Perry Kaye - Get Out of the Herd
What do you do in the industry?
I invent toys and games which help children form into healthy, free thinking, strong adults. I value play patterns that let children build skills, use their imagination, and have a ton of fun doing it.
Most people don’t realize that play is a basic human need. Like food and water feed the body, play feeds the spirit. Play enables humans to practice making decisions to see outcomes. The more play is aligned with situations a person might find in real world the more beneficial play is. This is why play is so important to us. And also why the Toy Industry and CHITAG play such an important roll in society.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
I invented a marker that cuts paper when you draw with it. Draw a picture of a dog and boom, you can pull a paper dog off the page. It’s sold millions.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I entered the toy industry when 4 Adults lied to me and 1 kid told me the truth.
To test a new microprocessor I made the dumbest toy ever made. I wan’t trying to make a toy, I was trying to test out a new microprocessor. It made some noises when you pressed some buttons. Simple stuff, inputs generated outputs.
We were hosting a party at my home. Lots of people where there. And several people asked what I was working on. There were 4 Adults and 1 kid talking to me. I took out the terrible toy and said, “I’m testing out a new microprocessor so I made this.” Each adult told me it was amazing and that I should bring it to market. By the time the 4th adult chimed in, even I started to believe the lie.
Then I asked the kid, “Hey, what do you think.” He was about 6 years old. He looked me right in the eye and said, “It sucks!”
I laughed and told him I agreed and that he should get two pieces of cake for telling the truth!
Once I saw how easy it was to get honest answers about products, from the kids who will used them, I fell in love with the toy industry. Who doesn’t love the brilliant honestly of a kid telling you if they do or don’t like what you made?
What are you working on now?
Right now, as I write this, I have several projects on my drawing board. They are toys that move kids into the real world and place them in fun situations. They are Hero Play toys.
Yeah, digital is cool. You can pretend drive in a Formula Race, pretend Battle Aliens, pretend Smash Pigs all simply by moving just your thumbs.
But the world is even more fun. We have battle toys that boom and bam and let children experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Vanquishing your best friend is way more fun than a leaderboard no one sees. The smiles that burst on everyone's face when they play with my prototypes is awesome.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I see too many companies dumbing down their toys. Kids are smarter than most adults think. Adults frequently underestimate the intelligence of children. Adults think that kids don’t know or understand. But spend some time with kindergarteners and you quickly see their innate genius.
As kids get older they learn to moderate what they say and do so as to avoid getting yelled at. School teaches that. And this is the reason kids seem less intelligent than they are. They’re afraid to express what they really believe and think.
I see there being a revival in toys that promote real play. It will come from smaller companies that care more about children than pennies. It will foster play as a tool to build kids up.
We’ll still see hucksters hawking Fidget Spinners as Focus Development tools. But we’ll also see smaller companies, and progressive large companies, taking risks by making seriously fun toys that promote interaction, competition, skill building, and engagement.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Get out of the herd. Yes, its uncomfortable to be different. But it’s worse to be boringly average.
And yes, people will laugh at your new ideas and your dreams. Don’t worry about those people. They were the dusty people laughing at cars while they fed their horse oats; taking days to do trips that cars took hours to complete. Understand, to make change you must be different.
Yes, people don’t like “different.” And yes, you may take a little abuse through the process. But don’t take it personally. It’s not you. Those people just don’t get it.
Your job is to dream big and find the people who do get it. Those are the people you go to battle with, raise the pirate flag with, celebrate the wins with. Go for your big dream with the right people.
What’s your workspace setup like?
My lab has CNC Mills and lathes, 3D Printers (SLA and FDM), Laser Cutter, Vacuum Chamber, Molding Machines and lots of tiny specialized tools, many of which do just one job. This enables me to quickly go from an idea to an initial prototype.
I’m also excited that I CNC mill Printed Circuit Boards to make electronics toys and products. It is not uncommon for me to have an idea in the morning and a prototype later that day. Obviously the first prototype is just the beginning but the quicker you get to prototype version one, the quicker you get to prototype version 2.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
My job has stages of rewards. When I first come up with an idea, it’s like drinking a milkshake. That burst of excitement when you grab the cold cup and press your lips to the straw waiting to taste all that deliciousness.
Next I make a prototype and see if my idea actually works. Everything that works in your head doesn’t work in the real world. But, often, at two in the morning, I get to see the invention work for the very first time. This is exciting. I feel privileged to be the first person on the planet to experience my prototype working. It’s an amazing feeling.
My next surge of excitement comes when I see someone else use the prototype for the first time. If they enjoy it, it starts to feel real. Like I did a thing.
And finally, when someone purchases something I made, I feel gratitude. I think, “Wow, they liked it so much they’d share their hard earned dollars to experience it, to own it, to be a part of my world. That’s amazing!”
This process is the most rewarding part of the job.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
A major problem I’m working to solve is within the toy industry itself. Too often great concepts are torn apart by committees who value “lowest cost” more than “playability.”
Playability is far more valuable than a low price. And yes, products need to be affordable. But too many companies forget the lessons we’ve learned from Apple. Remember how everyone was trying to make cheap cell phones and Apple successfully launched the most expensive phone ever. What happened? People chose playability over low price.
When a toy is licensed by a company, many companies will kill features to lower the product’s price point. Some of these features don’t matter. But some of them greatly matter. And removal of these features can kill a product. When a product dies the company usually blames everyone except the committee.
Playability should be king. Cost should be a factor. But a cheap crappy toy will never outsell a more expensive amazing toy.
What and/or who inspires you?
My wife Teri inspires me. She is such a complex and caring individual. She often surprises me with funny jokes. She’s a brilliant Entrepreneur. And while I make a mean BBQ, I can’t make her Flourless Chocolate Cake no matter how hard I try. My life is richer by knowing her. And I’m grateful she loves me as much as I love her!
How do you recharge or take a break?
I recharge my batteries by making prototypes and planting edible plants. Forming wood, cutting metal and seeing prototypes take shape brings me to life. It’s zen like. Meditative.
I also enjoy planting and caring for edible plants. Sweet Basil, Miracle Berries, Sweet potatoes, Pineapples and mangos are my current crop.
I like to see things take shape and then share them with others.
What do you read every day, and why?
I love magazines. They’re works of art. People take time to craft a great story and attach photos, graphs, and join everything together with fonts. My favorite magazines are Make Magazine, The Week, MIT Tech Review, and other magazines I buy from time to time based on articles and topics I’m curious about.
Monthly, I work to read a book a month. My latest read is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It’s a good read.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I enjoy my Time Blocking Journal. I couldn’t find one I liked so I made one and put it on Amazon. It lets me see a week of planning at a time, is hard bound so I can write without a desk and it gives me lots of room to write notes.
I love paper over digital. It has a permanence I find comforting. When our digital records are dust, paper may still be around.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
I spent years developing innovation techniques. Occasionally I teach them in classes or to companies. I call them inNOWvation(TM) and plan to write a book about them. They work well and I have received many patents using them. Over 50 US and Foreign patents to day.
I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. It just comes easy for me. My bigger problem is wrangling in too many ideas. “FOCUS PERRY FOCUS!!!” I often find myself saying to myself. I don’t mind. It’s a good problem to have.
I write down my ideas and work on the ones I feel will have the most impact and be the most fun. Fun is a good guide. Impact is a good guide. When an idea embodies both you can really get excited about it.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
My guilty pleasure is chocolate. My favorite chocolatier is Norman Love. His chocolates are amazing, richly flavored, and look like glass sculptures. He runs a class where you make your own chocolates. I took the class with my Wife. It was an absolute blast. And we each got to take home a batch of chocolates that we made.
I almost started a chocolate company instead of a Toy company. But after thinking about the only two outcomes of owning a chocolate company; either 1) I eat chocolates until I become a truffle or 2) I end up eating so much chocolate I don’t care about it, I scuttled the idea.
I like chocolate too much to hate it. But I did learn how to make chocolates and maybe I will eventually open up a shop.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
I have a good sense of people. I usually first notice how serious people take themselves.
Serious people often believe their view of the world is precisely accurate. It’s a strange belief. Does anyone really know the world that well?
People who don’t take themselves too seriously know that our individual view of the world is made up. We’re fallible. So we might as well laugh at ourselves, our mistakes, and even our successes.
I love people who can laugh under pressure.
The world is full of extremes. Having enough clarity to know that you don’t know is a good thing. Being able to laugh at yourself is noble.
Hugs or Kisses?
I’m a hugger. Hugging is the new handshake. It’s warmer, makes people happy, and gives you less of a chance of getting a cold. Handshakes are notoriously known for being sniffle givers. Hugs are awesome!
Favorite movie of all time?
My favorite movie of all time has to be “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” The cinematography is outstanding, the characters are well formed, and the story is perfect. Love it.
I also enjoy “The Fountainhead,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Matrix,” and every “James Bond” movie. It’s the gadgets James, the gadgets!
Really? You also want to know my favorite Superhero movie?
It’s a tie... "Batman: The Dark Knight" and "Kick Ass 1".
I’m lucky that....
I’m lucky that I have a loving family. They inspire every project I work on. I hope I do the same for them.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I think the idea of “growing up” means to give up what makes children so great. I want to be the adult who can also laugh and play and be in the moment.
Even bread gets older. Everyone gets older. I just don’t want to get stale.
What’s next? I’m developing automation systems and tools to help creative people bring their creations to life faster. I have so many ideas, as do all creatives, and I want tools, designed specifically for creatives, to help us complete more work done faster.
When you work on new ideas you eventually learn that the only way to find one great idea is to make 100 ideas and see any are worthy of greatness. My goal is to build systems and tools that all creatives can use to automate much of the process so everyone can find their great ideas much faster.
Work hard, be kind, have fun. Use your time well.
We spend our limited time on this planet doing only one of two things; consuming or creating. Every moment we’re alive we’re either creating or consuming. Do either to excess and your life will be difficult. A good mix of the two makes a sweet life.