The power of being creative and having no fear of failure

The video above was taken from the TED website.

First off please watch the video above, it will take 20 minutes of your time.

When I was in grade school around grade 6, our teacher gave us a task of researching species of cows (weird), and then creating a picture book of the various species and the way they looked. Most of the work that was handed in was brown cows with white feet and spots, similar to milk cows, with a few horns. Pretty standard looking cows and report. For mine I colored the cows rainbow and made their feet massive because (in my mind) cows should be able to walk on water. When the teacher saw this, she immediately tore up my work, sent me to the principles office, and gave me a zero on the school project. This was not the first experience like this that I have had and definitely was not the last. I also wondered why we had to do everything by the book and not think outside of the box or be creative with projects. Considering a lot of the resources we were referencing were decades old, I wanted to inject some fun into the project. This experience has stuck with me to this day.

Fast forward to 2010, I now work for as the Director of Social Media and SEO (I dislike formal titles so I call myself the ‘Chief Troublemaker’). Essentially my job is to drive traffic and engagement to the site, using Technology and Research. Before my job with I went to the University of Victoria for 2 years on a pre-Business Administration program. I ended up quitting school at UVic as I did not find I was learning anything. Listening to someone talk in the front of the room for 2 hours and then being sent home to read a text book is a truly bad way for anyone to learn life skills. I do see some value though, in the basics, like language and basic math skills. But some of the best things about going to UVic were the connections I made (friends) and the experiences that I had. Making mistakes and trying new things that I did not see others trying.

For instance, I once ran a promotion business where I organized parties at various venues around Victoria, worked closely with the owners of the venue, and the entertainment talent to come up with a price point that we all liked. After the event, pending I met the capacity requirements etc, money would be given to me, and I would pay the entertainment and cover the Marketing and logistics costs. On a few occasions, the venue owner would pay me less then we agreed upon. Which made me realize that you need to have contracts in place for everything, with witnesses signing (keep in mind I was early 20’s). That is the type of thing you do not learn in school, well I guess you do, but you do not remember it until you get burned in real life like I did. My love for trying new things and challenging my own reality lead me into this experience and failure from which I gained irreplaceable life skills.

I always felt like all of the schools that I attended throughout life were boring and army like with their procedures. The textbooks were mostly dusty old literature that did not relate to the world of today. They were written in a boring fashion, with no personality. I could not understand why the world was treating their children this way. Did they think we were machines, or were they training us to be good employees and army servants? Because what they were teaching me did not make me think outside of the box in any format, I had to do that on my own, and in doing so made a lot of people angry and ended up dropping out of University. I did find a course that had real world value for me though, I attended the Institute of Advanced Media in Vancouver BC and got the training I needed to do Commercial Website Development. Very good skills in the world of today and I wish more of this was taught in grade school.

I wonder why they do not teach finances or how to use the Technologies of today in grade school? Why are our children reading Shakespeare when we live in the era of Army Drone Airplanes (patrolling locally and overseas) and Food shortage? Really boggles my mind.

Anyway, that’s my experience with the educational system and how it effected me. To much emphasis on grade scores and colorful stickers for work completed, and not it’s real world implications. We are hurting the advancement of our species in this way, punishing different thinking and praising the way things have always been.

I wonder how many gaming sites would grow more efficiently if they thought outside the box and included everyone in company meetings (I know this is not always possible with our industry)? There are some really smart and creative people working in the far corners of every organization, most of which are too scared to put their hand up and challenge the way things are going. Though they may have some quality feedback from the front-lines that may benefit the management systems and structure on a more senior level. I think a big part of how well companies do long term is in their ability to listen to the smaller people and how to take internal constructive criticism and mold it into a positive thing. Sometimes big fancy titles and University degrees get in the way of potential collaboration between departments, all of which stems from communication issues and at times pride. When you take an employees feedback into account, it can make some feel like they are being personally challenged or attacked, but if you look at it from a high level is it usually a good thing.

The online gaming industry should, in theory, be on top of the changes in Technology and the Internet in near real-time. After all that is what powers online gaming. I think many companies get stuck in the way that they have always done things and are afraid of change, this is why so many companies fail and so very few excel (not taking brand strength into account of course). You have to be able to update your website quickly to match the changes happening in Technology. This requires solid communication between the deploy and IT teams, Marketing, and upper Management. Everyone is buzzing about Social Media and real-time conversation and how to Market and monetize it, but we are missing the fact that these same Technologies can also make your company more effective internally. Email is a great way to communicate, but you can only read one email at a time, then you have to click back to your inbox and then into a new email. There are better systems of communication now, email has not really changed since the beginning of the Internet. The Internet is a very different beast in 2010.

I suggest that the online gaming industry take one day a month to get together with your whole organization (Skype or in person) and just have a round table discussion. Leave your job title at the door and let everyone have a say. The amount of feedback and insight you will gain from this could push you over the edge and turn you into the next big thing in our space. This is what kids do, they get together in the sandbox and have group conversations, brainstorming and having fun while coming to some very interesting conclusions. I think we should all do the same, in the boardroom. Get back to the basics and not be afraid of creativity. This is also one of the strong points of being a privately held company vs. public. Room to be creative and adapt quickly.