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Never Team Up with the Idea Guy

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In any startup projects, it's crucial to pick your team members, so crucial that it determines about at least 50% of the success of your project. Teaming up with the wrong people will set you back far, so far that your project won't get anywhere.

How do you choose the right people for your next projects? In real life situations, you don't get a talent pool that's ready to serve you in your next world-conquering project. Your money is limited, and your time is even more so. Let's talk about who are the most likely candidates of your next startup project:

  • Friends. Friends are good. You hang out with them, you had fun with them. Friends also come in many different flavors and skills, and some of whom are not particularly useful for your project. There will be a certain percentage of them who might be useful. You are in the tech industry, and maybe a handful of your friends are also in the tech industry. Naturally, your conversations with them clicks more than with the chick you tried to pick up at a bar last weekend. Does that mean that you and your friends can immediately start something big? Unless all of you operate in the same wavelength for at least 6 months, it's difficult to encourage your friends to start a project. Your friends have different ideas. Your friends have different opinions. They would have different priorities.
  • Coworkers. You are working with great people with talented skills. It's naturally easy for you to stir something up at the workplace during those lunch and coffee breaks. You talked about how to improve the company's existing broken procedures. The conversations would later evolve into "wouldn't it be great if.." topics. However, the same situations with friends apply here with coworkers. Your coworkers must also have the same vision as you. Though it's a bit easier to team up with coworkers, sometimes the stress and the amount of work at work can kill your side projects fast.
  • Family. Family members tend to work on the same fields, and your visions tend to be similar because your neurons are wired pretty much the same layout. They also tend to have the most arguments among each other. Family-owned businesses can be successful, but they can also plunge into the tar pit far faster than any other teams, thanks to the argument last night about who gets to keep Fluffy the dog.
  • Strangers. Don't even try unless you are ready to pay them money.

    This does not mean that it's impossible to form a good team from the groups above. It's still possible if you find the right people.

    Let's just say that you have found some team members. You talked about some ideas with them. Your ideas converge like a salad bowl. It has a great momentum, but not for long. You notice that one guy in your team is "The Idea Guy". He talked about his great ideas, and how it's going to make your project great. He spent 70% of the time explaining his ideas, and the other 30% merging other team members' ideas to his own, which means that he spent 0% on the actual project itself.

    The Idea Guy tend to be skill-less. That's why he's The Idea Guy. Remember the 1% inspiration 99% perspiration quote by Edison? It applies here like a cookie cutter. Creating new products requires 99% perspiration, and if one of your team member cannot contribute even 10% of that perspiration, don't count him/her in.
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I would just add - except on the rare occasion The Idea Guy has money and is willing to pay it to get his/her ideas made. Then they essentially become a contractor.

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Good read!

Fear of people who don't contribute... this is what keeps me from forming/joining a team. :/

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I have to agree with O-san My team is very tight nit, of only 2 people. The infamous idea guy is around every corner though :|

The person that does the music for my game actually has little programming knowledge but pulls her weight in the music she makes.
Make a small team with people that have specific jobs I think would be ideal. It allows people to focus on their part of the project

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I've been on enough teams to learn never work with 'ONLY' Idea people. The ones I've worked with had little concept of any technical aspects of programming, or even how the level editor and engine worked. They had un-realistic expectations for progress. If anything, they made your job harder by wanting to change everything all the time not putting into account the foundation you created for that game.

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I agree, when I have worked with Idea "only" people, they always have a "brilliant change twards a better game" that requires a complete rewrite of everything and results in months of lost work. If they don'y have a skill their ideas don't matter.

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It's not just "ideas only" here; even the "idea guy" who does also contribute can have an unfortunate tendency to throw in new feature requests and gameplay changes at incredibly inopportune moments.


I worked on a project that totally collapsed because the "idea guy" was also a project leader (an even more dangerous combination) and we were being hit with constant scope expansion every day during a run up to a demo release when everyone else was crunching on just trying to get the damn thing done.  The tipping point was when he started designing content that wildly overflowed most of our internal limits, then went into a sulk/started throwing tantrums when I and a few others tried to rein him in and get him to focus; the entire toolchain needed reworking to support it and I walked out after a few days, within a month it was dead.

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