4 ways to be more formulaic (in a good way)

Sitcoms, dramedies, videos … they all have very specific formulas that have been proven to work through laughter, tears and viral shares. In an article in The Atlantic a few years back called Cracking Sitcom Code by Noah Charney, he broke down the recipe for a successful sitcom: “Every sitcom episode has a main plot (story A), as well as one or two subplots (stories B and C). There are three main acts, divided by two commercial breaks (in most American TV), with 3-5 scenes per act.”

While I’m not suggesting you structure your professional life like Seinfeld, there is something to be said for repeating patterns that work consistently.

Sandra da Cruz Martins, Game Artist for Candy Crush Saga by King, spends her days creating incredibly popular games that are always the same, yet always different. She spoke with Ladders about some of the reasons that formulas work best and why and what you can learn from her approach in a more traditional work environment. She also offered insights into how adding some of these brand hallmarks to your professional life can help with your own formula for success.

Offer options

If you’ve ever played Candy Crush Saga, you’ll have noticed how subtly addictive it is. da Cruz Martins says “Players can invest however much time and energy into it that they want. We find that players typically tend to play the game when they have a few minutes to spare and want to be entertained, and the games can become part of someone’s daily life.” They also offer “the right balance between challenge and fun; and are easily accessible via multiple platforms.”

While that might seem like a formula for a game only, it offers a subtle clue into how you can stay in someone’s mind. Trying to impress a recruiter or new boss? Decide how much time and energy you’re willing to invest in the process. Try to also find a balance between challenge and fun or points of interest. You need to find ways to both stand out and have people seek you out repeatedly.

Stay consistent, but keep evolving

Da Cruz Martins explained that it can be something of a unique challenge “working on a casual game that has been up and running for over five years.” And keeping the success rate going can be a “fine balance between keeping the game experience up to date and staying true to what it was that captured the audience all those years ago.” One of the things the designers always take into account is “all the people who have been playing the game loyally for years, but also all of the new players experiencing the game for the first time.”

Many of us can become complacent in the workplace allowing our reputations or resumes to speak for us. It’s important to remember that when meeting someone for the first time you can bank on your reputation only to a point, you’ll have to keep finding new ways to engage and interest them.

Monitor feedback

“Keeping in touch with our audience so that we understand what works well and what doesn’t work so well is key to the game’s success,” said da Cruz Martins. “We are continuously listening to feedback, testing new features, refreshing visuals when the time is right, tweaking elements of the game, staying in touch with the latest developments on software and hardware and so on.” She explains that all of these elements “helps us do our jobs better.”

For the average person, the priorities are different even if the goal is the same. da Cruz Martins advised keeping yourself challenged creatively while setting goals you can work toward. “Acknowledge your needs (both professionally and in your personal life) so you can hopefully fulfill them where you can.” More than that, she offers advice that works well for creating hit games or living one’s best life “Nurture and cherish what makes you, you but be brave enough to try to improve where you need to!”

Perfect things behind the scenes

While da Cruz Martins is proud that she works on products that are “polished, properly functioning and beautiful looking game experiences,” she elaborates that “The evolution of these games is taking place behind the scenes more than anything.” That involves testing heavily every aspect and angle of the game.

As tempting as it is to share all the anxieties of your job search or career, try to limit the information you share publicly so you highlight your success and not the struggle.