Nolan Bushnell is the founder of Atari, Chuck E. Cheese’s, and countless other companies, making him one of the most prolific and successful entrepreneurs of our time. In “Finding the Next Steve Jobs” he offers practical advice for hiring and retaining talent, advice designed to help you make your business a creative powerhouse. The tips are delivered via 52 short chapters, each with its own “pong” (Bushnell’s term for a piece of advice, a word that originated with the name of a video game the author created in the 1970s).
At the top of Bushnell’s list: Make your workplace an advertisement for your company; in other words, a compelling place to work. Another big one is: Hire for passion and intensity, which, in this reviewer’s mind, is far more important than experience. “People with enthusiasm are going to contribute most to your enterprise,” explains Bushnell.
There are a lot of other gems, especially in regard to choosing which candidates to interview for open positions: Ignore credentials, avoid clones [of people you already have], and look for hobbies, “particularly ones that are difficult or complex, somewhat time consuming, or suggest a large appetite for intellectual challenge.”
The problem with this advice is that the people who would benefit from it could read the entire book and still not “get it.” Bushnell acknowledges this problem, writing, “Most people don’t have creative imaginations, so most people don’t [understand] what [a] creative [says]. And most people tend to be fearful of things they don’t understand.”
The good news is that if you apply many of the pongs in Bushnell’s book, you will no doubt fashion a workplace that cultivates creativity. The bad news is that you probably won’t be able to do it. Yet you must try.
“[I]f there’s only one thing you take from this book, it’s this: You must act! Do something! Too many people read books, listen to lectures, attend seminars, and then return to their lives without changing a thing. If that’s how you respond to this book, then I’ve failed,” concludes Bushnell. “It isn’t enough to understand that you must find, hire, and nurture creative people, you must actually go out and do it.”