Nolan Bushnell founded groundbreaking companies such as Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. In his first book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Retain and Nurture Creative Talent, he outlines a plan for helping companies bring more creativity into their organization and make it their competitive advantage. (Nolan hired Steve Jobs in 1972, two years after founding Atari.) The book is a must read for all creatives and especially anyone who aspires to manage creatives.
My good friend, best-selling author and speaker Tim Sanders of Net Minds, is his publisher. Tim graciously agreed to interview Nolan and talk about creativity, leadership, libraries and even publishing. Here is the conversation between Tim and Nolan:
I know it’s your strong belief that leaders at companies need to foster a creative culture. If you were going to give leaders one piece of advice on how to think differently about a creative culture, what would that piece of advice be?
I would encourage them to say yes to at least one crazy idea a year.
Give me an example of some of the crazy ideas you heard when you were in Atari.
Among the many that were pitched to me, one that stands out was this notion of making pretty pictures when music happened. It seemed ridiculous at the time. The product ultimately turned into Midi.
Midi, of course, is the standard that still exists to this day for connecting music devices to each other and synchronizing them.
I think we built 20,000 of them, and I think we sold six at full-price. (Laughs). But it did become a force within the industry, for sure.
Let me ask you about leadership because you’ve led several companies. Do you think of leadership in a military way, a coaching way, or an improv comedy way?