The Self-Edit

As children progress through school they become self-conscious and quietly begin to suppress their playful tendencies for fear of being childish or breaking with social norms. These children grow into adults who self-edit in an attempt to adhere to these social norms for fear of being different. Play is dismissed and creativity eyed suspiciously as something that lacks discipline and is confined to the arts. It’s not really anyone’s fault but the trappings of a system steeped in tradition and outdated ideas. Ironically, it is creativity, imagination and courage that is required to create new social norms as we overcome the systemic inertia in our fight against this spiralling trajectory.

I had a chance to meet Nolan Bushnell earlier this year. Growing up with the magic that was Atari I was fascinated to hear about his history of serial entrepreneurship, how he managed a young Steve Jobs (and turned down a 1/3 stake in Apple), and how he found and nurtured creative talent in the workplace. He shared stories of identifying, recruiting and hiring by offering gems like employing people for their passions and intensity, ignoring credentials, looking for people who have interesting hobbies, avoiding the clones and hiring the obnoxious and crazy. To nurture and then retain creative employees he suggests celebrating success often and loudly, instituting a degree of anarchy within the organization, championing the bad ideas, treating employees as adults, having a yearly demo day (think HackSIS), neutralising the naysayers by making them take ownership for their criticisms and throwing the dice.

Throwing the dice, a concept published by George Cockcroft in 1971, involves leaving decisions in life to chance. Why should we do this? Because we tend to self-select our agenda without being aware that we’re doing so. Bushnell states that this is the biggest problem with creativity – self editing.  Living by the dice is the easiest way to break old habits, get out of a rut, or change your daily routine. How does it work?

1) Buy a 20 sided and an 8 sided dice.
2) Create a list of 8 new daily habits you would like. Every day, roll the 8 die, and do whatever number it lands on.
3) Create a list of 20 goals or projects. These can be as small or as outlandish as you like but don’t self-edit, as big innovation often lives right on the edge of seemingly ridiculous ideas. Roll the 20 die, and do whatever number it lands on until you finish the goal. Then, roll again.

In his book Finding the Next Steve Jobs, Bushnell states,

Do not self edit. Your ideas may be the key to everyone’s future.

It’s always been the seemingly improbable, boundary-pushing ideas that have created this world around us. The people who say something can’t be done are the ones standing in the way of people doing it. Nolan Bushnell’s advice to anyone is simple. Act. Don’t just talk about it. Do something.

Roll the Dice.

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