Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Culture Shock: Meetings

In the game industry, everyone is keenly aware of just how far behind schedule the project is, and it's (usually) recognized that meetings can burn a huge number of man-hours in a very short period of time, so when people call a meeting they tend to get right to the point. People are in the room to find a specific solution to a specific problem, and then to document the solution and the reason behind it so that they don't forget later. Meetings in practice often fall short of this ideal, but we try.

During a meeting, everyone may have their own ideas and their own agenda, but they are entirely forthcoming. Creative disputes (sometimes involving voices raised in passion) are expected from time to time. Everyone cares deeply about making the best game possible, which means no one is going to hide their idea and keep quiet just to "not rock the boat".

In academia, meetings feel a lot different. There is not necessarily the same time pressure (you're certainly not going to have a whole group of people laid off just because their project is behind, since half of the people you're dealing with have tenure), so the atmosphere is more relaxed and reserved. There is more competition between individuals and less overlap, and there is a lot more concern about making sure no one else in the room is offended, so people tend to be less forthcoming with their ideas and they're much more subtle about pushing their own agenda on the group. As such, brainstorming effectively is much harder.

Bonus culture shock of the day: specific to the institution where I'm teaching, students add classes by filling out a "pink slip" (this is what they are called) and having the instructor sign it. I have to question the wisdom of whoever thought it would be a great idea to subconsciously train their students to energetically ask their superiors for a pink slip...

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