Creative Leadership

Five Leadership Lessons from Virtual Reality

Palmer Luckey is the 22 year old founder of “Oculus VR,” clearly the leader in virtual reality technology, especially since recently selling his company to Facebook for more than $2 billion. A story about his work in the Wall Street Journal called “Palmer Luckey: Making Virtual Reality a Reality” was insightful, and 5 things stood out for me that helped position him for such remarkable success:

1) Despite his youth, he’s spent most of his life experimenting with technology.   His parents gave him space and encouraged him to explore his ideas. According to the article: “He’s also grateful that his parents were supportive of his tinkering. “I don’t think they thought I was crazy, but they knew it was beyond their sphere of understanding,” he recalls.”
Lesson:  Hands on experience matters. The sooner you begin, the better chances of success.

2) He was homeschooled which gave him the time to invent.   Homeschooling allows you to customize your schedule, and in this case its certainly worked to his advantage. “It wouldn’t have been possible to work on the technology I was working on…had I been in the traditional public school system,” he says.
Lesson:  Control your schedule, or your schedule will control you.

3) It started with books and movies.   The article states, “He became interested in virtual reality after reading science fiction books and watching movies like “The Matrix.” For him, he says, “it was one of those technologies that’s up there with flying cars and artificial intelligence and time travel.”
Lesson:  Spend less time on email and social media and more time reading and dreaming.

4) Even without a budget, he continued working.   “He built prototypes of headsets in his garage using money he made by fixing damaged iPhones and by working as a sailing coach. He bought discounted 3-D monitors and head-mounted displays from government auctions.”
Lesson:  For true visionaries, a lack of money isn’t a reason to stop.

5) He took it online.   “As he developed more prototypes, Mr. Luckey posted pictures on online message boards. John Carmack, the founder of the gaming company id Software, was so impressed that he decided to show one of the prototypes at a 2012 gaming conference. Within a few days, Mr. Luckey dropped out of college and started Oculus VR with his friend Brendan Iribe, who is now chief executive of the company. They launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $250,000 to produce a few hundred virtual reality kits, but they had no trouble overshooting that mark: More than 9,000 people gave a total of $2.4 million, and the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz led a round of angel funding that raised $75 million. Facebook acquired the company last year.”
Lesson:  Visibility matters. In a distracted, media driven culture, visibility is just as important as ability.

What can you learn from virtual reality that could apply to your reality?

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