I believe there are three key factors to creating a productive and profitable workplace.

Independence or freedom to create
The urge to get better
Your work impacts the project.

Autonomy can be difficult to achieve in a production environment due to the fact that an artist is usually working within several layers of constraints.

Technical constraints: “how big”, “how many”, the file formats, and all other “tech specs”.
Aesthetic constraints placed by the Art Director. The artist is working to create something that meets someone Else’s vision.
Time Constraints: There is a finite amount of time allotted for tasks, usually not enough.

The best way for the manager to allow autonomy to develop is to consistently and clearly define the constraints and then support the artist by deflecting any distractions. Then the artist is free to determine the best way to execute the task, which builds the autonomy we all seek. If the manager can repeat this time and time again, a culture of autonomy is created.

I’m a firm believer that Mastery comes from focused work. I put a lot of faith into the 10,000 hour rule. Simply sated that rule means that the amount of hours of focused work someone dedicates to something is the only variable on how well they do on said task. Not background, or being a “natural”, or anything else; just “practice practice practice”. Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” really struck a chord with me, I think his notes on the 10,000 rule (which I’ve paraphrased above) are so true. It’s a great read.

As a manager you can help fast track and specifically guide artists on their path to 10,000 hours by providing training if budget exists. Times are tough, sometimes training budget doesn’t exist, however, people are the greatest assets to a company. Can you do lunch and learns, where one artist discusses his/her process? Can you make a game jam happen at the studio? I’d love to hear the free training initiatives you’ve cooked up.

Measuring each persons contribution to the project can be difficult. Some tasks are unnoticed but need to get done. Rotate artist through those as best you can and jump on the grenade too. Show off the work the artists do. Print it and put it on the walls. Have an artist talk about a piece from outside of work they’ve recently created. At minimum encourage the artists to critique each other.

Enabling all three of the these creates a workplace that people will not want to leave, and will enable higher profits in the long term.

Watch this, it talks about these issues in an informative and engaging way.

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us