Produced by Tracy Oppenheimer for ReasonTV, camera by Alex Manning.
“People who play video games have much better computational skills, much better logic skills, much better search and cognitive skills than kids who don’t,” says Nolan Bushnell, author of Finding the Next Steve Jobs, founder of Brainrush, and the entrepreneur often described as the “father of video games.”
ReasonTV’s Tracy Oppenheimer caught up with Bushnell at the 2013 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, CA to discuss how video games can revolutionize education as well as Bushnell’s role in exploring this new frontier.
“One of the problems with school today is it’s boring to the kids who are used to these rapid action, very diverse kinds of thinking that you get in any of the video games,” says Bushnell. “What we really want to do, above all, is maintain passion and enthusiasm, because with passion and enthusiasm people can be life-long learners. They can be engaged in life. They can be happy.”
Have you seen a vending machine lately? Most are still pretty basic: Put in some cash and out comes a can or package. But the most advanced models have computer processors and touch-screen displays that let you customize your order to a remarkable degree. Touch-screen drink machines, for example, use a set of flavor cartridges to create more than a hundred soft drink combinations, be it Raspberry Coke or Peach Sprite Zero. The Let’s Pizzamachine kneads the dough, spreads it with sauce, cheese, and your choice of toppings, and then bakes it under infrared lamps—all in less than 3 minutes. And MooBella’s Ice Creamery takes a mere 40 seconds to create a custom-blended dish of ice cream, with nearly 100 combinations of flavors and mix-ins.
Today’s high-tech vending machines are more than just novelties. They represent the beginning of what will eventually be a revolutionary shift in the way food is prepared. In this new food future, we predict, meals will be prepared not by human hands but by a “food compositor”: a machine that creates healthy, delectable, and affordable dishes from a set of basic ingredients and flavors at the push of a button. Imagine sitting down to a dinner worthy of a three-star Michelin restaurant for about what you’d pay today for a McDonald’s Happy Meal. And that meal will be catered to your specific tastes and health needs, with virtually no effort at all. Once food compositors become commonplace, the technology will lead to seismic changes in food production, storage, and distribution. Although that vision is at least 10 years away, researchers today are already prototyping the technologies that will make it possible [see sidebar, “Adventures in Printing Food”].
Culinary innovation is nothing new, of course. But in recent decades, the pace has accelerated, thanks to advances in food science and the relentless economic and social pressures of globalization. The result is that people now have unprecedented access to new foods and are being exposed as never before to new culinary techniques and styles. At the radical edge of this global food revolution is what we call Modernist Cuisine, whose freethinking chefs experiment with ingredients, equipment, and techniques borrowed from laboratories and processed food factories to create flavorful foams, unbreakable emulsions, and unusual textures and tastes. A typical experiment is to reconstruct a common food—say, an olive—by extracting the essential flavors from it and then reassembling the components into a recognizable yet more intense version of the original. In our research kitchen, we recently repurposed an ultracentrifuge, ordinarily used by cell biologists, to extract a creamy pea “butter” from pureed peas.
(MoneyWatch) Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, wrote, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” He was referring to virtually anything, and his wisdom has made companies measurement obsessed.
Like anything taken to an extreme, measuring things at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, can lead to bad decisions and consequences. I think if Drucker were still alive, he’d amend his writing to say, “Make sure the environment allows for accurate measures.”
Case in point: 360 degree feedback surveys. These are wonderful tools in leadership development. In some companies, all employees participate in this process. The “360 degree” part means that peers, superiors and subordinates are all surveyed, and the data provide a comprehensive view of your business’s strengths and “development opportunities.”
It is imperative that the environment examined produces a meaningful result. Imagine doing a 360 degree feedback survey in General Motors as the company was entering bankruptcy. The best-liked people would be those who were active on the rumor mill and thus “knew” what was really going on, helped protect their loyal friends from job losses and were willing cast blame on others if it meant someone else would be let go.
At a company like Zappos, famous for its commitment to core values, the most-prized individuals would be promoters of the company’s core values of the company, who challenged the status quo in the process. Using a standard 360 feedback tool in such a culture would be counterproductive, for it highlights individual actions, rather than the groups of people who seek to make the company more values led.
GM had a “my life sucks” culture, so doing a 360 degree feedback survey would be meaningless, even dangerous, in this situation. Of all business environments, 25 percent are at this level (which we call stage 2 in Tribal Leadership). In past blog posts, I’ve referred to companies among this 25 percent as having “zombie cultures.”
Zappos has a “we’re great” culture. Assessing individuals is very difficult in such a climate because people are less important than the small tribes they lead. At this level, which we name stage 4, are 22% of tribal companies.
Only 49% of environments belong to “I’m great” level of culture (stage 3), in which a normal 360 degree feedback survey can help boost leaders into a new way of thinking and behaving. I wrote about two qualities leaders should develop in such cultures last year.
What, then, should you do?
First, before you take in the results of your company’s 360 feedback survey, take a two-minute assessment of your company’s work environment. If the results are anything other than stage 3 (“I’m great”), they will likely be of little use.
Second, use this assessment to determine whether or how your company carries out such a survey. If your organization has a “my life sucks” (stage 2) culture, stop. Work on that culture first, and refrain from a the survey until your culture grades out at the “I’m great” level (stage 3). If the results of the survey mirror those of Zappos (“we’re great,” or stage 4), you should make an assessment of your people in relation to the company’s shared values. Otherwise, the results may encourage personally competitive behavior and erode the environment. A good way to assess the shared values of a group is the“Mountains and Valleys” exercise.
Third, if your culture lies in stage 3 territory, measure those behaviors indicating employees are putting others ahead of themselves. In an “I’m great” culture, employees are self-obsessed, and providing individual feedback and personal comparisons may make this problem worse. Do not measure an individual in comparison to others. Instead,determine whether he or she measures up to the company’s values.
The 360 feedback surveys are just one type of measurement that is potentially misleading, and possibly dangerous, unless those who administer them have mastered organizational culture. In my 20 years’ experience as a consultant, author and professor, my conclusion is that most of them have not. Assessment tools sweep through companies like fashion: For a time they are all the rage, but five years later they seem odd and comical.
The point here is to examine the environment in which work takes place before deciding what else can, or should, be measured.
Disagree? Then I hope you’ll make a comment below. Debate on this subject would help us all make better decisions.
Image courtesy of Flickr user marsemet491
Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari and Jobs’ first boss, tells Inc. what not to do in a job interview if you want to hire creative talent.
Back in 1974, Steve Jobs didn’t look like your typical successful job applicant: a 19-year-old college dropout, with a tenuous commitment to basic hygiene, he was more than a little rough around the edges.
By CAL Entertainment Exclusive Speaker, Jill Belconis as seen on Lean In.
I’ve continually been presented with the opportunity to be the “first woman” throughout my career. When I graduated from college, I was the first woman hired to work in sales at IBM’S data processing division in my branch. Many skeptics didn’t believe that a 21-year-old woman could succeed in sales at a conservative technology firm. I didn’t aim to be the department’s first successful woman; my goal was simply to excel at my job. The work was brutal. Everyone tried to steer me away, especially the CIO. I accepted the challenge and, despite intimidation tactics from my customer, I learned how to lead.
After IBM I entered another competitive field – mortgage banking – eventually becoming company president. This position qualified me to join YPO Chicago, one of the oldest chapters in Young Presidents’ Organization, a global membership organization for chief executives under the age of 45 based in Dallas, Texas with chapters all over the world. When I joined, my chapter consisted of 180 men and only five women.
Never one to accept the status quo, I committed to do something about the lack of female members. I became a chapter officer. Later, I was YPO Chicago’s first and only female chapter chair, which led me to a spot on the YPO International Board after my peers elected me as international events chair.
When a few members asked if I would consider accepting a nomination for YPO international chairman, the highest position in this 20,000-member-led organization, I wasn’t sure I was ready. Although I was heavily involved with overseeing international events, I had little experience with the organization’s governance structure. I also was a single mother with two children in college, and one about to finish high school, and my career in mortgage banking was at a critical point due to the economy. It was difficult to imagine squeezing in the necessary time to dedicate a year of service, traveling the globe as the public face of YPO.
I thought that if I could just wait one more year, all three of my children would be away at college, and maybe the economy would be more stable. But one thing I learned when I worked at IBM is that there’s never a “right” time to leap out of my comfort zone.
I accepted the nomination and was elected as Chairman of the International Board in 2011 — the first female chairman in YPO’s 60-year history. When the news was announced in Barcelona at YPO’s annual Global Leadership Conference, members responded overwhelmingly. Female members immediately embraced me, but what was most amazing: Male members told me they couldn’t wait to go home and tell their daughters a woman had been elected as International Chairman of YPO.
I broke the glass ceiling when I became International Chairman at YPO and trust it won’t take another 60 years for the next woman to have that opportunity. If I need another reminder of what I’ve accomplished, I look at my daughter’s college application essay, which she shared with me after she submitted it. She wrote that I was her role model and had proven women can effectively be compassionate mothers while excelling at their careers. Her essay is all the validation I need.
In Silicon Valley legend Nolan Bushnell’s first book, he explains how to find and hire employees who have the potential to be the next Steve Jobs.
Nolan Bushnell founded the groundbreaking gaming company Atari in 1972, and two years later hired Steve Jobs, as well as many other creatives over the course of his five decades in business. Here Bushnell explains how to find, hire, and nurture the people who could turn your company into the next Atari or the next Apple. Bushnell’s advice is constantly counter-intuitive, surprising, and atypical. When looking for employees, ignore credentials. Hire the obnoxious (in limited numbers). Demand a list of favorite books. Ask unanswerable questions. Comb through tweets.
Just because you’ve hired creatives doesn’t mean you’ll keep them. Once you have them, isolate them. Celebrate their failures. Encourage ADHD. Ply them with toys. Encourage them to make decisions by throwing dice. Invent haphazard holidays. Let them sleep.
The business world is changing faster than ever, and every day your company faces new complications and difficulties. The only way to resolve these issues is to have a staff of wildly creative people who live as much in the future as the present, who thrive on being different, and whose ideas will guarantee that your company will prosper when other companies fail.
About the Authors
Nolan Bushnell is thefounder of video game company Atari, Chuck E. Cheese—the first restaurant to integrate gaming into its entertainment model—as well as twenty-five other companies. Bushnell has been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame, received the BAFTA Fellowship, and was named one of Newsweek’s “50 Men Who Changed America.” He’s a frequent subject of media coverage and was prominently featured in Walter Isaacson’s best selling book, Steve Jobs.
Gene Stone, a former book, magazine, and newspaper editor for such companies as the Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Harcourt Brace, and Simon & Schuster, has ghostwritten thirty books (many of which were New York Times bestsellers) for a wide range of people in many different fields. Stone has also written numerous titles under his own name, including The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick, which has been translated into more than twenty languages; the New York Times bestseller Forks Over Knives; and The Watch, the definitive book on the wristwatch.
“Nolan Bushnell is the person who launched Steve Jobs’s career. In this invaluable book, the founder of Atari celebrates having fun and explains how that encourages creativity. Read this book and learn how you can end up hiring the next Steve Jobs.”
– Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
“The man who helped give a generation the game of Pong now gives a new generation a series of pongs for their careers. Nolan Bushnell’s book is a spirited and insightful road map for anyone trying to navigate the new world of work.”
– Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell Is Human and Drive
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson ISBN = 978-1451648539
James Sun – CEO of Pirq and former finalist on Donald Trump‘s reality TV series, The Apprentice – recently spoke to a full house at the Seattle coworking space, Thinkspace about becoming an entrepreneur. Sun, who has secured millions in funding as an entrepreneur, spoke not only about Trump’s hair (it’s real) but also about the difference between being an “entrePOORneur” and a successful entrepreneur. Here are nine tips Sun has for aspiring entrepreneurs to be successful, both financially and professionally:
1. Master change
“The world is changing and the question is, as an entreupenuer, can you master change?” Sun believes that any successful entrepreneur should be able to answer this question affirmatively. At Pirq, he says, “we literally have a pivot every day.” Though his father told him this is the wrong way to run a business, with the right way to set a goal and the follow steps over again to attain this goal, Sun disagrees and believes “in today’s world technology is changing so fast you need to learn to habitually pivot….because market forces change.”
By CAL Entertainment Exclusive Speaker, Keith Chambers
I got an email last week from Ricky Farmer telling me his sales have increased 250% since I repositioned his business about a year ago. He expressed his gratitude very eloquently, which put a big smile on my face. At the same time, I realized I had completed this project without sharing it with friends and clients. I have always assumed that those who read my blog are only interested in what I do for the big well-known brands. As it turns out, my staff says, “not so.” So here you go. The smallest client I have ever worked with and yet this project was no less of a job than repositioning the Miss America beauty pageant.
Atari’s founder Nolan Bushnell was one of the main attractions at Campus Party Brasil this year. In front of a numerous and admiring audience, he recalled the early days of video gaming, in which Atari undoubtedly played a central role.
His keynote was full of anecdotes, several of which involved his former employee Steve Jobs and his buddy Steve Wozniak, who gave Bushnell a chance to get one third of Apple for $50,000 (and yes, he infamously passed on that chance.)
Do you remember the Beatle’s song “Love, Love Me Do?” Well, you can use it, its title, its lyrics or melody free of charge because yesterday it became fifty years old and is now considered public domain property. This is true in Europe, whereas it takes ninety-five years in the US.