Putting the Kraken to bed...

Krakensoft will be ramping down operations for the foreseeable future (for a really wonderful reason - more to come soon). 

We may do some projects here and there and we may become more active in the future, but right now, the core team is focusing on another endeavor and I am personally putting a pause on the Humanist Manifesto to focus on the same project. 

I look forward to posting more information soon, but in the interim, I wanted to very humbly and sincerely thank our partners, contributors and co-conspirators for your support over the years. We had a great time doing the scrappy indie/consulting thing and I will fondly look back on the work we did.

Take care,

Coray Seifert

When Hiring, Look for a Reason to Say No

The Humanist Methodology is a holistic leadership philosophy that aims to maximize the output of innovation teams by combining proven best practices with a dedication to work-life balance.

For more information on this project, please refer to The Humanist Manifesto or the links at the bottom of this post.


I've spilled plenty of ink on why hiring is important. Now, I'd like to share with you some high-level best practices and details-level processes that I've found very helpful in hiring teams of highly performant individuals.

In this section I'll go over a few guiding principles. In the next section, I'll take a look at a step-by-step hiring process informed by these guidelines. 

A quick note: These sections are neither brief nor stylized. They are a detailed discussion of a hiring process I've refined over the past 10 years. A process I think produces great results, but requires a good deal of time, discipline, and trust in the process itself. 

The Golden Rule of Hiring

Look for a reason to say no.

Why? Because you can always keep looking. Once you commit to bringing an individual into your family of creative collaborators, they are inevitably going to make a significant impact - for better or worse - on your product, your team and your organization's ability to execute on its mission.

Repeated for emphasis: Look for a reason to say no.

If you're a good person, which most of us are, you probably have a tendency to look for the best in people; their redeeming qualities, the things that you admire in them. However, it's important to compartmentalize these positive attributes and insulate them from aspects of an individual's personality that might not be a fit for your organization. This way you can objectively consider a candidate. 

In my experience, bad hires and bad fits often come from hiring someone who is exceptional in one or more areas (frequently in their given area of expertise), but deficient in others (personality, culture fit, etc.). Often the hire is justified despite those deficiencies by identifying them as areas of improvement.; other times management regards the hire as a savant - and works to accommodate or minimize the individual's deficient traits.

Unfortunately, when hiring for creative work, most often these deficient aspects will never change; it's simply how someone is built. People can change to a certain degree - acquiring new skills, honing their personality, refining their creative sensibilities - but people will rarely, if ever, change on a fundamental level. Your job is to find out what type of person a candidate is and assess whether or not they're a good fit for your organization.

Bottom line: Take the time to look for the perfect person. You'll find them.

Why So Harsh?

Some of you might be thinking "Humanist methodology? More like Huge Jerk Methodology!" 

I'll admit that my opinions on hiring are pretty severe. Further, my implementation of them is fairly rigid. It's a combination that can be frustrating for everyone involved, but I believe strongly in it.

Why?

Think of it as interviewing a spouse for your all-grown-up-but-still-your-baby child. Think about how picky you would be during that process. That's how selective you should be when adding new team members to your work family.

Your team - the people whose lives and livelihoods you are directly responsible for - are relying on you to build a team that can execute on a high level for a long time. That requires a very delicate mixing of skills, personalities and expertise. One bad hire can turn dozens of families upside down. 

Being a creative leader is an extremely serious responsibility and hiring is your most important obligation. 

How to Say No

As we'll detail in the next section, the key to this process is a Hiring Committee. That Committee must unanimously approve candidates at key points throughout the process. 

After you finish a round of assessment, whether interviews or portfolio reviews, get the team together digitally or in-person. First, have each member of the committee provide a simple Yes or No assessment. That's all. No qualifiers. There will be time for discussion later, but the only allowed words in this first moment of conversation are "Yes" or "No." Period.

The reason I recommend doing this is to avoid unintentional bias from reviewers who may change vital votes based on how others in the group vote or explanation given in conversation. That gut reaction is a very valuable piece of information to capture. 

Once you've completed the Yes/No round, those who voted Yes should explain what made them think the candidate is truly exceptional. Likewise, those who voted No should break down what they would need to see in order to move that individual to the next round of the interview process. From here, the committee should discuss various perspectives, consider alternatives, and present arguments in order to get to unanimously approval for a candidate or to confidently say no.

Fist to Five

Tobi Saulnier, CEO of First Playable Productions, brought a great decision-making process to the International Game Developers Board of Directors during our tenure. It was called Fist-to-Five. Originally developed by the Free Child Project, it helps decision making teams come to consensus on topics that may have a wide divergence of opinions.

For our purposes it follows this cadence:

  1. The hiring manager or facilitator poses the decision to the group (e.g. "We will extend an offer of employment to Gabe Newell for the position of Senior Rocket Surgeon, starting April 1st."
  2. The committee is given time to think about that statement. When everyone has signaled that they are ready, the group takes a simultaneous vote, with each person holding up a fist, or 1-5 fingers, according to how they feel about the statement:
    • Fist: A hard "No" vote. I cannot approve this candidate for this role without changing the role or uncovering new information.
    • 1 Finger: A "No" vote. I need to discuss this candidate more, but I have suggestions I would like to propose.
    • 2 Fingers: A "No" vote. I am more comfortable with this candidate but I have minor issues.
    • 3 Fingers: A soft "Yes" vote. I am not in total agreement but I will approve this candidate to move forward in the process.
    • 4 Fingers: A "Yes" vote. I think this is a good hire.
    • 5 Fingers: A hard "Yes" vote. This is a slam dunk hire and I am willing to champion this individual.

After each step in the process, your hiring committee should ideally be able to approve the candidate in question with all 5-Finger Votes. At the very least, there must be a unanimous Yes vote from the committee for an individual to move forward in the hiring process.

What Would You Do If You Lost Them?

A great clarifying question to ask yourself of current or prospective collaborators to gauge your true feelings of them - devoid of personal feelings or emotional bias - is this: "What would I do if this individual went to work somewhere else?" 

A slightly different take: "How would I feel if this individual went to work somewhere else?"

If the answer is that you'd be crushed, disappointed or concerned about your ability to fill the position, you probably have a great candidate at hand. If the answer is feelings of relief, indifference, or simple acceptance, consider why you have advanced this candidate to this point - it may be a great personality or social debt carrying them this far, not high-end talent.

This is a commonly-asked question, used by many different types of organizations. During the hiring process, I like to mentally take stock of individual candidates that I feel strongly about by asking that question. Often, I'll realize that the reason I was high on them was simply that I like their personality or they had a story that I fell in love with. 

Mary Lou Kownacki puts it well: "There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story."

Hiring managers can be empathetic people. It's easy to want a candidate to work out. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to bad hires. Asking the above question can help to take objective stock on how you view a candidate's role within your organization.

Hiring Takes Time

The flip side to being ultra-selective about who you hire is that hiring great people takes time. For most positions, you should turn down many applicants on your way to finding the right person. The applicants you turn down can go a long way to help you clarify what exactly you are looking for in a candidate.

In my experience, I usually look at around 100-200 resumes, interview 10-20 people over the phone, and follow up with 1-3 finalists for each position I hire for. This number can be higher (and it frequently is), but it is rarely lower. Finding people who are a perfect fit for your organization is hard. It is time-consuming. And it should be.

There are two ways to mitigate for this. One is to budget lots of lead time for each hire - three to nine months per position is reasonable and can certainly take longer. The other takes more work over time, but pays off in spades:

Maintain Your Bench

The ideal situation in every hiring instance is that you have the perfect person in mind before you identify a need. It's the hole-in-one, walk-off home run, kickoff return touchdown, and ace serve of the hiring world, all rolled into one. However, this is rarely an occurrence that happens by accident.

The best hiring managers I've worked with know what kinds of positions they're going to be hiring for, often as far as 12-18 months in advance. This is critical, as it allows you start building a bench of qualified applicants that you can call upon when headcount opens up. 

It's unfortunate, but finding great people is often happenstance. Chance meetings at networking events, unsolicited resumes, or out-of-the-blue references from colleagues can introduce you to a great candidate, often when you aren't hiring.

Whether you're hiring or not at that moment, it's important to capture their information via a trusted, accessible resource that you use frequently. It's important when this happens to capture their information into a trusted source that you frequently refer to. A Google Doc spreadsheet works fine.

If you're like me, you definitely will not remember their name and/or qualifications 12-18 months later beyond "...that engineer from the IGDA meeting who had a ton of back-end architecture experience...what was their name?"

To develop your best bench, it's important to take a systemic, detail-rich approach to recruiting and networking.

Work Every Angle

Like many hiring managers, I've hired great people from a truly weird and wonderful array of sources. Random encounters on the train, direct messages on Facebook, the Dungeon Master from my bi-weekly D&D campaign, and tons of personal references. 

The key is to constantly and aggressively seek out great candidates using every vector available to you. That doesn't mean spamming everyone you know non-stop, nor does it mean approaching new creative individuals with a cold, calculating approach. It means building real relationships with the types of people you may need to call upon in a hiring capacity. 

This doesn't have to be a facetious relationship-building endeavor. You can absolutely be up-front with people that you want to meet more engineers, more designers, etc., and learn more about what they do. They'll love to make a contact who could bring them gainful employment and most often enjoy talking at length about their craft.

Additionally, forging relationships with future creative collaborators can be a great way to discover who might be a fit for your team up-front and allows new team members to feel like they've been part of the team for years, right from day one.

Seek out Experience and Aptitude in Equal Measure

Every candidate you consider is going to have a different mix of natural aptitude and learned experience. Both are critical.

Without latent talent to harness, no amount of experience will make an individual highly performant. Similarly, experience provides invaluable insight into what works and what doesn't.

Many hiring managers write off junior talent or individuals who don't have experience in a specific area. This is a huge mistake.

While experience is a massive virtue to every candidate, you can still find great people at every experience level. Never overlook a candidate who has elite talent and aptitude just because they don't know the specific technology you're using or have familiarity with the type of product you're working on.

Interfaces can be learned. Languages can be mastered. Product nuance can be understood. Innate talent and aptitude cannot be taught. You either have it or you don't. In the long-run, a more talented, less experienced individual will outpace a more experienced, less talented individual.

All that being said, the safest route to a best hire is an experienced individual with deep familiarity of your product and process. Creative collaborators with years of experience in your craft have seen success and - more importantly - failure in such quantity that it informs future decision making in a way that no amount of talent can. Further, having senior people at the top of your organization allows those individuals to impart that wisdom upon junior resources who don't have the same measure of real-world experience.

While there is a somewhat negative connotation with the word safe, remember that we are talking about constructing the very fabric of your organization. This is not a task you want to roll the dice on.

The key is identifying what the position, the team, and the culture of your organization need. Do they need someone with great experience to guide the team? Do they need an elite talent who can master a bleeding edge technology? 

Just as most highly performance collaborators combine experience with talent, it takes some talent for hiring and enough experience in the hiring process in order to determine which candidates provide the best combination of talent and experience; youthful ambition and battle-tested wisdom. While it can seem like a daunting if not impossible task at first, with time and practice it is a skill that can be honed and refined like any other.

Compensation

If you're planning on staffing your organization with highly performant individuals, you better be able to pay them on the upper end of market value, in addition to a suite of great benefits (we'll talk about these in their own section). The thought process here is that truly exceptional hires will outperform average hires by far more than a 2:1 ratio when it comes to creative work, justifying a higher salary via sheer output.

Netflix does a superb job of enumerating the value proposition of hiring exceptional people and paying them well in their presentation entitled "Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility." The entire presentation is sensational and I recommend reading it end-to-end.

On this topic, these slides are especially pertinent:

Compensating at the top end of the market is so important to Netflix that they made it one of their core tenants. They go to detail how you set the compensation level for an individual:

This compensation process does a nice job of scaling salary to the individual at hand, instead of lumping large groups of individuals with differing skill sets and specific experience that may or may not be at equal compensation levels.

Finally, Netflix details out a few great points (among many) about how to structure compensation. It's simple, elegant and effective, just like a lot of what Netflix does (seriously, go check out the entire presentation):

Never Close the Door on a Candidate

One thing to keep in mind with everything we've talked about is that you are viewing a candidate in a singular temporal instance. You are seeing them as they exist today. Tomorrow, they may be a fundamentally different person. A year from now? Ten years? They may be the slam dunk hire that you think they can be. 

Never, ever close the door on a candidate. Always leave the conversation open. Always keep your door open to future communication. 

A few tactics I've found helpful:

  1. Ask Them to Keep In Touch - and Mean It! - I see a lot of candidates who are great in certain areas but missing key experience or expertise that may be able to be acquired over time. For these candidates, I always ask them to keep in touch, usually with a specific timeframe (e.g. "If you're looking in the next 12-18 months, please reach out to me directly and we can see if there are any roles that would be great for you."). The caveat: you must be genuine and have a conversation with that individual when the time comes, or you will risk your relationship with them and your broader reputation as a hiring manager.
  2. Offer to Connect Them - If you have a role that a person isn't right for but you know of a colleague or nearby company that is hiring for a role they'd be great for, make the connection! You'll build goodwill with the candidate individually and it can help develop a reputation for yourself and your organization. Likewise, by partnering with other organizations in your community or industry, you can establish a pipeline for future talent to come to your organization.
  3. Connect Via Social Media - Following particularly promising candidates on social media allows you keep track of their career progress. While you want to be careful not to be overaggressive with social media interaction, following a candidate on LinkedIn can be a great way to provide an open communication vector in the future. Further, making social media connections with strong candidates can bring you into contact with more strong candidates.

This case more than others in the hiring process requires a gentle touch. Do what you feel works best for the relationship and do be aware of the fact that some candidates might not be open to communication at the end of an unsuccessful interview process. Be sensitive to their perspective and handle this step of the process in the manner you see fit.


In Conclusion: Get Your Game Face On

If there's one thing I hope you take away from this section, it's that you have to be pretty ruthless and uncaring during the hiring process. That doesn't mean that you can't hire wonderful people who you care about deeply. It means that you have to be comfortable saying no to wonderful people who you care about deeply.

It can be a difficult process; both tactically and emotionally. 

During the hiring process, you'll encounter people you want to hire. People who you love talking to. People who are fundamentally good people who really need this job. People who could be great if they just fixed that one thing. The key is to remember that you are not just responsible for the person you are hiring but for the well being of your entire team. 

Always remember to look for a reason to say no. Find the imperfections in candidates and move on to the next until you find that perfect candidate. Everyone - your team, your successful candidates, your unsuccessful candidates - will be better off by this hire going to someone who is the perfect fit.

An early reader asked a great question: "How do you reconcile caring for the individual with the ruthless, cold hard hiring process you've described here?"

The vast majority of The Humanist Methodology is focused on caring for and investing in the individuals on your team. However, it is not your responsibility to care for and invest in every individual out there. The line is drawn at the hiring moment.

After that moment, once an individual joins your team, you are responsible for their long-term well being, career growth, and realized potential. That is when you should focus on being a caring, compassionate, humanist leader.

Before that moment is the time to be cold, ruthless, and uncaring. Your team is depending on it.

Up Next: The Step-by-Step Humanist Hiring Process 


Coray Seifert is a writer and producer at Krakensoft Games. We make awesome indie games and help awesome companies make their games more awesome. It's pretty awesome.


Hiring is the Most Important Thing We Do

The Humanist Methodology is a holistic leadership philosophy that aims to maximize the output of innovation teams by combining proven best practices with a dedication to work-life balance.

For more information on this project, please refer to The Humanist Manifesto or the links at the bottom of this post.

I do a lot of planning and thinking linearly. It's the most straightforward way to start to unpack a problem and it helps you build a foundation that is easy to consider and build upon.

Fortunately, the most important element of The Humanist Methodology just happens to start at the beginning of the creative development process. How you hire, fire, and build your team will define your success as a leader, so you better be good at it...or you won't be a leader for long.

Simply put, hiring is the most important thing we do

If there's one thing you take away from The Humanist Methodology, it's this. All other tasks we do are secondary. There are myriad reasons why, but before we dive into them, let's just repeat and restate for emphasis:

The most important thing we do - the single most important thing we do - is hiring.

This is not an original thought. Many successful companies and thought leaders have figured this out. Let's take a look at a few of my favorites. If you have other suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section!

Valve  

The wonderful Valve Corporation famously detailed their hiring practices in section 5.1 of their appropriately wonderful Handbook for New Employees:

The entire handbook is a great read, but this section is one I come back to again and again. They hit the nail on the head for why hiring is so important, in great detail:

"If we start adding people to the company who aren’t as capable as we are at operating as high-powered, self directed, senior decision makers, then lots of the stuff discussed in this book will stop working."

It may sound slightly self-assured but it makes a ton of sense and is critically applicable to The Humanist Methodology. That being said, even if you only adopt part of this methodology, it remains true. If you do not hire people who fit into your way of doing things, your system will quickly fall apart.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs also nicely enumerated the importance of hiring during interviews with Rama Dev Jager and Rafael Ortiz for In the Company of Giants: Candid Conversations with the Visionaries of the Digital World (a few very good excerpts available in this article in Business Week)  

"The key observation is that, in most things in life, the dynamic range between average quality and the best quality is, at most, two-to-one. For example, if you were in New York and compared the best taxi to an average taxi, you might get there 20 percent faster. In terms of computers, the best PC is perhaps 30 percent better than the average PC. There is not that much difference in magnitude. Rarely you find a difference of two-to-one. Pick anything.
But, in the field that I was interested in -- originally, hardware design -- I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you're well advised to go after the cream of the cream. That's what we've done. You can then build a team that pursues the A+ players. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players. That's what I've tried to do."

This trend very much extends to software development. A world class senior engineer or artist can easily generate 5x the value of a mediocre collaborator, not only in terms of raw output, but in terms of the quality of said output. If you’re working in a business where quality is not a major concern, the return on a best of breed collaborator may be closer to that 2:1 margin. If you’re operating in a high revenue margin business or a market driven by quality, you may see close to 50:1 return. 

Given that a world class collaborator might cost 1.5-3x what an average talent does, the bottom-line finances makes sense too.

Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull is another great resource on the topic. He lays out his thoughts in Creativity, Inc. in a way that’s always stuck with me: 

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”

It’s the truth. This is why so many successful startups focus on building a small team full of world class talent, then iterate and pivot as they find the business model, product, or service that works for them. It’s why great people surround themselves with exceptional individuals and then encourage them to rip their ideas apart. 

There will come a time when you will be challenged by your manager, funding partners, or shareholders to defend why you are spending so many hours, dollars, and brain cycles on hiring instead of your core business. Hopefully, the above examples (and many more out there on the internet) will help. 


To provide you with more ammunition for these types of conversation, here are a few more hard-learned leadership lessons from my own career. I’ve found them very helpful pillars to lean on and I hope they will serve you well too. While this may seem like overkill, I want to illustrate the extent to which hiring is our most important endeavor.

You're Only As Good As Your Team

Being a strong humanist leader is an exercise in calculated helplessness. Your job is to surround yourself with the best of the best and then let them do their jobs. This can be a terrifying proposition for anyone who cares deeply about the work they are doing. 

Why do we do it? Because it works. We’ll dive into the detail on this in future chapters but the bottom line is that if you don’t let your people own the work they’re doing - have agency over their subject matter - you won’t achieve maximum output and they won’t be your people for long.

The flip side is that you better hire well. Knowing that you’re going to turn every implementation, every campaign, every task that you direct over to a qualified individual means that you need to trust implicitly the decision making acumen of those you hire. If you don’t, you either won’t trust them in the heat of battle or you’ll get sub-par results when you do. 

Hire well or your output will suffer. Bottom line.

Hiring the Best Leads to Hiring The Best

Have you ever noticed that when a particularly good engineer, artist or designer goes to a company, they’re often followed by a number of other exceptionally talented individuals? This isn’t a coincidence. Talent follows talent.

When the best of the best are considering their options, a big part of the equation is on-staff talent. If they know and trust the people working in an organization, they are much more likely to join up. 

Similarly, when interviewing high end talent, be aware that it’s a two-way street. Those individuals are assessing you as much as you are assessing them. If you send your best into the interview to spar with them on their specialty (in a friendly and positive manner of course), you’ll earn their respect and impress upon them the reality of working with your exceptional team. 

For this reason, it is extremely important to hire well, especially with your early employees, as they will be doing a lot of the early team building alongside you.

Good People Will Stick Around

Sometimes, extenuating circumstances will lead exceptional individuals to bail quickly on promising opportunities; it happens to the best of us. In my experience though, the best collaborators share one trait: the ability to finish and finish strong.

This trait - this borderline obsession - will often motivate best-in-class talent to stick around longer than your average individual. The same strong-finisher trait that made them great in the first place will lead them to work with you through thick and thin (and there will be both) and help you boost your employee retention, one of the most crucial elements of success for Humanist leaders.

You Will Spend Inordinate Amounts of Time Fixing Bad Hires

It’s human nature. You see a problem, you work on that problem. When you have a highly functional team comprised of exceptional individuals, you’re working with your entire team to move the project or service forward.

When you have an under-performing resource, it’s only natural to spend a great deal of time trying to help that person succeed. This is especially true if you hired that person, believing they are or have the potential to be a world class collaborator. You’ll pour hours upon hours of your time - of your team's time - into those resources.

This is why, if you are ever in doubt as to whether a resource will be a good fit with your organization, always defer to voting "No" on a hire. You can always keep searching for a perfect resource, but a bad resource will suck a great deal of your time...and worse...

Bad Hires Will Ruin Your Team & Your Project

A key pillar of the Humanist Methodology is allowing your subject matter experts to own their areas of expertise. This empowers high performing resources to do their best work and inspires them to invest long-term in the project and team at hand. This can be counter to the traditional Command & Control method made famous by visionaries like Steve Jobs. 

The specific risk with making bad hires in any system - especially this one - is that by giving your collaborators a ton of leeway to make decisions, own their projects, and exert their influence on the project and culture, you’re giving them freedom to make bad decisions. In a Command & Control structure, this can be easily countered by the specific direction of a strong leader. In our type of management structure, bad collaborators can do vastly more damage, further weighting the importance of hiring well.


I hope this section has done a thorough job of impressing upon you the vast importance of hiring; that it is (ad nauseam I know) our most important task.

Now that we've established our priorities, let's start addressing them!

Up Next: How to Hire Well


Coray Seifert is a writer and producer at Krakensoft Games. We make awesome indie games and help awesome companies make their games more awesome. It's pretty awesome.

The Humanist Manifesto

We believe in the following pillars of creative work:

  1. Human beings are the most important asset to any creative endeavor.
  2. Subject matter experts should own their areas of expertise..
  3. Work-life balance is critical to maximizing output.

We believe in this system. We believe that the human element is an innovation team’s most valuable asset, that affording experts agency over their work yields optimal results, that maximum output starts with a humane work week. We have seen this system work and we wish to collaborate with teams that share these principles.

What is the Humanist Methodology?

The Humanist Methodology is a holistic leadership philosophy that aims to maximize the output of innovation teams by combining proven best practices with a dedication to work-life balance.

The Humanist Methodology centralizes and codifies best practices that allow leaders to maximize the output of their teams while preserving the livelihood, work-life balance, and quality of life of the leaders and collaborators at hand. It may sound like a pipe dream, but it is the way I have led for the past decade and the way I will lead for the rest of my career. 

While I personally place a great deal of emphasis on peer-reviewed studies and quantitative data, I derive these recommendations primarily from my own experience and present them as such. I have found them incredibly useful in my capacity as a creative leader and I hope you will too.

Sincerely,

Coray Seifert


Lexicon

To avoid ambiguity across these articles, I want to clearly define a few terms, as used throughout The Humanist Methodology:

Innovation Teams - Any team of creative collaborators doing work that is forging new ground. This may be as deep as new technologies, platforms or experiential paradigms, or as familiar as new content, refreshing classical material, or combining experience to create something new. This designation is specifically non-industry specific and intentionally broad.

Collaborators - Members of an innovation team working together towards a common goal. These may be producers or managers who tie teams together, specialists working largely in a vacuum adjacent to a larger team, or anything in between. The principles of the Humanist Methodology are applicable across the spectrum.

Subject Matter Experts - Individuals who have mastered a specific area of innovation work. An art director, physics engineer, or director of photography are all examples of subject matter experts. These are often senior-level individuals who have worked aggressive to hone their craft for many years, though mid and junior-level collaborators can sometimes become subject matter experts through rapid mastery of a craft. 

Leaders - The visionaries at the head of the organization who provide operational, directional and logistical guidance to collaborators on their innovation teams. While the Humanist Methodology encourages subject matter experts to have agency over their work, the Leaders of a project, product or organization are the ones who must provide the creative constraints to keep a project’s vision cohesive. They provide the boundaries within which subject matter experts can exert creative control.

Best-of-Breed Collaborator or World Class Collaborator - An individual who is either already the best at what they do or who has the potential to be the best; a collaborator who is exceptional across every measured vector (talent, potential, attitude, collaboration skills, etc.). Best-of-Breed collaborators come at every level of experience, from seniors who have mastered their craft and are pushing the limits of the artform to juniors who have incredible raw talent waiting to be channeled toward something great.

Creative Agency - The ability for subject matter experts to self-direct and guide their own work, within the creative constraints laid out by an innovation team’s leaders. This specifically means adopting the direction and vision of the project's Leader, determining the creative constraints established by that direction, and exploring the creative space within. Leaders provide high-level, strategic vision, while Subject Matter Experts handle details-level, tactical decision making.

Work-Life Balance - A strategic and tactical operational goal for maximizing innovation team output by encouraging every employee to average 40 hours a week while working 5 days a week. This does not preclude late nights or flexible hours and is an aspirational goal championed by leaders and supported by all collaborators. 


Coray Seifert is a writer and producer at Krakensoft Games. We make awesome indie games and help awesome companies make their games more awesome. It's pretty awesome.

The Humanist Methodology: Humble Beginnings

Today is September 7th, 2015.

Labor Day.

Inspired by all of those who came before us to create a better world via sound labor practices, I've decided to start codifying the processes and best practices that I use on a daily basis as a software consultant into a centralized resource for anyone trying to gain greater output from their software development team.

Wait But Why?

Why would I offer up the knowledge that I use on a daily basis for gainful employment for free on the internet? Like many things in life, it's not a simple answer, but one I've been thinking about for as long as I've toyed with the idea of creating The Humanist Methodology. There are three pieces:

1. I want to leave this world a better place

Once we humans figure out all of the hard stuff (food, shelter, reasonable sized TV for watching football, etc.) we start thinking about self-actualization. How can I leave my mark on the world? How can I leave my children a better planet? How can I do something bigger than myself? If codifying the tips and tricks I've picked up from the brilliant minds I've worked with helps even one person achieve greater job satisfaction, one person get home to their kids on time, or one person keep their team together in a time of strife, that would mean the world to me. 

 My motivation.

My motivation.

2. I want to make myself better at my craft

I work in a high performance space. The games industry is volatile, opportunistic, and extremely demanding. Anything I can do to further codify, reinforce, and fool-proof the processes and operational details I bring to an organization, the better off I'll be. I know that there are people less experienced than me, studying what I do, and working hard to get better. I want those people to be asking questions, bringing new ideas to the table, bringing energy into the equation. Likewise, there are many masters of the craft who I can learn from in order to make this offering stronger. I want them to challenge my assumptions and battle test these notions. I want to become a stronger Humanist Software Manager.

3. You still need to hire me (or people like me)

Chris Galardi, an engineer I worked with at Causely, once summed up the role of production in the software development process very eloquently: "That's where the magic happens." It's true. You can have all of the best practices written down, all the best talent in the world, all the shiny toys and tools - and it will all surely help - but to truly achieve maximum output, you need a strong producer handling the myriad details of implementation and modification that come with mapping any process to a living, breathing team. You need good process, but without good producers, you just have a bunch of paper.

In short, I want to help you help me help you make the world a better place.

Who am I?

...and why should you care what I have to say about production and process?

My name is Coray Seifert. I'm a father of two, a production and strategy consultant in the games industry, and an avid football fan/blogger. I have a decade and change experience as a game producer, designer and writer. 

I'm generally brought onto teams to help build/grow teams, maximize velocity, and increase product quality. Specifically as a production lead, I've had successful stints at Slingo Inc., Causely (Formerly SocialBon), and Autodesk. I also make indie games here at Krakensoft. I've shipped 35 games, taught at a few universities, spoke at conferences like GDC, and served on the Board of Directors of the IGDA. 

I have enough experience to be able to bring subject matter expertise to the table, but I'm still ambitious and crazy enough to take on something like this and willing to adapt my methods as I see opportunity for improvement. 

So, what's next?

In lieu of publishing a book straightaway, my goal is to post a section at a time to this blog and hopefully garner feedback from a few trusted sources, before putting everything together in a single resource. I don't view the methodologies I employ in the workplace as a static set of rules; they flex and change as we as an industry realize new and better ways to make software. Accordingly, I'd like anything I put my name on to afford the same fluidity and responsiveness. 

I hope you'll join me on this adventure and jump into the comments section. I want people to challenge the assertions and assumptions set forth in this series of posts, especially if you have an experience, idea or research that counters what I'm bringing to the table.

Thanks in advance for your participation and a Happy Labor Day to you and yours.

Coray Seifert

    Welcome to Krakensoftgames.com

    Alright, this thing is live! 

    Welcome to Krakensoftgames.com, a home for our consulting efforts and original game development initiatives. We're excited to have you here and pumped to pull the curtain back on some of the stuff we're working on.

    Before we dive into things, I'd like to highlight John's amazing work on our home page banner and logo. About 24 hours ago, I asked John to start working on some branding for business cards, because that whole GDC thing is coming up soon. He turned these around in about an hour:

    We riffed on them for another hour or so and got to this set: 

    After settling on a combo of the bottom right one and the noms building as a style guide (though I have to imagine I'm going to use all of these badass things sooner or later), John did a few comps:

    Really, the hard part was figuring out which building we wanted the beast to be chomping on:

    I think this one was my favorite building, though totally illegal, due to copyright laws or something:

    At one point, we thought about the Kraken going after the entire city:

    ...and then I did a little bit of layout work...it got away from me I think...

    But we ended on something great.

    About 3 hours into the project (land speed record right?), John took the drawings overnight to re-ink everything:

    That's right kids, hand-crafted right here in the US. After we had everything together, we put the finishing touches on a great piece of work, which you can now see on our home page:

    All-in, 7 hours. Pretty awesome.

    So, that's how we got to our current logo/background set, which I think is one of the more awesome pieces of corporate branding I've seen. Yeah, I may be biased, but props to the Scribblepunk on this one.

    I hope this was an interesting look inside a fun graphic design project and I look forward to sharing future behind-the-scenes looks at some of our projects. Feel free to comment or share!

    Cheers,

    - C

    RELEASE THE KRAKEN!

    What?

    Was that ever not going to be the first blog post?