I heard this definition of 'Proactive' once: fire erupts in the office. The reactive worker grabs a fire extinguisher and puts it out, but the proactive worker has already installed a sprinkler system. (The retroactive worker simply does nothing and says, "I told you we should install a sprinkler system." Jerk.)
If that's really how to define 'proactive', then it sounds good on the surface. You're always prepared for every eventuality. If we look closer, though, we realize that the proactive worker seems to always be engaged in risk management. They install sprinkler systems, they buy insurance, they consult their lawyers, they file the proper paperwork, they get permission, they look before they leap. All of this takes a lot of time and money. If one of those bad eventualities happens, you're glad you were prepared, but I'm thinking it's quite possible that the expense in risk-avoidance ends up being higher than the expense of having to put out that fire that erupts once in a while. Talking expected value here.
Coming from a corporate background, we were very risk-avoidant at Torpex. We limited our liability. We consulted lawyers. We had E&O insurance. We made everyone sign NDA's. We operated in stealth mode. We didn't show Schizoid to people because, "What if they clone it?" We often refused to pitch games to publishers because, "We can only pull back the curtain once, you know." We didn't share with other indies how our games were selling.
So we succesfully avoided some worst-case scenarios--this is the only clone of Schizoid I know of (but would anyone have cloned it anyway?)--but who knows how many opportunities we passed up? Opportunities to network - opportunities to find clients - opportunities to build our social networks - opportunities to raise awareness - opportunities to earn favor and respect. And how much did we spend, in time and money, on the legal stuff and insurance and fear and anxiety in general?
So I've mostly been trying the opposite approach this time. I've signed contracts without consulting lawyers; I've done jams with no agreements about who-owns-what in place; I've never made anyone sign an nda; I've announced games after working on them just a few days; I've put up trailers showing incomplete work. When problems arise - like somebody complaining about the way the water looks in the trailer - I fix them, maybe. (I'll show y'all that tomorrow.)
(I do have an offsite backup, though. Losing my work is a worst-case-scenario too grim to fathom.)
I didn't even have a separate bank account for the company until I needed one to get paid.
Is this sounding familiar? It's being agile, isn't it? Maybe it's not just good for software development. Time will tell...
So, yeah. I don't like being proactive. Not if it means risk management. I like showing initiative.
By the way - I'm running out of ideas for the Corporate to Indie Mistakes thing. Anybody care to share some juicy mistakes?
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