Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Collaboration at Its Finest

     Gabe Newell, affectionately nicknamed "Gaben" by the community, founded Valve after leaving Microsoft with Mike Harrington in 1996. Valve has grown as a company and today it can be said that it is one of the most successful video game companies out there. It has over 75 million active users which is huge considering the very specific use it serves. So what makes Valve different from every other video game company? Gaben says that it is because of the caliber of the people hired to work in his company and the adaptability that everyone has in the ever changing industry they work in. Specializing in gaming is not an option, since in the future, production methods will always be changing as technology continues to advance. This is why Gaben wants to hire people who are not just "good" but "great" at what they do. 

     There are no titles at Valve and little organizational structures. There is a lot of freedom granted to the employees, as sick time and vacation days go undocumented. There is a lot of trust in the employees that they will be responsible and create something that they are proud of. The people who are hired by Gaben like to work and get stuff done, and they enjoy collaboration and seeing their creative ideas come to life. 

     The lack of a rigid structure has proven to be beneficial to the creative of the company. Ken Birdwell, one of the first people hired by Gaben, had a bachelors in Fine Arts. However, he is really good at programming as well. In most companies, he would be placed in the art department and would be responsible for the visual of the project. At Valve, he is given the freedom to animate, model, and program to invent solutions that others may not have thought of. Members of the "marketing team" are the same people that are creating the gaming content users enjoy. This provides both the users and the employees an extra satisfaction.  

     Gaben believes that Ph.Ds and grades are not the only indicator of success especially when it comes to dealing with an ever changing industry. It is critical to engage, entertain, and respond to your audience, which is what he urges his employees to do. This is why he will often hire someone for creating a well received mods. It shows that they are capable of sifting through feedback - both good and bad - and create something extraordinary from it. 

     Gabe Newell is a creative that provides an outlet for and facilitates even more creativity. Those that consuming are often those that are consuming in the gaming industry and he has used this to his advantage. The constant feedback he takes in and the efficiency he is able to sift through it to create even better products and services is astonishing. He has a great team working for him and this is due to his ambitious decision to create a business with a format that had never been done before and it is working to his favor. Quality over quantity has been evident for Valve's products and it is a company structured around collaboration, not only between the employees but the community as well. This is why it has and will continue to be at the forefront of the gaming industry for years to come. 

When asked for his company's philosophy, Gaben says,
"Give people the tools to focus on making customers lives better, and throw away everything else. So, get rid of organizations, get rid of titles, put everybody's desks on wheels, and just say "here are the tools you have so you can tell whether you are doing a good job or not," and support people as much as possible with the colleagues and tools they need to do that."
His motivation for creating is simply that he likes playing games and he likes to "do stuff" with other people and feel like a part of a joint success. He feels that the rewards he reaps from his company are simply secondary. He is proud to be different from most people that work in his industry and collaboration is a key part of why he is so successful. We will always be anticipating what the next thing Valve will come out with and hopefully half-life 3 confirmed will become a reality one day. 

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