They certainly are the normal places to get, develop and share great ideas.
A handful of friends and I have launched a startup. I will share more info here when the time is right, so check back often or, better yet, subscribe to the newsletter.
I have run some mental arithmetic to estimate the share of our meetings that, to date, have taken place in pubs, taverns and microbreweries.
There might be some margin of error, but I got 100%.
Actually, there might be a reason why civilisation started developing around the time beer(-like beverages) entered the equation.
A boring historian might suggest that a bit of civilisation was necessary for beer to even be discovered (because farming), and pubs to be built – and it was just incremental development from there. In this scenario, the pub is a side-effect of civilisation.
But I prefer to think of it the other way around.
There is an equally probable and far more sympathetic point that the first breweries and pubs became the social hubs of early societies and provided an inhibition-reducing catalyst for vigorous discourse that, in turn, led to other developments and inventions, mostly designed to ease hard labor and add leisure time, thereby closing the feedback loop.
Thus the first breweries, being products of rudimentary civilisational development, were in turn instrumental in facilitating new technologies, modes of organisation and dispute-settling mechanisms (always a must in a pub), leading to larger permanent settlements, city states, empires – a process that, from that point on, could only be stopped by nuclear weaponry.
The truth is people come up with the best ideas when relaxing with other people, not when gazing, surrounded by enemies, at a whiteboard in the cold light of a fluorescent tube.
Look at classical philosophy. While most of it is incredibly far from having any best, good, or even passable ideas, there is a school of thought that suggests the philosophical dialogues of antiquity are mostly hungover recollections of the preceding evening. “Symposium” even originally means a drinking party.
The reason most of philosophy makes no sense is familiar to us all.
It is the moment when you’re, around 11a.m, scratching your head over a napkin containing several disjointed words and a lovecraftian diagram that you were absolutely positive last night was a profound insight into the nature of existence, the outline of an artistic masterpiece, or a billion dollar idea (and, frustratingly, probably is).
As it were on one memorable occasion ten years ago when we figured out the secrets of the universe, and found ourselves in front of a flipchart the next morning, thinking “This made perfect sense last night and now it looks like a dog chewed up a dictionary and tried to summon Cthulhu for good measure. Also, what the fuck did we mean by “Ultimate self-identity of information”?”.
As chance would have it, the other participant that night is part of our software “startup-but-let’s-do-our-best-to-not-be-a-startup” today.
I like to think of Socrates or Aristotle scratching his still aching head and squinting, bemused, at a piece of squiggle-covered parchment.
The 20th century corporation tried to capture the effect with “brainstorming”, which was a funny idea that otherwise reasonable people harbored for decades, that being in a formal setting with a room full of rivals and bosses you want to impress is somehow conductive to uninhibited, shame-free protean creativity. Because saying “ideas won’t be judged” upfront magically makes it true.
But it is true in an informal setting, and with people whom you have repeatedly seen in situations so compromising that shame is simply no longer possible in any form.
It is not hard to figure out why startups, or even psychedelics-powered Silicon Valley giants, generate ideas that General Motors simply can’t. You don’t get dragons in chicken coops.
That’s completely obvious.
No brainstorming session in a sterile boardroom in front of the judgmental expanse of a whiteboard is ever going to get the juices flowing one millionth as much as a late night of cultured yohoho, song and thigh slapping with people you trust.
For the origins of true progress, look not to the ivory towers, stern starchiness and cool planning, but to peaty scotches, late night kebabs and morning puffiness in dire need of scrambled eggs and coffee. Drunken ideas have ever been the catalysts of progress.
A similar fate as the 20th century brainstorming must await also 20th/21st century PR hypersensitivity. However, since we’re not out of the woods yet in that regard, I ask you keep in mind this post is highly hyperbolic entertainment. You shouldn’t consider it a reflection of our creative process, or even a historical hypothesis.
Except it’s, of course, completely true.