Go back to Old Kent Road
Think of board games and you probably shudder at the memory of your elder brother gleefully bankrupting you with his massed ranks of hotels from Regent Street to Mayfair. But they're not all like that. Forbidden Island is a different sort of game. A collaborative game. All moves are discussed and agreed between players in advance. Special powers are co-ordinated, treasure collected and everyone must be airlifted to safety before the eponymous island sinks. If you win, everyone wins. If you lose there’s a calm assessment of what went wrong. Individual strategy is possible only if you can convince the other players your approach is worth trying. It’s become a firm family favourite for us at least.
I was very happy to see a copy of Forbidden Island in the Digital office when I started a few weeks ago. I'm assured they do play it from time to time and it seems to me it's already had a definite positive influence on the way the team is organised and the way they collaborate on projects.
Careful with that axe
Before starting at Bath I was a solo freelancer working from home. Collaborating with yourself is a strange process. Without the input and interruption of colleagues I found I had to create time and space to step away from the pixels of doom and let my brain solve problems in the background. Slamming an axe into a pile of logs was my preferred distraction. It kept me warm twice over as well.
Before my freelance days I worked at the BBC, an institution famous for encouraging a culture of big brothers gleefully bankrupting colleagues with their massed ranks of new ideas. In hindsight I think it’s more to do with the size of the organisation and the ambition of the employees than a deliberate policy, but the endless duplication and competition is a little tiring.
The collaboration game
So it’s with relief I’ve found the Digital team at Bath is built around shared decision making and collaboration rather than duplication and competition. Solutions are discussed in advance to make sure the best plan is followed. Project management tool Trello is used to breakdown complex tasks and document the process like a giant digital worry jar. This also helps avoid single points of failure. If someone goes sick, they’ve usually left notes on what they were doing so anyone else can step in. Pair working is a way of life...
It takes a little longer at the start but it makes things calmer in the long run. And all the discussion and documentation build in the crucial time for background problem solving without the need to take an axe to anything. Actually, I miss that part of the day if I'm honest. Cropping virtual images in Photoshop isn't quite as satisfying as splitting logs in the real world. Though burying the hatchet is definitely a good skill to have for this thoroughly pragmatic team.