Todd Haushalter’s Keynote Address: Building an idea factory

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Todd Haushalter, chief product officer at Evolution, gave Wednesday’s keynote address at iGaming NEXT: Valletta ’21, with a session titled “Building an idea factory”.

This high-energy keynote aimed to introduce the audience to Evolution’s playbook, and show how the business continues to innovate and come up with new ideas.

 

How to come up with good ideas

Todd shared his top tips for how attendees could turn their company into an idea factory, the first strategy of which is to get the right people at the table. Too often, he said, we invite people to take part in meetings for the wrong reasons.

Bringing someone along simply because of their position, or ‘out of respect’, is actually disrespectful, he said – as people should not be brought along to discussions they cannot sufficiently contribute to.

His second tip was to let every idea be good for 30 seconds. Give every idea a chance, he said – since you only have people in the room who are worthy of being there, don’t shoot down ideas too quickly or you’ll start to get fewer of them.

Next, stop saying “but”. If you’re the person who always says “yeah, that’s a good idea, but…” then people will start to become defensive – they want to come back at you and explain what you’re missing. Instead, try using “and” to help develop ideas further, rather than pushing back against them.

Switch sides. If there is a disagreement between two people with different ideas – try switching sides to defend the other person’s point of view. When we do this, he said, we start to see more clearly their perspective.

Celebrate reversals. You want to have a culture where the best idea wins, he said, and that means you have to let go of things. If you show your business that you can change your mind, others will start to change theirs, and what will eventually rule will be the best ideas. In the end, all that matters is the product that shifts to the customer – nobody sees the meetings.

 

Who to keep out of your idea sessions

And finally, to generate great ideas, keep the wrong people away from idea sessions. This could be the ‘Energy Vampire’, who always finds a reason an idea cannot work. Or the ‘Idea Repeater’, who parrots the last thing they heard without adding anything new.

While no-one likes to talk about it, meetings should also exclude ‘Bad Idea Guy’, Haushalter said, as some people just specialise in having bad ideas. “That’s OK – it’s not a crime to have bad ideas – but it does make the meetings pretty unproductive,” he argued.

Good ideas are specific, executable, cheap, fast, and come early in product development, Haushalter said, while bad ideas tend to be vague, hard to implement, expensive, slow and late.

 

Why do we have bad ideas?

In addition to how to generate good ideas, and make good predictions, Haushalter also explored what can lead businesses to believe in bad ideas.

He offered the audience seven ways people make bad predictions. The first was arrogance, and assuming we’re better than we are.

Next, personal bias and bad data – Haushalter pointed to analyst predictions on the 2016 US presidential election, during which he said personal bias led to a 99% certainty that Hillary Clinton would win.

Bad ideas can also come about when the facts are “too painful to face” – for example, Kodak’s refusal to give up on film cameras, despite the digital camera revolution happening in front of its eyes.

Next, “good old-fashioned trying to please the boss.” We often see this in acquisitions, he said, where the numbers don’t add up, and growth predictions are massaged to appease a boss’s desire to acquire.

Then, the hammer and nail problem – if you’re Blackberry, you can’t imagine a world without physical keyboards on smartphones, and this leads to the stifling of innovation.

And finally, sitting around in meetings and saying “it’s lovely, what a nice idea”. The magic of innovation is in “beating the heck out of ideas, getting rough with each other, being highly critical – that’s how you’re going to get to the real answers,” Haushalter argued.

 

Looking to the future of gaming

To conclude the session, Haushalter asked the audience to engage their critical thinking skills. He asked “what online gambling company has the highest market capitalisation?”

His answer? Coinbase. This is how people gamble now, he argued, and as well as Coinbase, investment platforms such as Robinhood are making their way to becoming the new gambling products.

And, they have benefits that gambling companies don’t have – such as being able to advertise to customers at 18 years old, under the guise of investment, and provide credit – all without having to satisfy gambling regulations.

You don’t know where the next competitors are going to come from, he argued, and the only way we are going to stay competitive, and lead the future, is if we have better ideas and execution. “You need to become an idea factory,” he concluded.

About the author

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Conor Mulheir

Conor entered the gaming industry in 2018 producing high-level live event content for audiences in London, Amsterdam and São Paulo. From 2020, he went on to report news and commission exclusive content for various gaming media brands before joining iGaming NEXT as editor in January 2022.

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