All comments posted on this blog do not reflect the opinions of any organization that I am affiliated with. These are my personal perspectives only.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lessons on Innovation, Collaboration & Leadership from Steve Jobs

Fortune put out excerpts from an interview with Steve Jobs earlier this month. Jobs makes some very candid, and direct points. The whole interview is quite insightful and helps to disprove some of the common misconceptions around what collaboration is all about.

Misconception 1: Collaboration means "wisdom of crowds" is better than "experts".

I am not sure why there seems to be an argument in many forums about whether "wisdom of crowds" is better than "experts". Optimal collaboration taps into the masses, but is refined through the experts. It's not one or the other, it's the intelligent collaboration of both.

So you can't go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There's a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, 'If I'd have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me "A faster horse." '

In reference to the debates over embedding a sophisticates OS X in a cell phone Jobs states, "I had to adjudicate it and just say, 'We're going to do it. Let's try.' The smartest software guys were saying they can do it, so let's give them a shot. And they did."

Misconception 2: Innovation is the result of an individual genius.

There have been several noted authors that have proven this to be usually wrong. Read Andrew Hargadon's work on, "How Breakthroughs Really Happen". For example, the light bulb (the symbol for innovation) wasn't actually created by Edison.

In discussing people, Jobs talks to the need for passion in addition to smarts. "They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself."

To be the best requires individuals to understand broadly and not just their area. "So the way to do that is to have them know everything, not just in their part of the business, but in every part of the business. "

Misconception 3: Who cares if it's not perfect. Get your product out and then iterate.

There is much to be said about focus and getting it right the first time. I've often heard folks argue that, "Shoot first then aim later. Who cares if the bullets are cheap"... I guess the problem with that approach is that you can kill the wrong thing, and you can't "un-kill" if you made a mistake.

"Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we've got less than 30 major products. I don't know if that's ever been done before.... People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are."

"At Pixar when we were making Toy Story, there came a time when we were forced to admit that the story wasn't great. It just wasn't great. We stopped production for five months.... And if they hadn't had the courage to stop, there would have never been a Toy Story the way it is, and there probably would have never been a Pixar.we never expected to have another one. But you know what? There's been one on every film. It's been that way with [almost] every major project at Apple, too.... Take the iPhone. We had a different enclosure design for this iPhone until way too close to the introduction to ever change it. And I came in one Monday morning, I said, 'I just don't love this. I can't convince myself to fall in love with this. And this is the most important product we've ever done.' "And we pushed the reset button. "

The article has many more insights and worth the read.


Anonymous said...

I read through most of your articles (comprehensive thoughts). What an experienced practitioner you are.

Olimpiu said...

> "Shoot first then aim later. Who cares if the bullets are cheap"... I guess the problem with that approach is that you can kill the wrong thing, and you can't "un-kill" if you made a mistake.

Good thoughts, on the other hand waiting too much can get you "killed" (product no longer necessary due to competition or project canceled due to changing environment). Not everyone has the luxury of being Steve Jobs (the CEO) and being able to wait indefinitely.

It's a fine line between the two approaches - trust your experience and instincts and get feedback from many people to help you reach the optimal decision in the individual situation.