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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Harnessing Boredom

When I had a ‘proper job’, I suspect my managers didn’t look forward to doing my annual assessment. Apart from anything else, I usually filled in the same answers for most of the questions, especially the bit that went something like:

Q. What parts of your job do you find most difficult?
A. Anything boring.
Q. What could your manager do to help with these difficult areas?
A. Don’t give me too many boring things to do.

Now, there was an element of tongue-in-cheek, and of unashamedly wanting the best projects for selfish reasons, but it was also genuinely useful feedback. Like many people, I’ll often happily flog my guts out on a project that’s intriguing/original/impressive, generating more work of a higher quality for no extra money. The constant urge to avoid boredom is something that can and should be put to good use.

Making work interesting is a key management skill that’s often neglected. Here are some examples of basic things to consider for a web development project:

  • Take developer enthusiasm into account when choosing technologies, architectures and methodologies.
  • Try to find/create specific learning opportunities within the project.
  • Get developers involved in a healthy amount of showing off by writing blog posts about projects, or releasing some code.
  • Don’t be afraid to slightly over-engineer things if the developers are keen to build something more robust and flexible.
  • Let developers use automation to avoid donkey work where possible, even if setting up the automated process may be a little slower.
  • Include one or two features that the developers love, even if they might not be essential or requested by the client.

To some it might sound like pandering to sulky divas, but if you’re dealing with people who aren’t motivated purely by money and fear of unemployment then it’s all about intellectual rewards and pride in the work.


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