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November 06, 2010

Learning how better to lead at the IGDA LF

For the last three years I have had the pleasure of attending the IGDA Leadership Forum in San Francisco¹. It's a small and focused conference, which I think benefits it greatly - it presents three tracks of management talks and a small handful of keynote addresses. It's the sort of conference that I'd really like to see more companies sending their managers to, since on the one hand, in my experience game developers underinvest in the professional development and growth of their leaders, and on the other because I feel like the more perspectives we get on leadership, the more I'll personally be able to take away from the conference.

It's a terrific forum for developing your management skills, and I had useful, immediately applicable takeaways from every session I attended. Where else can you get:

  • Intel Engineering Manager Scott Crabtree distilling down more than eight books of information and giving out a citrus-scented handout with the critical information from his talk. This year, he addressed recent science in neuropsychology which helps to explain where we get our peak performance and how best to motivate the human animal.
  • PopCap Games Founder John Vechey describing the challenges his company has had in it's ten years and how they have continually surmounted them.
  • WB Games VP and General Manager Laura Fryer (formerly of Microsoft) discussing her approach to managing a cluster of studios in Seattle for success.
  • EVP for Core Games at THQ Danny Bilson on transforming the THQ business to a creative, IP-driven model rather than a stultifying, marketing and focus-driven one.
  • Realtime Worlds manager Joshua Harris on the use of models to pick leadership strategy. (You mean, we can use more than one? At the same time? With the same person at different points of a project?)
  • Riot Games (League of Legends) co-founder and president Marc Merrill discussing how they've engineered their culture to create awesome (awesome games, awesome service, awesome... profit?)
  • Kim Pallister on "intrapreneurship", Alex St John on the social space, Lucien Parsons on top causes for corporate failure (traps to avoid and how to avoid them), and more?

I subject to you that the answer is: nowhere. These are just the talks *I* attended, not even all of them, and it doesn't even speak to the benefit of having an opportunity to speak with managers and leaders like yourself. This conference is terrific - I can't wait to get back to work so I can get better at what I do.

If you're a manager in the games industry, or you have managers reporting to you, you owe it to yourself to come out or send them to the IGDA Leadership Forum next year. Your competitors are out here trying to figure out how to get better at capturing the lightning and putting it in a package to ship out to customers. We desperately need better trained leaders in the industry, and this is a proven place where they can come and improve their skills. This year I found an insight in every talk to make me better at my job, and to help my reports become better at their jobs. I really don't feel like I can afford *not* to go. Can you?

Note: I'm posting this from my iPad, so I'll come back once I'm at a PC to hook up some links from the above.
¹Last year I also had the opportunity to give a talk at the conference, which was really a terrific experience and, owning to my feelings about public speaking, somewhat terrifying. But it was a worthwhile experience for me, one that I would encourage other leaders to try some time.

Posted by Brett Douville at November 6, 2010 03:23 PM

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