Are You Hiring Artists?

Right now there’s a revolution occurring.  And you probably don’t even know about it.  No I’m not talking about the Middle East, culture wars, or even the upcoming presidential election.  I’m talking about something much more important: video games.

Thanks to a variety of influences (the terrible economy, the high unemployment rates, new technologies, the growth of the Wii, and the explosion of Apple products, just to name a few) video games aren’t a neatly confined business model. It’s not possible to simply release a $60 game and expect it to be successful.

This has everyone from Sony to Nintendo worried.  And rightly so.

So in a disrupted economy, how do you survive?

In a disrupted economy, everything gets thrown out the window.  What was once successful becomes this generation’s weakness.  So what do you do when the economics of your industry is disrupted?  In my view it all goes back to hiring the right people.  I have long believed that you must bring your meaning to work, and far too many people simply don’t do that.  They look for a paycheck, a promotion, or prestige.  And then when they look back on their career, they wonder why they are unhappy.  This was, in many ways, the point of the book Good to Great.

In a disrupted economy this is even more important.

This is only going to matter more in the future.

Why?  Because more and more jobs are becoming artistic jobs.  In other words, more jobs are about creating on demand than running a machine that produces widgets.  All too often we think of creativity as simply making art.  But art in today’s marketplace might be computer code.  It might be your report to your boss.  It might even be a new training product.  Art is no longer confined to canvas or music.

Which means we have to look at the skills our employees have.  Great employees aren’t a cog in a machine.  They aren’t interchangeable.  They are unique artists working at their craft.  A great computer programmer is more like a skilled craftsman than a steel mill worker.  A great trainer is more like an artist than a widget-producing assembly line.

Times have changed.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with working in an industrial factory.  An entire generation of employees worked that way.  But that’s not the economy we’re in today.  And it’s not how we should view employees.

Which brings us back to video games.  The industry itself is struggling to understand how to make money.  Companies like Activision (Call of Duty) and EA (Madden) are in trouble.  People don’t want, or don’t have the money, to buy $60 games with $20 of additional content trickled out to them.  So developers rush to switch their business model to “free to play”, which simply means you play for free, but have the ability to buy new weapons, plays, armor, or teams.

But that’s not going to work either.  Why?  Because neither addresses the fundamental issue of any industry: talent.  I am more convinced than ever great companies don’t develop great games, great designers do.  And you know what?  The same is true in your industry.  Great artists matter.  If you have great artists on your team, you will survive.  If you don’t, well, good luck.

So if you want to figure out what to buy, don’t look at the name brand, look for the great employees.

Photo Credit: dimsis


About Eric Barrett

Eric Barrett is an organizational psychologist who specializes in connecting the dots of work, life, and meaning. He has worked as an organizational psychologist for over a decade, and is most recently working on developing social media guidelines for a real estate company. He also teaches psychology at Xavier University. In his spare time he… wait, who are we kidding… he has no spare time. You can follow him on Twitter @MeaningToWork or his blog at Meaning to Work.

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