Dr. Sabrina Starling encouraged me as a business owner not just to share values from our company culture but also my personal values. It made a lot of sense to me. It’s intuitive that a business owner would strongly impact the culture of the company they founded. So I sat down and created a list of 8 values that are important to me personally. Once I started looking at them I could see that, yes, I do see those values playing out in my business virtually every day.
One of the values I wrote down reads “Apply what you learn.” I have two engineering degrees and I come from a family that does value education very highly. I care a lot about learning. That said, knowledge for knowledge’s sake is just entertainment. I love trivia, interesting esoteric facts, they’re fun to me for sure, but what I value most about knowledge is what you can do with it. Perhaps that’s the engineer in me. When it comes to business, I have a responsibility to deliver value for people, to have a positive impact on their lives. I take that seriously, so I always try to push new knowledge a step further than my own entertainment. I look for how I can apply it, and that’s when I feel I can really create innovation.
If I learn something new, one of the first questions I ask is “How can I apply this to make my world better or the world better for someone I care about?” “Someone I care about” is, of course, a pretty broad category that includes my immediate family, my extended family, my work family, and our clients. As I look at information, I very often ask “How is it useful? Where could I apply it?”
I’m clearly not the first person to think this. I think Tim Ferriss has an awesome process that I’ve started using myself. When I read a good old-fashioned paper book, one of the things I like to do now is to draw a box in the front of the book on one of the blank pages or the space around the title page. As I start coming up with interesting ideas or highlights, I list page numbers somewhere near that box, and it becomes an index for ideas I might want to revisit later. As I get near the end of the book, I may ask myself “what would I do with this information? How should this knowledge cause me to change my practices and my habits?” and that’s what I write in the box. And so, as I read books, I often come up with an action plan instead of just new information.
Recently I agreed to be the learning chair for a non-profit organization I’m a part of, and every time I bring in speakers, I ask what the takeaway value will be for the audience. How can we create movement in the audience and the people that are listening? How will this talk change their lives or themselves or the other parts of the world they care about? It all comes back to my values, my belief that, if we learn something, we should try to figure out how to apply it.
Bringing all of your knowledge together can lead to innovations no one else is capable of. I remember it being so satisfying for me to design and build the very first mobile video game trailer. I had the opportunity not only to rely on my video game background but also my electrical engineering background and my computer systems background. I applied all of those skills to make something no one had ever made before. It was the first mobile video game theater that was designed for groups of people playing video games together. Up until that point, people had been exploring putting video games in a trailer or a mobile platform, but everyone was doing the same thing. They were trying to isolate the players. Everyone played separately, walled off.
My vision was a shared experience. What if we were all together, if we tore down the walls and put all the screens up where everyone can see what everyone else is doing? The result of that was Gametruck, our successful franchise that has been running for a decade and a half and has entertained over ten million kids and adults.
Applied knowledge made a huge difference in that process and many others, which is why it is one of my core values. When we learn something, we want to act on that new knowledge and make sure it shows up in our world in a real way.