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Atari founder: Tim Cook isn’t the ‘next Steve Jobs’

CNN News Wire | 10/4/2013, midnight
Apple’s new CEO is no Steve Jobs, says Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, who first met Jobs when his company employed ...
Tim Cook

On why he didn’t invest early in Apple

“I didn’t think that Steve would be a good chief executive and I didn’t have the time to do it. I’ve often thought one of the unsung heroes was actually (early investor and second Apple CEO) Mike Markkula, who actually provided the adult supervision for the first few years, which I think was really important. If I’d invested and Markkula hadn’t been there, the outcome could have been very different.”

On ‘celebrating failure’

“I don’t strive for failure. But what you want to do is strive for appropriate risk. One of the ways you can thwart appropriate risk is by making the penalties for failure high. It’s a little bit like the Catholic church and their idea of forgiveness and absolution and all that. Most employees who are really good employees, if they screw up, they feel really bad about it. What you want to do is you want to give them absolution.”

“I defy you to find somebody who’s known as an innovator or visionary who hasn’t had multiple failures. It’s really about doing. It’s really about ... being a prime mover that allows you to become a visionary. It’s an uncharted path, and when you’re on an uncharted path you end up in a cul de sac every once in a while. That doesn’t mean that your overall direction isn’t correct. You just have to back up and maybe move a little bit more to the right this time, or to the left.”

On corporate culture

“A good company basically says, ‘We don’t care what you do. We don’t care how you do it. You’re going to be judged on your outcomes, period. Nothing else matters.’ When Atari started in Silicon Valley, then Apple, we were the first and only places where engineers didn’t come to work in a coat and tie. So guys who are wearing shorts and T-shirts and flip-flops to work now need to say thank you very much.”

“From a corporate standpoint, think about the difference between the way you think about Google and the way you think about Hewlett Packard. At the outset — eight years ago, five years ago — Hewlett Packard had significantly more resources that they could have been innovating with than Google did. Google has the one cash cow (search), but they are planting seeds for their future that I think are extraordinary.”

On napping at work

“Think of your body as your innovation instrument. It turns out that all kinds of cognitive functions are increased in the afternoon with just a 20-minute nap. (NASA studies showed) a 15 to 30% increase in cognitive ability after a 20-minute nap. It’s just silly to not do that.”

On finding the next Jobs

“I think there are thousands of them out there. I think the main issue is going to be, are they going to be allowed to perform? Remember, Steve was at an integral point where he was product maven and had control of tremendous amounts of resources at his fingertips. A lot of the Steve Jobses out there don’t have that control, don’t have those resources at their disposal. They have to be given them. When I hear a company say ‘We’ll vote on that’ or ‘We’ll get consensus,’ you know that they’re going to be mediocre. True innovation has no consistency. Nobody sees it until it’s done.”

Doug Gross | CNN