Planning for Future Innovation

Steve Jobs Tribute Haiku

Image by aforgrave via Flickr

I read Michael O. Church’s blog fairly often and like a lot of us this week, he shared his thoughts on Steve Jobs loss.

Unlike me and a lot of others his are very deep. He asked questions about how do we encourage the type of thinking and actions that propelled Steve Jobs.

He really got under my skin (in the good way) and I’ve been thinking about this in my spare moments all day.

Steve Jobs was one of our generation’s best innovators, if not the best. What he represented was singular and rare: a person in charge of a major company who actually had a strong and socially positive vision. Corporate executives are expected to have some quantity of vision and foresight, but so very few, across the Fortune 1000, ever actually have it that there is a certain surprise associated with learning of one who does. Most corporate executives are mediocrities if not negative in their contribution, meddling with those who are actually getting work done with constant churn and (in the negative sense) disruption. Steve Jobs, on the other hand, was integral to the success of Apple. As Apple’s posthumous tribute to him said, only he could have built that company. Unlike the typical businessman, Jobs was not especially charismatic. He was an effective salesman only because the quality of what he sold was so high; he could sell because he believed in his products. What he was is creative, courageous, disciplined, and effective. He had a sharp aesthetic sense, but also the clarity of vision to ship a real, working product.

Why do people like him appear only a few times in a generation? It’s not that there is a lack of talent. Not to denigrate Steve Jobs, because his talents are in any case uncommon, but I’d bet heavily (on statistical grounds) that there are at least a few hundred or thousand people like him out there, hacking away at long-shot startups, cloistered in academia, or possibly toiling in corporate obscurity. The issue is that people with his level of talent almost never succeed in human organizations such as large corporations. A keen aesthetic sense is a severe liability in most corporate jobs, as the corporate style of “professionalism” requires tolerance of ugliness rather than the pursuit of aesthetic integrity at all costs. Creative talent also becomes a negative in environments that expect years of unfulfilling dues-paying before one gets creative control of anything. People like Jobs can’t stand to waste time and so, in corporate America, they rarely make it. When they are set to boring work, the part of their brains not being used scream at them and that makes it impossible for them to climb the ladder.

Read it all and think about it.

This is a very important concept and I don’t have the answers. This is hard to accomplish in a small group, let alone a large one. But it is critical to our business and political future.

I know many of you work in small groups as well as some large ones.

So let’s get out thinking hats on and discuss this both here and at Michael O. Church


About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

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