The J Curve

Monday, October 11, 2004

Notes from EDAY 2004

On Saturday, IDEO mixed some fun and play with some great lectures:

• Stanford Prof. Bob Sutton: “Sometimes the best management is no management at all. Managers consistently overestimate their impact on performance. And once you manage someone, you immediately think more highly of them.” When Chuck House wanted to develop the oscilloscope for HP, David Packard told him to abandon the project. Chuck went on vacation” and came back with $2MM in orders. Packard later gave him an award inscribed with an accolade for “extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering.” When Leakey chose Jane Goodall, he “wanted someone with a mind uncluttered and unbiased by theory.” Sutton’s conclusion for innovative work: “Hire slow learners of the organizational code, people who are oblivious to social cues and have very high self-esteem. They will draw on past individual experience or invent new methods.”

• Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the Institute for Play, showed a fascinating series of photos of animals playing (ravens sliding on their backs down an icy slope, monkeys rolling snowballs and playing leapfrog, and various inter-species games). “Warm-blooded animals play; fish and reptiles do not. Warm blood stores energy, and a cortex allows for choice and REM sleep.”

Brown has also studied the history of mass murderers, and found “normal play behavior was virtually absent throughout the lives of highly violent, anti-social men. The opposite of ‘play’ is not ‘work’. It’s depression.”

“We are designed to play. We need 3D motion. The smarter the creature the more they play. The sea squirt auto-digests its brain when it becomes sessile.”

• Michael Schrage, MIT Media Lab Fellow, defined play as “the riskless competition between speculative choices. If it’s predictable, it’s not play. The opposite of play is not what is serious, but what is real. The paradox is that you can’t be serious if you don’t play.”

“We need to treat our tools as toys and our toys as tools. Our simulations, models and prototypes need to play.”


  • Pretty cool seminar and interesting information. Thanks!

    By Blogger bernardmoon, at 4:13 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Matt Gray, at 7:40 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Matt Gray, at 10:14 PM  

  • "Creativity in business is definitely important and we should never underestimate the creative force in a boardroom ..."

    I wouldn't over-estimate it either...The boardroom that is. I've been in enough boardrooms . Please put your creativity in the umbrella cabinet before entering. You will OBEY and DESTROY...Is usually what is going on, in a boardroom.

    By Blogger my-ponderings, at 5:29 PM  

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    By Blogger Mark Hultgren, at 7:44 AM  

  • Hi Steve -

    All I'm going to say about this post is that I think that creativity is the essence of invention and invention is the essence of our reality. What we see as “reality” is our feeble representation that we know where we are floating to in this ocean of chaos. Steve, I've been reading about you for a long time. Out of all the VC's, you seem like the one that I would get along with the most. I ask you this....

    If ideas are the currency of the future and people are afraid of sharing ideas, we then have a problem do we not? So Steve, we do indeed have serious problem that you can help with. Where there is a problem, there is a business that can be devolved as the solutions. I don't want to submit a business model to you. I'd like to share with you what I see as the future. (kind of like you do with your blog!) We are similar. We should talk. This theory doesn't fit into any business model; it has to be transferred in active conversation. (You are always looking for ways to expand the "viral" effect right, well here it is) Onto bigger and better things....

    What type of downbeat techno is your fav? I like ambient trance myself. Great thinking, inventing, and creating music. Look forward to talking to you.

    Marty McCrea

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 PM  

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