Let me hear you think (the magic of Let’s Plays)

This one’s for you nerds out there.

For everyone else: A “let’s play” video is a common format on YouTube, Twitch and other streaming sites where you can watch a person play a video game. It’s one of my favorite forms of entertainment. A former supervisor once asked me, how in the world could anyone enjoy watching those let’s play videos? I didn’t really have a good answer at the time and it was mostly small talk anyway, but the question kind of stuck with me. Why do I enjoy listening to and watching other people play? And why am I bothering you with my hobbies again? This blog is supposed to be about work (well, mostly it’s about what my brain currently finds intriguing, but yeah).

Fear not, there’s actually something relevant for work in this topic. The players that I enjoy watching usually narrate what they are doing, explaining along the way. During streams, they also interact with the watchers by answering questions or joking around. I find the chatter so comforting that I often have a video running in the background even when I am doing other stuff (like right now). It’s oddly calming to listen to someone work their way through a complicated problem while sharing what they are doing, and how, and why. Especially when things go wrong in the game, hearing the player’s thoughts on what’s going on makes their mistakes entertaining. I am sharing in their learning without having to do any of the hard thinking work myself.

There is a strong connection to communicating at work that I realized a few months ago while I was on the shopfloor, talking to one of the teams. They were a bit agitated because Thing that they were waiting for was not happening, and I was responsible for making Thing happen. At first, the conversation was a bit rough – but as I started to explain my thought process, where I was struggling, and how I was problem solving at the moment and why, the mood became a lot calmer. Hearing my thoughts made it clear that I cared about Thing as much as they did.

And I think it goes even deeper. At least for me, hearing the thought process also makes me feel that the person working on the problem is actually applying themselves to solving the problem. It’s easy to brush someone off with “yeah, I am working on it” and then not do anything. But you can’t fake being in the thought process of genuine problem solving. Either you have some real insights or struggles to share, or it is going to feel like you are not actually working on the problem. Once the team realized I was actually working very hard on Thing, they could trust me to handle Thing in time because I had actual proof that I was dealing with it right now.

It’s an insight that I carry with me in a lot of situations now, every time I have to communicate that a Thing has not yet happened: share your thought process and struggles early, and often. As long as people hear (or read) you speak about your progress, they seem to trust you to solve Thing eventually.

Shoutout to former supervisor for giving me an opportunity to reflect on something so seemingly simple as the chatter of my favorite let’s play people!

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