On being good at your job.

My wife and I were just watching a garbage truck roll past and take the two bins from the side of the road and put the rubbish in. She described it as being ‘like a computer game’ because the driver needed to precisely manouver the mechanical arm of the truck from his driving seat, grab the bin, tip and move on quickly. All done in the space of a few seconds.

It really only comes with repeated effort – being good at your job. Some more than others. Some people I meet are way better at their job than I would be, they just seem to have a nack for doing a set of tasks really well. At Brown Box I hope to employ people that are better than me at all of the work we do. People who would love doing the work we do, even if they aren’t employed to do it.

In an interview environment I often ask what people’s hobbies are, do they do the work we’re asking them to do at home? Just because they want to? To me this gives insight into a little bit of what drives them. I met a man recently who had played the card game Bridge with his family for a few years, and everyone got sick of scoring. So he wrote an app just for himself to help him score Bridge. He showed it to us and while it wasn’t an amazing app, I remembered his work because he identified a problem, and took the initiative to solve it himself.

Some of the guys at Brown Box run their own web development business on the side. It’s kind of odd to think that after a day of working on web, you’d go home and do the same thing again. There’s three of them who have formed a little co-op, that gets low paying jobs, completes them really quickly and then moves on to new work. It’s not high paying work, but they are always thinking about how to approach the work with things they’ve learnt at Brown Box (and developed for themselves!).

One of the side benefits is that this kind of thinking comes back to Brown Box and while they work on their own side work, ideas pop into their heads as to how to do things better or faster at their primary work.

This is the kind of stuff that makes people good at their jobs. While I get bored of talking about work all the time (there’s so much more than work!) I think that a continual thought about your work, and your job can really drive improvement. A garbage collector isn’t about to take his truck home and practice picking up bins so he can be the fastest on the streets, but I wonder what he might do.