Technology pioneer and entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell recently authored a book called Finding the Next Steve Jobs. The man knows what he’s talking about: as founder and CEO of Atari, Nolan gave Jobs his first real job.
In short order, however, Nolan consigned Jobs to the night shift because the other employees found him malodorous and “prickly.” By chance Steve Wozniak, then an HP employee moonlighting at Atari, was also working the night shift, and the seeds of Apple were sown.
Such is the genius of visionaries like Bushnell—they can see the potential for greatness in others and are willing to put up with their quirks to unlock it. They spur invention by challenging convention.
Cases in point: If you typically wear casual dress to the office, you can thank Nolan for being the first to allow his engineers to dress in jeans and T-shirts. If you have ever taken advantage of your company’s Pizza Friday gathering to pitch your latest idea to the CEO over a beer, you can thank Nolan. If you’ve ever taken your kid to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s, well you can, er, blame Nolan for that one (he founded that restaurant chain).
And the man never stands still, having founded more than 20 companies over the years. Today Nolan is CEO of BrainRush, where he is exploring how gamification can make learning “faster, more fun and more fulfilling than it’s ever been.”
At one of our recent Conversations on the Future of Business events, I was lucky to grab a few minutes to record an interview during which Nolan discusses these and other topics. I encourage you to watch all the way to the end, where Nolan describes how he turned down the investment opportunity of a lifetime (Hint: Jobs was involved).