Last Saturday i was part of the METal group that had breakfast with Nolan Bushnell. It was a really thought provoking. My favorite part was the beginning of the speech which he came out and said:
Ideas don’t mean shit. Everyone has good ideas. Some better than others. Only over time and work can you own an idea. Just having an idea doesn’t account for a thing, but if you spend a year making an idea a reality only then can you claim an ownership of it.
Prior to the breakfast, i had never heard of Nolan. If you don’t know who he is, let me list some of his accomplishments:
- Founded the company Atari in 1972 and grew it to $2 billion in annual sales in 1982 and at the time was the fastest-growing company in the history of American business.
- Founded Chucky Cheese in 1977 and turned over day-to-day operations in 1981
- Founded in 1984 Etak which was the first company to digitize the maps of the world, as part of the first commercial automotive navigation system; the maps ultimately provided the backbone for Google maps, mapquest.com, and other navigation systems; it was sold to Rupert Murdoch in the 1980s. In May 2000 the company, headquartered in Menlo Park, California, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Tele Atlas.
Let’s just say he’s quite a badass. At the breakfast he talked about those past ventures and some of the businesses he’s involved with – specifically bring social games back to an arcade-like area and transforming the educational system.
One piece he did talk about is how to stimulate creativity within a company. He mentioned that he has a system to do this. Saying:
With every company i’m involved with, I get the group of “thought leaders” together in a room. I then ask them to metaphorically to “keep one foot on base” and come up with what the 2-year product line should be. These are the logical products that a smart company should invest in. I typically like to redo the 2 year roadmap every 4 months.
After i get the “one foot on base” ideas, then I ask people for their wild and crazy ideas. Each person must supply one. I’m a Nazi about getting each and every person to submit at least one off-the-wall idea.
Then we take a break, play football and drink a beer and go to bed.
The next day we get back together and i ask the group how they’d implement their wild & crazy idea. Doing so tends to lend credibility to a crazy idea and makes them actually possible. I have found that more good ideas and companies come from these crazy ideas than the 2-year product roadmaps
- Nolan Bushnell: “Games Are Good For You” (rockpapershotgun.com)
- Gaming luminaries chew the cud (bbc.co.uk)
- Meet Nolan Bushnell, the man who created the videogames industry (guardian.co.uk)