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Episode in a Tweet: Entrepreneur Brent Bushnell leads an interdisciplinary team of artists, engineers, and entrepreneurs and discusses the creative process and how his firm is reinventing the way people play.
Quick Background: What started as a bunch of nerds who got together in downtown LA to share projects they were working on has turned into a brand new genre of entertainment that fuses the physical and digital to create a new world of social amusement. Brent and his friends created an initial interactive high-tech game and installed it at local parties just for fun with no profit motive. After doing about eight parties, big brands began calling and asking if Brent and his colleagues could create an immersive technology experience for their parties.
Quickly, the vision expanded. While everybody knows the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), Brent is passionate about rebranding STEM learning to STEAM with the inclusion of art and creative. He is motivated by the power of group games and interactive media to bring people together in fun and meaningful ways. As a UCLA-trained engineer, he is a hands-on entrepreneur and maker who uses rapid prototyping to turn vision into reality.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
1. Follow Disney’s 3-step method when brainstorming for new ideas.
First, begin as a dreamer. Nothing is off limits. Fantasize, be absurd, the more outrageous the better. Next, rework the ideas you dreamed about into something more practical. “Of all the things that we had in the dreamer stage, we start to apply some filters to be able to cull that big set into something more reasonable,” said Brent. And finally, in the third step, “Take all the things that made it through the filters and determine what are we actually going to work on. What do we really care about? What do we think makes a ton of sense?” There is an art and science to the brainstorming process.
2. Move from prototype to testing your idea with people as quick as possible.
“The speed with which you can take an idea from concept to working prototype and put in the hands of a user has radically collapsed,” said Brent. With today’s technology, an entrepreneur can go from idea in the morning to working prototype in the afternoon. Ironically, Brent often finds that the things he and his team are most excited about are not the same ones that potential customers find exciting. To save time and money, “We try to engage with potential customers as fast as possible because there’s just no substitute for live feedback and engaging with your potential customers,” said Brent. By integrating rapid prototyping with immediate customer feedback–then iterating with what you learn–you can dramatically increase your pace of innovation.
3. Continuously iterate.
As an entrepreneur, your first idea will rarely be the best idea. Brent’s team came up with a game that involved a wall of buttons. You’d think there’s not much room to iterate on a simple wall of buttons, right? Wrong. “We’ve got to be on version 10 of this thing now. It slowly evolved into a 2-player game and then we were like, ‘Wow, what if we put it on spinning gears? It’ll make it harder.’ Well, that was true, but people’s fingers got caught in those gears so we had to do another version. Each time that we did it the game got better and better. The willingness to continuously iterate so that you’re constantly getting feedback is what really makes things awesome,” said Brent. Are you continuously getting feedback on your products and services then making improvements?
4. A great way to stay creative is to go “conference crashing.”
If all you do is attend conferences within your industry, you’ll keep hearing the same ideas and same speakers over and over. Brent likes to go “conference crashing” as he calls it and attend conferences outside his normal sphere. For example, he’ll attend a packaging conference or a manufacturing conference. Why? “A lot of creativity comes at the intersection of domains. The more that you can draw from other people’s industries, the more you find interesting creative things that can be applied into your own industry,” said Brent. To a large extent, creativity is a function of being curious and connecting the dots.
5. Diversity is nice from a societal and cultural level, but it makes great business sense, too.
“When it comes to building a solution, or drafting some new piece of legislation, or building some new piece of technology, you want all of the different stakeholders who might be using that thing at the table,” said Brent. If that’s not possible in the creative design phase, then “you better have it be early in the process when you start putting it in front of potential customers.” By getting a wide variety of potential customers involved in reviewing early versions of your product or service, “You’re going to learn really fast what works and what doesn’t.”
1. Use a process for brainstorming. Simply sitting in a room and throwing out ideas is not brainstorming. Use the 3-step Disney process to put structure around your brainstorming to ensure you end up with creative, yet doable ideas.
2. Develop prototypes and iterate quickly and frequently. Today’s technology enables you to rapidly develop prototypes then test them with potential customers all within the same day. Make speed your ally.
3. It’s a diverse world out there, use that to your advantage. Diversify your staff across generations, gender, geography, and ethnicity. It will pay huge dividends as you get a variety of viewpoints in the design and testing phase of your product development cycle.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.