Christian Heilmann

Doodle jump and work

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 at 10:10 am

I like playing Doodle jump on my phone. It is a very simple, fast game and I like the graphics not trying to be impressive but just a little funny time waster. I also like that it has no music.

I also found though that it is a very good metaphor for working. Why? Well, here are some of my musings:

The simple way that quickly gets forgotten

The task of Doodle jump is to get from one platform to the next without falling. You could play almost endlessly if you just think about reaching the next platform near to you. At work, that would be doing the next task and doing that one right.

As a kid I loved Momo by Michael Ende. It is a book featuring a street cleaner who explains this way of working to Momo:

“’s like this. Sometimes, when you’ve a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you’ll never get it swept. And then you start to hurry. You work faster and faster and every time you look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder, and you panic, and in the end you’re out of breath and have to stop—and still the street stretches away in front of you. That’s not the way to do it.

You must never think of the whole street at once, understand? You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom, and the next, and the next. Nothing else.

That way you enjoy your work, which is important, because then you make a good job of it. And that’s how it ought to be.

And all at once, before you know it, you find you’ve swept the whole street clean, bit by bit. what’s more, you aren’t out of breath. That’s important, too… (28-29)”

― Michael Ende, Momo

Sure you won’t be a superhero working that way, but you deliver a job and you don’t wear yourself out.

Don’t expect stability when it is not needed

There are not many situations in the game when this changes. Yes, some platforms vanish or crack once you step on them, but so what? You normally don’t jump twice on the same plaform anyways. The only difference is that you need to be a bit faster (especially with the yellow to red fading ones). Don’t let the fact that you can’t trust that platform stress you out. All you need is to get on it once and move on.

If you have a dependency at work make sure you get from it what you need and don’t expect that to happen every single time – it won’t. Have a plan B to move ahead on instead of getting stuck trying to deliver Plan A because of something you can not control.

Reasons you die in Doodle jump

Technically the game should be never ending. There is not much that can go wrong. You jump from platform to platform, you avoid obstacles and enemies and if you can’t avoid them you can still shoot them or there are even shields you can grab to be invincible for a short while.

Actually I found most of the reasons you die to be self-made:

  • Haste – instead of jumping from platform to platform it is very tempting to reach for the springs, the propeller hat, the trampolines and the jetpack to move ahead quicker. The game makers know this of course and tempt you constantly. Many a time you try doing that instead of reaching the simpler next platform. Especially in the case of a single spring this is not worthwhile as it propels you the same distance as three simpler steps would. At work, we call these things shortcuts – moving ahead too quickly to reach a goal fooling ourselves into believing we will get time to fix things later on. We won’t.
  • Aggression – many a time I die in Doodle Jump it is because I try to shoot an alien (especially the one with the flapping wings as it makes me twitchy) instead of avoiding them. At work this could be trying to be as good as somebody else by all means necessary or trying to get their job. You might succeed at that but you won’t be happy doing it. Beating yourself by being better tomorrow than you are today is a way to beat competition and learn at the same time. In Doodle jump most aliens can be avoided by using platforms around them instead of shooting them – this even means you can play with one hand
  • Focusing on the score – every single time my eyes go up to check the score and if I am on track to beat my last one I die in Doodle jump. Which is ironic if you think about it. At work this could be goals that the company sets for itself, your team or you for yourself. If your drive becomes to reach goals rather than doing the right things to reach them then you will fail. You will reach some of them, sure. But you will not have an arsenal of techniques to reach the next ones as you failed to think about your steps whilst reaching the goal
  • Being sucked into a black hole – Doodle jump features black holes that suck you in that you cannot shoot but you need to avoid. There are also UFOs that abduct you but you can shoot those. At work we call both of these meetings, town halls and all hands. The black hole ones can sometimes not be avoided but the UFO ones could be circumvented unless you allow yourself to be sucked into every single one of them
  • Distraction – of course the biggest thing is getting distracted whilst playing. Doodle jump is fast and needs your attention. Work does, too. In many cases we think we can multi-task, but we can’t. So from time to time it is important to suspend what you do and pause it before doing something else and then coming back resuming the paused task instead of trying to deliver two at the same time

Maybe I am overthinking this, but from time to time I like having fun jumping from step to step rather than speeding along with a jetpack and failing to miss my landing.

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