“Communication”

One of the things the video I just posted about mentioned as being vital was this:

Communication

Okay then. Fair enough. But this is kind of a vague, nebulous, vapid term. In a functional sense…what?

The video does a pretty good job of breaking down the specifics, and if I were to condense that, I’d say he’s mostly talking about this:

The ability to get diverse perspectives to work together.

All right, now we’re cooking with concrete. Delicious concrete.

Getting diverse perspectives to work together is a function of communication in that it is the job of the designer to speak to and influence different goals, ideas, and worldviews. The video mentions that programmers and artists have a fundamental conflict when it comes to this, but a big video game is the creation of 100’s of individuals and even “indie” games or small design studios are often built with teams of at least two, and often in the double-digits. And it’s working on one game, one vision. It makes sense for the designer to function as a hub for these teams, and if that’s one of the functions of a designer, then as a designer, I’m going to have to be able to communicate with all those teams, serving as the connective tissue.

So, if I am to be a good game designer, it’s clear that I need to show (not just tell!) that I’ve got the ability to bring diverse views together, to clearly articulate goals, to manage people, using the noises my mouth makes and the symbols my fingers make.

I feel like this fundamental skill is one I’ve had pretty significant professional experience with.

For starters, I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology. What that means in a practical sense is that I have studied how to interact with very different cultures, societies, and worldviews in a way that is respectful and focused. The function of a cultural anthropologist is to understand why other cultures of people behave in the ways they do and believe the things they believe and see the world in the terms they see the world in. It is the explanation of human cultural variation, and you’re not going to be able to do much of that without being fundamentally capable of approaching someone very different than you and being able to say “Hi. What’s up with that thing you do?” without making them angry.

For supporters, my extensive college and post-college work in the world of Retail Sales means that I’ve demonstrated that skill on a level that made someone money. As anyone who has been paid based on sales performance can tell you, being able to convince people of things is part of the key skillset, and that includes being able to communicate to them how whatever X you’re selling is going to be able to meet their needs. Even without being paid on sales directly, customers in big-box stores can occasionally be an angry, petulant lot, and knowing how to meet their needs as best as possible with the skills you have is an example of getting people on board with the ideas other people have for them. Every successful sale, every good customer experience, is a demonstration of the ability to get people of diverse interests to work together.

Most recently, this skill has seen use in my Day Job. My team serves as connective tissue between a team of salespeople and a data-driven, detail-oriented organization that focuses on the little things. As different as the views of artists and programmers are, I can’t imagine they’re more divergent than the views of a gal who wants to get paid commission for the deal they made before a deadline expires, and a legal team who wants to make sure the customer’s suggested language is accurate. It falls to our team — and to me — to help each side understand the other, to ease tensions when the deadlines are rough, and to make sure both parties’ interests are represented in the greater organization. And that’s not to mention the other interests we balance on a daily basis — from people dealing with energy data to engineering teams dealing with real-world locations to software teams streamlining our internal databases. Ultimately, I do that kind of balancing every. day.

So I think I’ve got communication of this sort pretty down. I’ve even got a cherry on top: “Connectedness” is my top themes from the StrengthsFinder test, and here is the short description:

People strong in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

Oh yes, Communication. I think I do you well.

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