Learning by Wrongdoing



You learn by doing – and by doing it wrong. Often people blog about their success and the hardship they had to overcome on their way. I have decided to blog a bit sooner, before I get to feel what success truly feels like and when the failures are still fresh in mind.


Some years ago, two of my good friends joined a newly established start-up company with nothing much more to it, than a guy with a lot of ideas and a very persuasive character.

At this point I was stuck in an unwanted educational system and wanted nothing more than to be a founding pillar in an entrepreneurial adventure. I convinced the CEO that he was in need of my talents and I was in.

I brought all of my enthusiasm to the game and I performed the best I had learned from the textbooks in marketing and sales. The only problem was that I now was far from the perfect environment in which the textbook examples are set.

Chapter I – The Team

Our team consisted of my two friends from the movie industry; a camera man and a 2nd assistant director, two guys with a Bachelor in Business Administration and Sociology, a CEO who had been in the music industry some many years ago and me with some academic experience in Danish law and International Marketing. All in all, we had neither the skills nor experience to be developing computer games.

As you’ve probably noticed, there weren’t any developers of any kind employed – but who needs them anyway, right?

An external developer sitting in the other end of the country was hired, and as none of us had any former experience in programming, the communication had so much noise that nothing progressed. When the coding that we wanted was being explained, it was done in a way that to the developer probably looked like us waving our arms in indecipherable gestures on some hill three miles away.

Thus, the cameraman was appointed to pick up the pieces and finishing the game where the developer had given up, and so he became our sole developer. Bear in mind here that he had no prior experience in-game development.

This strategy continued for the rest of the company’s short lifespan. The last three months or so before everything fell apart; I, who was hired to do marketing, did game environment design, the 2nd assistant director was supervising in areas he knew nothing about, the two guys with a bachelor in business administration did… I don’t know – and the CEO didn’t do anything but pay us and change his mind about any planned strategy every second hour. Yes, the company was hurtling towards its demise.

When we finally had a “product”, the CEO wanted to launch it right away – beta-testing was in his opinion a waste of time and so we barely made it through an alpha-test. No time to set up a well-build marketing plan either. Needless to say, the game didn’t make a profit. Everyone tried to oppose the CEO in his rush strategy, and though he pretended to listen, he didn’t care for our opinions in this regard. But as he was the one paying our wages, we followed command.

Then the day came when the CEO couldn’t pay us. And as the train only seemed to be going in one direction, it was either staying the course working for free or getting off. I got off, and so did everyone else.

Chapter II – The Epiphany

I was relieved to be out, but still I was left with the empty feeling of having wasted so many months of not really accomplishing anything, and worst of all, the indecent feeling that I still today, much time later, have for drying up the investors, who kept us running on goodwill and kindness towards the CEO, when everybody knew that it was a waste of money. The employees often discussed how on earth the investors hadn’t pulled the plug a long ago, but it quickly came to our attention that the CEO was filling them with whatever lies necessary to keep the money flowing. This was the atmosphere that shined through this amateur business with too much money – castles in the sky.

Chapter III – The Lesson Learned

i. Check the premises

From my experiences in this company, I learned to always check the premises of the company’s promises. Everything was presented as the perfect picture, but the company was completely out of order. It wasn’t rare we suggested to the CEO that he should fire the lot of us and hire a bunch of developers. Still to this day, I’m not entirely sure why he didn’t. It almost seemed like he wanted to fail. Since then, I’ve chosen my employments and especially freelance engagements very carefully – making sure that it operates in accordance to my morality.

ii. Follow your heart

That I am able to stand by what I do has become a major part of my career choices and the introspection of how this employment will help me grow. I’ve tried working for the money and it far from paid off. More often have it turned out that working for something I can be proud of pays off much more than a paycheck for undesired work.

iii. It’s never too late to get off.

I didn’t quit sooner than I did because I felt that I owed something to the CEO for giving me the job. But of course I didn’t – I was hired on my skills.  I should’ve left the minute I heard that the CEO was lying to the investors or when he tried to patch up the lack of professionals by having the employees take over roles they weren’t hired for at all.  I know now that I need to think further ahead, trying to picture where the road I’m on will take me, what I’ll learn and how I’ll feel when it’s over – and then simply quit if I’m the least appalled by what I see.

Do you recognize any of this as either being the employee or working with a client, and what is your example of “learning by wrongdoing”?

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