Hugh Pickens writes writes "The Mercury News reports that Nolan Bushnell, who ran video game pioneer Atari in the early 1970s, says he always saw something special in Steve Jobs, and that Atari's refusal to be corralled by the status quo was one of the reasons Jobs went to work there in 1974 as an unkempt, contemptuous 19-year-old. 'The truth is that very few companies would hire Steve, even today,' says Bushnell. 'Why? Because he was an outlier. To most potential employers, he'd just seem like a jerk in bad clothing.' While at Atari, Bushnell broke the corporate mold, creating a template that is now common through much of Silicon Valley. He allowed employees to turn Atari's lobby into a cross between a video game arcade and the Amazon jungle. He started holding keg parties and hiring live bands to play for his employees after work. He encouraged workers to nap during their shifts, reasoning that a short rest would stimulate more creativity when they were awake. He also promised a summer sabbatical every seven years. Bushnell's newly released book, Finding The Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent, serves as a primer on how to ensure a company doesn't turn into a mind-numbing bureaucracy that smothers existing employees and scares off rule-bending innovators such as Jobs. The basics: Make work fun; weed out the naysayers; celebrate failure, and then learn from it; allow employees to take short naps during the day; and don't shy away from hiring talented people just because they look sloppy or lack college credentials. Bushnell is convinced that there are all sorts of creative and unconventional people out there working at companies today. The problem is that corporate managers don't recognize them. Or when they do, they push them to conform rather than create. 'Some of the best projects to ever come out of Atari or Chuck E. Cheese's were from high school dropouts, college dropouts,' says Bushnell, 'One guy had been in jail.'"
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