“Screw it – let’s do it”[i] is how Sir Richard Branson titled one of his books and on a beautiful African summer’s afternoon was one of the things that swirled in my head. That and listening to the news on the car radio, knowing what the broadcaster said was dead wrong. It was a comment taken out of context, and the context was something that few people would really understand…
My name is Bernard Odendaal, and most PR consultants would probably warn against this blog, since it may not sound corporate enough or even vetted by another person. Unlike Mark Zuckerburg’s character in The Social Network[ii], I am totally sober in writing this blog, but the hope exists that it may lead to similar things. But, and this is a big but, it does come from my gut. Something I think rarely comes from companies these days, never mind CEO’s. Hopefully one day I can look back at this blog and consider it with affection.
Back to my story. At that time I worked for ARMSCOR, the defence procurement company for the South African Defence Force. This was two weeks before I knew I would be without a job. A job I dearly loved and enjoyed as a Defence Analyst. So what do these two thoughts have to do with each other? The answer is everything.
I realized quickly that if I didn’t do anything about my future employment, it would be a very sorry Christmas. So what did I get for Christmas, although a little bit early?
A name. The Fact Foundry.
Ask any career counsellor and they will tell you that one must do what you have a passion for. In taking this excellent advice, I decided I want to start something that is all about things I like. I like playing (are we not all kids at heart?); I have a passion for information and the world around me (we are supposed to be curious like kids); and I love debating interesting topics (there is a difference between debate and having to be right). I also have a muse… she’s called aviation, but I believe one should never mix business and pleasure (insert wink).
With these three things in mind I knew what I wanted to do with my future – build a business around playing/thinking/debating/insight and thereby contributing to the world. Sounds ambitious. I know. No, neither Pinkie, nor Brain.
So now I had a name, an idea and a burning desire to do something. Next step, make a lot of debt, try to get somebody to fund this new adventure and hope to God I get a million to follow The Fact Foundry on Twitter. Simple really.
What is the real dream here, so to speak? Well, in essence my belief is that insight resides in the minds of people and can only be shared by people. Yes, one day we might have something artificially intelligent enough to have a cup of coffee with and kick ideas around with, but until then it is up to us as humans. The wonder of us humans is that there is no single right answer. Context for all of us is different. We all live in worlds where the day-to-day challenges make no or little sense anywhere else. The reality of a person living and working in Europe is totally different than that of a person living in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Poor in Europe or North America is not the same poor as in Africa, Asia or South America. I do believe however, that there are lessons to be learnt across these regions, societies and cultures and that dialogue will bring understanding.
Also, I want people to play and this will be developed over time. As creatures we are wired to play. This is how we let our creative juices flow and escape the bounds of reality’s limitations. We want to develop games that people can play that provide insight in an environment where it is safe to be out of the box, of the beaten track and celebrate the smart in all of us. I have seen kids solve game related problems faster than you can say Nintendo, so why not harness that ability within all of us?
The rest of the blogs could be rather serious and more ‘corporate’. Although play is paramount, there will be sober musings and discussions about things in our world, serious issues that affect all of us. Things that need to be fixed, debated, understood. Some of the sagest insights I ever received about issues came from ordinary people – people who took the time to think about their world and share their insights with mine. People like me and you. I hope that The Fact Foundry will be able to do the same.
In the words of the Joker[iii]: “And here we go…”
[i]Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life and Business (2010), Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Books.
[ii]The Social Network (2010), directed by David Fincher. Columbia Pictures.
[iii]Batman: The Dark Knight (2008), directed by Christopher Nolan. Warner Bros. Pictures.