highly motivated and involved in their everyday projects, which can only be applauded.

Of course for Playtime this wasn’t so good. What strikes me is that the freedom doesn’t really motivate or stimulate any creativity to an extend that I hoped.

But still valuable

Although the Playtime project didn’t turn out what I hope it would be, it did provide us with valuable information on how to proceed with Fun in Fun out projects in the future.

Lessons learned:

  • Set up some boundaries
  • Provide focus and guidance
  • Create a clear division between regular work time and Playtime
  • Provide enough time and have enough personnel to reduce pressure
  • Add an element of competition

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