Here is an excerpt from an article written by Walter Isaacson for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
* * *
His saga is the entrepreneurial creation myth writ large: Steve Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the time he died, in October 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company. Along the way he helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing. He thus belongs in the pantheon of America’s great innovators, along with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. None of these men was a saint, but long after their personalities are forgotten, history will remember how they applied imagination to technology and business.
In the months since my biography of Jobs came out, countless commentators have tried to draw management lessons from it. Some of those readers have been insightful, but I think that many of them (especially those with no experience in entrepreneurship) fixate too much on the rough edges of his personality. The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.
One of the last times I saw him, after I had finished writing most of the book, I asked him again about his tendency to be rough on people. “Look at the results,” he replied. “These are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t.” Then he paused for a few moments and said, almost wistfully, “And we got some amazing things done.” Indeed, he and Apple had had a string of hits over the past dozen years that was greater than that of any other innovative company in modern times: iMac, iPod, iPod nano, iTunes Store, Apple Stores, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, App Store, OS X Lion—not to mention every Pixar film. And as he battled his final illness, Jobs was surrounded by an intensely loyal cadre of colleagues who had been inspired by him for years and a very loving wife, sister, and four children.
So I think the real lessons from Steve Jobs have to be drawn from looking at what he actually accomplished. I once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he would answer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was Apple the company. Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product. How did he do it? Business schools will be studying that question a century from now. Here are what I consider the keys to his success.
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it was producing a random array of computers and peripherals, including a dozen different versions of the Macintosh. After a few weeks of product review sessions, he’d finally had enough. “Stop!” he shouted. “This is crazy.” He grabbed a Magic Marker, padded in his bare feet to a whiteboard, and drew a two-by-two grid. “Here’s what we need,” he declared. Atop the two columns, he wrote “Consumer” and “Pro.” He labeled the two rows “Desktop” and “Portable.” Their job, he told his team members, was to focus on four great products, one for each quadrant. All other products should be canceled. There was a stunned silence. But by getting Apple to focus on making just four computers, he saved the company. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
After he righted the company, Jobs began taking his “top 100” people on a retreat each year. On the last day, he would stand in front of a whiteboard (he loved whiteboards, because they gave him complete control of a situation and they engendered focus) and ask, “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?” People would fight to get their suggestions on the list. Jobs would write them down—and then cross off the ones he decreed dumb. After much jockeying, the group would come up with a list of 10. Then Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”
Focus was ingrained in Jobs’s personality and had been honed by his Zen training. He relentlessly filtered out what he considered distractions. Colleagues and family members would at times be exasperated as they tried to get him to deal with issues—a legal problem, a medical diagnosis—they considered important. But he would give a cold stare and refuse to shift his laserlike focus until he was ready.
Near the end of his life, Jobs was visited at home by Larry Page, who was about to resume control of Google, the company he had cofounded. Even though their companies were feuding, Jobs was willing to give some advice. “The main thing I stressed was focus,” he recalled. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up, he told Page. “It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.” Page followed the advice. In January 2012 he told employees to focus on just a few priorities, such as Android and Google+, and to make them “beautiful,” the way Jobs would have done.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, is the author of Steve Jobs and of biographies of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
* * *
In the Economist review of our book, The Innovator’s DNA, the reviewer wondered whether genius-level innovators such as Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs challenge the idea that working adults can really learn how to think differently and become innovators.
We don’t think so. Remember, it was Steve Jobs who jump-started the now-famous “Think Different” advertising campaign as a way to inspire consumers and recharge Apple’s innovation efforts. It worked. Reflecting back on the campaign, Jobs said “The whole purpose of the ‘Think Different’ campaign was that people had forgotten what Apple stood for, including the employees.” And the best way to tell people what Apple stood for was to tell them who the company’s heroes were. The campaign reminded everyone — consumers and employees alike — that the “crazy ones…see things differently.”
Reams of relevant research (including our own) proves Jobs right. Innovators excel at connecting the unconnected. They engage in associational thinking. At Apple (or at any innovative company), they take a little bit of this, sprinkle in a little bit of that and that and that to churn out market-busting ideas such as iTunes, and the iPod, iPhone, and iPad (along with a few market disasters like the G4 Cube computer).
But neither Steve Jobs nor Apple nor any other high-profile innovator or company has a corner on the think-different market. In fact, our study of over 5,000 entrepreneurs and executives shows the opposite: almost anyone who consistently makes the effort to think different can think different.
Take Gavin Symanowitz, whom we recently met in South Africa. His original business, GetAGreatBoss.com, lets great managers showcase their skills to attract talent and boost their own careers by conducting a 360 review of the manager by his or her staff, and if the results are favorable, he links the results to job ads that the boss is trying to fill, making these job ads far more appealing. By connecting the unconnected — 360 leadership assessments and help wanted ads — Symanowitz forged an online business that sprouted in Africa and now grows globally.
Innovators (of new businesses, products, and processes) spend almost 50% more time trying to think different compared to non-innovators. In other words, non-innovators do occasionally think different (answering “at least a little bit” to questions like “I creatively solve challenging problems by drawing on diverse ideas or knowledge” to hit the 48th percentile in our global database). Yet compared to innovators, they just don’t do it as often. Generating new business ideas that make a positive financial impact takes time. Innovators who spend more time thinking different (scoring in the 70-80th percentile) consistently engage in associational thinking by “agreeing” or “strongly agreeing” with questions like the one above and they deliver innovative results more frequently than those who don’t. It’s that simple.
If thinking different can make such a positive difference, why don’t more people spend more time doing it? Researchers at Harvard Medical School opened our eyes to one compelling answer. Sixty to eighty percent of adults find the task of thinking different uncomfortable and some even find it exhausting. When adults must connect the unconnected through associational thinking, it wears them out. Why? Because most adults have lost the skills they once had (just watch almost every four-year old who relishes the chance to think different. And all of us were once four-year olds). We don’t lose this skill because genetic coding automatically shuts it down on our twenty-first birthday. Instead, most of us grew up in a world where thinking different was punished instead of praised (at home or school). So while roughly one-third of anyone’s innovation capacity comes from their genetic endowment, two-thirds of it is still driven by the environment. So here are a few simple suggestions to ratchet up your associating skills, the essence of thinking different.
[Here are two suggestions.]
Shake it up. When associations don’t come naturally, try forcing them to surface unnaturally — by shaking things up randomly. For example, try the Idea Generator app, which randomly combines three words together when you shake your smart phone. Shake it again and three more random words show up. You can get even more creative combinations by adding your own words to the mix (including foreign ones) and seeing what you get. For example, we just shook up the app while writing this blog and got three words — perforated, bite-sized, and humane — which might help generate a new idea. Perhaps putting bite-sized perforations into a new product could make a difference. That’s exactly what David Mullany did in 1953 by transforming a solid plastic ball into the Wiffle ball, a completely new product with bite-sized perforations in it.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that if adults practice associational thinking long enough, the task no longer exhausts but energizes them. Like most skill-based activities, if we slog away at it and practice over and over again, the task becomes not life taking but life giving. And that’s when the most creative ideas pop out.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Jeff Dyer is the Horace Beesley Professor of Strategy at the Marriott School, Brigham Young University; Hal Gregersenis a professor of leadership at INSEAD. They are co-authors with Clayton M. Christensen of the The Innovator’s DNA. To check out more blog posts by them, please click here.
Anyone who writes any book, paper, or even everday correspondence is well aware of the features of auto-correct in word processing programs. These do not alert you to a misspelling – instead, they fix it for you.
I found a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News by Sue McAllister entitled “Auto-correct can be a Fix – or Put You in One” to be especially useful (August 22, 2011).
This function is designed to correct mistakes we make when we are in a hurry, compose sloppy messages, or simply do not know how to spell a word. In fact, some systems claim to actually learn the words that a writer uses most often.
Here are some funny examples that auto-correct ended up with:
“I like fried children.”
“Is your sister busty?”
“Juan Urine” – instead of Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers
The article reports that the iPhone’s auto-correct system contains a dictionary of between 40-60,000 words. Some software allows you to keep your original spelling, and others allow you to disable the feature.
What have you seen across your screen that you don’t think the writer intended? Send them to me through the comment function so that others can see!
In his book Eight Steps Ahead: What Separates Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us, published by Portfolio/Penguin (2011), Erik Calonius reveals what makes visionaries tick and how they develop their extraordinary powers. We learn, for example,
• How Steve Jobs used intuition to guide him from the Apple I to the Mac, and on to the iPhone and iPad
• How a block of wood and a chopstick helped Jeff Hawkins develop the first PalmPilot
• Why John Lennon took a nap before writing “In My Life”
• How Richard Branson had the insight to trademark “Virgin Galactic Airways” in the early 1990’s, when private spaceflight was still science fiction
• Why Richard Feynman made breakthroughs in quantum mechanics by imagining he was an electron
What do they and other business visionaries share in common? Here are five key points:
1. They “find something that the rest of us have been missing” and later describe as “so obvious”…but we didn’t see it before.
2. They “share a willingness to suffer and struggle for their dreams.” As Anders Ericsson’s research on peak performance reveals, they are not only willing to commit 10,000 (or more) hours to whatever must be learned, mastered, etc. to achieve the results they seek.
3. They “see” in great detail what does not as yet exist or at least is not as yet visible to others. For example, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) saw the Pieta and David; everyone else only saw two huge blocks of granite.
4. They “get out into the world and experience things, and from that shape their ideas.” For example, George de Mestral in Colombier, near Lausanne, Switzerland, who took long walks with his dog in the woods each day and grew weary of removing burrs from its hair. In 1941, he envisioned what we now know as Velcro, a hock-and-loop fastener inspired by the burr’s interaction with hair.
5. Their drive to see their dreams fulfilled “exceeds rational behavior…in fact, it defines what a visionary is” but their enthusiasm, passion, and determination are usually contagious. They are driven to make something better…hopefully, MUCH better. Steve Jobs concedes without apology that he is only interested in “insanely great ideas.”
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Michael Schrage for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
* * *
That’s right. 2011. These six ideas emerged in 2010 as powerful “innovation invitations” and seem sure to intensify in power and influence. They’ll increasingly be a source of, and resource for, innovation differentiation in 2011, if not for your organization, then for the firm you most dread competing against.
[Here are the first three. To read the complete article, please click here.]
Whether Google Demo Slam or Sprint’s App Competition, digital media has become an innovation battleground for customers, clients, prospective partners, and young talent. Frito-Lay has already made competition the cornerstone of its Super Bowl advertising, and Toyota, desperate to remind people what a wonderful corporate citizen it can be, invites aspiring innovators to suggest how the firm’s technology can be used for good in unexpected ways.
Crowdsourced contestification is becoming institutionalized as a way firms can grow their own innovation nations. If you’re not running an innovative innovation contest to invite participation and build brand, then you’re reacting to your competitor’s competition. Will your contest be competitive with their contest? Who’s running it? Who’s judging it? Who’s winning it?
2. Keep Touching Me and I’ll Screen!
Anyone who has an iPhone, iPad, or Kindle knows that media are no longer created merely to be viewed — content is designed to be touched, tapped, stroked, fingered, fondled, and pinched. Interfaces have gone tactile and haptic. The keyboard isn’t dead or dying, but it’s lost pride of place in defining onscreen interaction. Where professionals once wrote memos to be read, 2011 begins an era in which documents are written with touch both in mind and on fingertips. Designing documents to be a sensual physical experience and not just a visually cognitive one demands different aesthetics and sensibilities. This nascent transition will be as profoundly important for future interpersonal communications — and branding — as the transition from radio to television. Having the right touch to get the right touch will become a desirable communications competence.
If you explore their websites, you’ll find American Express, Google, Intuit and scores of others have “labs” — not-quite-ready-for-prime-time alpha and beta versions of apps to explore and test. These innovation playgrounds vary wildly in quality, creativity and breadth. A few of these test-tube innovation babies are quirkily weird; others have the glimmer of interactive genius. These WWWabs will undoubtedly be reshaped by the seemingly irresistible rise of Facebook as an advertising and promotional vehicle.
Indeed, Facebook’s role as a third-party innovation platform is still a work in process. However, the economics of experimentation for both customer-facing and internal WWWabs is undeniably favorable. It’s easy to marry a WWWabsite with a contest, for example. More important, WWWabs symbolize the substantial shift in one of the dying innovation anachronisms of the post-industrial era. That is, the importance of “research & development” to business innovation. WWWaboratories are about the real future of virtual value creation. Instead of R&D, what matters is E&S — Experiment & Scale. WWWabs go mainstream worldwide next year.
This is my call for the top six ideas to watch next year. Which two of these six themes will matter most next year? What would make it on to your list of top ideas in 2011?
* * *
It’s Saturday. The weekend is upon us, and I read wherever the links take me. And I think back over the week, think about what I heard, read, learned… So – here is a Saturday edition of Randy’s “let’s just think about some stuff…”
1. The office is disappearing. That’s the conclusion of Seth Godin, and it was so “big,” and yet, once you read it, you knew he was certainly correct, that it even got picked up by Andrew Sullivan (The Office, RIP: Seth Godin gives the last rites). Sullivan writes about a lot of different topics all the time, but seldom about business issues — so this is notable.
Here’s what Godin wrote (click on the link to understand his #7 comment):
If we were starting this whole office thing today, it’s inconceivable we’d pay the rent/time/commuting cost to get what we get. I think in ten years the TV show ‘the Office’ will be seen as a quaint antique.
When you need to have a meeting, have a meeting. When you need to collaborate, collaborate. The rest of the time, do the work, wherever you like.
The gain in speed, productivity and happiness is massive. What’s missing is #7… someplace to go. Once someone figures that part out, the office is dead.
2. The desktop computer is disappearing. That’s the conclusion of Farhod Manjoo, Slate.com’s technology writer. (I’m a big fan of his writing – I understand it!)
In the last decade, portable computers have erased many of the advantages that desktops once claimed while desktops have been unable to overcome their one glaring deficiency—by definition, these machines are chained to your desk.
Amazingly, by 2015, desktops will constitute just 18 percent of the consumer PC market…
In just three years’ time, tablets are projected to outsell desktops, becoming the second-largest PC category after laptops. This sounds crazy until you consider that Apple alone is already selling 1 million tablets a month.
He’s right, of course. I now read as many articles on my iPhone as I do on my desktop. I suspect I will have an iPad before too long.
But, let me describe how I work. I wonder if any others out there work the same way. I do fine with my portable devices for “input.” I read my e-mail, read articles, find information. I read both the Godin post and the Manjoo post on my iPhone. But for “output” – blog posts, e-mails, preparing handouts to go along with my presentations, I want/need my desktop. (I’m a Mac guy – I’m now on about my 5th Apple over a long period of time; and I love my iMac. I’ve never warmed to the keyboard/mouse in a laptop, and practically refuse to work on one when I “have to.”’ I’ve never owned one).
Recently, I heard Ron Holifield, CEO of Strategic Government Resources, describe two different kinds of workers. Those who work “from the shoulders down,” and those who work “from the shoulders up.” This is a really clear, graphic image. Increasingly, those who work “from the shoulders up,” can work anywhere there is a connection. Which is just about anywhere. They won’t need an office – and they won’t need a desktop. They will just need to be connected.
As for where all of your stuff will be – it will be in the cloud. So it will be available anywhere, anytime… (I’ve got every one of my book handouts, and a whole lot more, available to me on my iPhone and/or from any connected computer anywhere, through my MobileMe account. Yes, I could do the same for free on Google Docs, but MobileMe does a whole lot more, and it is so easy to use with my iMac! It is worth the cost).
And just for fun, let me remind you of a few of the fantasy communication devices we all remember. Dick Tracy had a wristwatch that allowed for live visual face-to-face communication (you know – where you could talk and see each other at the same time). The new iPhone will now actually have capability. Captain Kirk had this hand-held device that he could flip open and say “Beam me up, Scotty.” By the time Captain Picard arrived, he just tapped a spot on his uniform. No more clumsy, too large, inconvenient flip-open communication device.
The communication devices/reading devices/working devices are getting stronger, faster, smaller, less obtrusive, easier to use, seemingly by the week. Tomorrow is arriving faster by the minute.