Earlier this year, I was working with my theatre collective, the Living Room Playmakers, on a site-inspired play about game developers. I wrote a character who had invented an impossibly complicated, overwrought board game that she was trying desperately to get other people excited about. It was all about 18th century feudal politics and agricultural techniques, and I'm here to tell you: it was incredibly boring. Nailed it!
One of the most fun parts was when I actually got to build out a prototype of the board game for the characters to discuss. There were miniature cows, a lot of spraypaint (half of which ended up on my hands for the next couple of days) and—most importantly—a working waterwheel. As soon as I thought up the idea of having a working waterwheel, I just had to go for it.
So I began the long, arduous process of trying to literally re-invent the wheel. I went to a science surplus store and bought a small motor, actually the same kind of motor that people use to make disco balls spin. I took an X-Acto knife to foamboard, used a bunch of tiny nails, and raided a small paint kit to make my waterwheel. And then I had to figure out how to get the wheel to turn.
I'm not exaggerating when I tell you I spent hours, multiple hours, working on this—like a mad inventor with very low aspirations. I went through a handful of toothpicks, bent a bunch of paper clips into uselessness, and heaped on an embarrassing amount of scotch tape. After working through more iterations than I'd care to admit, slowly defiling my own monstrosity, I finally arrived at an honest-to-goodness real fake waterwheel that spun on the click of a switch.
I felt incredibly proud of myself for building the wheel. Then I realized I was about 5,000 years late to the party. Unfortunately, this kind of thing can happen in the development process all the time. Ideas can mushroom out of proportion, your team can get lost in the weeds, and you end up spending months of time and a lot of wasted resources on creating something ridiculously basic. There's nothing more frustrating than that.
At NogginLabs, we believe that technology should not be complicated. Now, technology is a tool we can use to achieve incredible things. And that technology can be crazy simple or impressively complex. But there's a big difference between complex and complicated.
When you're being smart about how you develop e-learning, you're always building off of what you know. You've got to leverage the wisdom and experience of your team. You've got to using the best resources available. You've got to keep moving forward.
We accomplish new, astonishing things with every passing day. And the way we do it is really simple. We leverage our resources, we solve problems, and we care. The last thing anyone wants to do is get bogged down in fruitless arguments that distract everyone and accomplish nothing. Stay focused and you can create something awesome.
So don't overcomplicate things. Because after all that wasted time and energy, you'll be lucky to come up with so much as a squeaky wheel.