"Your Company Needs To Be A Bit Spiky!"

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I was listening to a podcast today. Chris Brogan was interviewing Nolan Bushnell. First, a brief bio on Nolan:

Nolan Bushnell founded both Atari and the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time Theaters chain. He was inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame. He was named one of Newsweek’s “50 Men Who Changed America.” Bushnell has started more than twenty companies and is one of the founding fathers of the video game industry.

Another claim to fame for Bushnell: he  hired Steve Jobs at Atari and was an influence on the creation of Apple Computer.

Bushnell also just published a new book, entitled How To Find the Next Steve Jobs. The sub-title of the book is How to Find, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent.

Not too shabby of a guy.

So with that backdrop, I wanted to mention a few things he said in the interview.

The first of course is the title of this tip: “Your company needs to be a bit spiky!”

I looked up “spiky” and it has a number of definitions: grouchy, aggressive, even ill-tempered.

The sense I got from Mr. Bushnell was you’re looking for folks who do not want a cubicle existence for their entire work life. You’re looking for people who want to get out there, try new ideas, do a bit of innovating, be creative. And if they have to be aggressive to get these new ideas accepted, then so be it.

In describing a company that Nolan would run, he said: “It has to have some outliers. It has to have some rough spots. You don’t get the next great product by sitting around the campsite singing Kumbaya. It’s just a whole different world out there and you have to get people who are outliers.”

So, do you need spiky people in your company? Could you use an outlier or two? Someone who is not necessarily going to toe the company line and do only what he is told to do?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have this idea that, in order for someone to be creative and come up with new ideas, that this person has to constantly rub you and your staff the wrong way.

I also never bought into the notion that true art can only come from an extreme non-conformist or someone crazy as a lune. One can be perfectly sane and very easy to get along with and still be intensely creative.

But for the purposes of building your company, you may want to keep your eyes open for that “spiky” guy or gal who aggressively looks for new ways to get things done. That person may end up being a tremendous asset for you.


As the law varies in each area, please check with an attorney to ensure you are applying these tips within the law.

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