Teams

There's a fantastic new podcast out called Invisibilia. So the first thing you should do is go grab all the episodes of that & give it a listen. It's well worth your while. One of the episodes is about "entanglements". They talk about quantum entanglement, but also then go into a segment about a woman with "Mirror Synesthesia", who basically in some ways can't distinguish the difference between something that's happening to someone else and something that's happening to her. So if she sees someone get slapped, she literally feels it. Not the new definition of literally, the old one, where it doesn't mean "figuratively".

It's kind of amazing. But then they talk about a lot of the studies folks have done about how people interact in groups - that when you get a bunch of people in a meeting, their heartbeats and breathing start to sync up, or how microexpressions can basically cause people to get depressed just because there's a depressed person in the room whether they're showing obvious outward signs of depression or not.

The conclusion was that in some ways, the idea that we're all autonomous individuals in control of our decisions is a bit of a delusion.

And this got me to thinking a lot about teams, and remote working. Over the last few years, we've tried to work with people remotely on several occasions, and it's never worked. I've always assumed it's a communications overhead issue, and to a large degree, practically, it is. Game development is an endeavor where so much happens spontaneously. Odd conversations here and there, minute observations about someone's mood or method while playing the game - all those things are triggers for massive changes at times in how the game works. When you can see the reactions. Or more, when you can feel them.

Coming back to the idea of individualism as a delusion, the flip side of that seems reasonable to be that a team is potentially more of a "single" organism - the bunch of individuals all influencing and affecting each others' behavior, their hearts beating as one -  and every new hire changes how that organism behaves in a way that is much more fundamental than just adding one individual to a collection of individuals. For anyone who's worked in a team that's suddenly hired the first "bad apple", I think this conclusion is (at least in hindsight) pretty obvious.

Anyway - I think one of the big observations for me over the last six years is that hiring is almost without a doubt the most important thing that a company does. Sure, you've gotta build something people want, you've gotta have some fundamentals that start with a core group of people, but as the organism grows, the most important thing to do is to ensure that you never let a disease worm its way into the organism.