Bobby Jones famously said about Jack Nicklaus that “he plays a game with which I am not familiar.” Now obviously Jones knew quite a bit about golf as a winner of multiple major tournaments himself and that was on the surface, what Nicklaus was playing. But the manner in which Jack attacked courses, the distance he hit the ball and his fantastic short game was very different from anything that preceded him.
Eric Clapton is one of the greatest guitar players of all time and yet he was stunned when he heard Jimi Hendrix play for the first time. Listening to Jimi’s music now one can’t fully appreciate how different it was at the time – it was a musical game with which no one had been familiar. Think it’s just music and sports?
What about food? Ferran Adria changed the nature of how many chefs think about ingredients and technique. Art? Picasso and Dali changed our perceptions. In every field, there are those who play the game well and there are those who change the game – make us think about things completely differently. Yes, there are disruptive technologies (and people) but I think in general they’re effects, not causes. For them to have been invented, some game-changer had to have been will to think about things differently. Sure, some technologies are only evolutionary (netbooks) while some are revolutionary (the iPhone). But they didn’t invent themselves, right?
So here’s the question: are you changing the game or are you standing by admiring how others are doing so? No, not everyone is Nicklaus, Hendirx, Adria or others. But I think we each have the ability to stop and try to think about things in new, different ways, even if those ways seem inside out when first we encounter them. That’s how games get changed.