Silicon Valley is abuzz with excitement. Today is the big day. It’s almost here.
The iPhone 5. Office productivity is poised to plummet as tech geeks around the world crowd around their retina displays to watch the latest engineering poetry slam with the composure and grace of a tiny tots ballet recital.
It was like watching the Great And Powerful Oz direct the good people of Emerald City to the man working feverishly behind the falling curtain.
Some ideas are meant to change the world. Some men are great. Steve Jobs and Walt Disney changed the way we view our world. Technology is art as the intersection of our right and left brains. Where the application of design meets creativity.
Iconic companies like Walt Disney and Apple had leaders that were able to make decisions quickly. Nothing took months by committee – these were men so driven by the quest for perfection that they were, quite simply, assholes. As Hawaii 5-0’s Steve McGarrett would say, “This is not a democracy. This is a benevolent dictatorship.” (Only not so benevolent.)
So is that the secret sauce to creating a cultural icon? Is that how great leaders should treat employees?
Of the great leaders in recent generations, one might argue that they were not businessmen. (Workaholics, sure.) They were innovators – consumed by control and intensity.
Those of you that know me by day (as a corporate writer) are likely well aware that I am allergic to the word “innovative.” It is my least favorite buzzword. (A disdain held by another great leader I was privileged to work with in a former life – Art Levinson of Genentech). But embrace the ultimate writers adage of “show, don’t tell,” and innovation is the key to our survival as a species.
Disney and Jobs were willing to take risks to bring their image of the future to fruition. This is the archetypical definition of a visionary. They did not accept excuses on the basis of “it can’t be done.”
Because – why not? Fear of change. Fear of moving forward. Condemnations of, “But this is how it’s always been done!” is a strategy that will securely plant you in the “me too” category. And that is why I’m typing this on my shiny Air rather than plonking away on my trusty Underwood steed.
They were allergic to PowerPoints and slide presentations. They did not decide by study and committee; they held open discussions, a dichotomy of insistence on productive face-to-face meetings in a highly technical environment that allowed groups to avoid just that.
Divisions and silos were bad words. (God knows actual cuss words were highly embraced. And often.) Everyone was on one team. Turf wars were not tolerated.
Their prickly personalities aside, both men were experts at surrounding themselves with people who complemented them. All A-list players (to prevent the Bozo effect according to Jobs). And they loved their work. Their ideas and the resulting products were intrinsically a part of who they were as humans.
The dream to do what you love.
I believe that ideas that change the world embrace the simplicity of sophistication. Maximizing minimalism with the user experience in mind – it simply works.
As I pondered the similarities of these men whose ideas have changed the world, I made a few edits in tracked changes. Since my software is licensed to my legal name, a note appeared on the bottom of my screen.
PS. “What we all want in our jobs.”
Kinda like Steve Jobs’ signature “Oh – and one more thing” that seemed to conclude his every product presentation.
So, one more thing. My new favorite show is HBO’s Newsroom. CubicleViews calls out one of the shows enticements that I hadn’t thought of. Aside from the well-developed characters and witty dialog.
Yes, that’s right The Newsroom is what we all secretly wish for in our own careers. No, not necessarily to be the next Tom Brokaw, although that would be totally cool. No, what we all want is to work in an environment of teamwork, respect and creativity.
And not just because I once wished to live my own Broadcast News moment. Because like Walt Disney said, “Sometimes it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”