This morning, I got to read the article inferring management lessons from Steve Jobs in the latest HBR. I have been an Apple fan from when I saw those jewel coloured Mac machines with handles. Those days! One just went to a Best Buy and admired them, dreaming of a time when ‘even I’ would be able to own one. It was out of reach for most people in those days, even salaried people – or enough of a price difference for people to question the decision from the sane, financial brain side of their being.
Leaving the US, it was my dream to buy myself a Mac. But between a geek husband and frugal middle class values, left it for another time. Luckily for me, that other time came (got husband hooked on to the Mac and the rest is history!) The one I have now is my second Mac, after the first one was loved and used to pieces over several years. My gift to myself one birthday two years ago was a 120 GB iPod – still in love with it, all my music fits in here (searching for more since full percentage is still tiny!)….freedom from stuff without sacrificing the functionality and the joy of listening to music.
Yeah, I know Apple doesn’t do philanthropy in the traditional sense. They don’t do anything in the traditional sense and honestly, the lip service most corporates pay to CSR might sometimes cause more harm than good. But that they don’t put the same effort into charity that they do into other things does bother me. And this thing with sweat labor is not something to be taken lightly. The two cons in the scene.
There’s just something about a Mac that gets you into the fold – alternative and edgy to start with, unapologetically good – no half measures here, a design dream, a user’s dream too – simple, elegant and thinking of you, for you. What more can be? If Steve Jobs were alive, I am sure we would have see that too!
The article itself makes several great points, is very well written and has driven me to finally buy the book as the trip read coming up. The principles he mentions are those home truths you already know but still struggle to put into every day use. Then you need to get it into professional life, bucking a system that is deeply set into a different rut. Statements like “If we don’t cannibalize ourselves, someone else will!” aren’t heard in most companies in any part of the year, much less daily.
Jobs’ life experiences have very much defined the whole thing. A huge thing for me has been this concept of keeping the personal in the personal sphere only, not letting it ‘taint’ the professional. It works in terms of keeping prejudice away, keeping conflicting personal opinions in check to make life less conflict-ridden, giving people the same space we like ourselves. So it has its benefits. Yet, a lot of professional problems are those we have solved in every day life and struggle with in a group setting. Someone/everyone is being too nice to be honest in the professional setting?
Scheduling, organizing, innovating, simplicity, sustainability are all watchwords of most decent home makers – term used gender insensitively here. He got here from a combination of early child hood experience (another reason he fascinates me is the place of adoption in his life), the hippie movement, the emergence of silicon valley AND personal spiritual quests. India of course was destined to be on that journey.
Jobs clearly found a way to make things personal. In the best way possible. He made products that he wanted to use, he took personal perfectionism into the professional realm. Is it really possible to stay impersonal except when one needs to be fair? Personal attacks are not on. Bringing personal opinions are touch and go most times – it depends on one’s values: liberal, fundamentalist, conservative, et al.
He managed to take control freak, perfectionist and other things that one is only able to admit in those fake ‘what areas would you describe as your weaknesses?’ interview questions (like they think anyone would actually admit to those in that setting) and turn them into strengths (like the interviewee normally tries to do very ineffectually!). Into demonstrated strengths. If he was such a jerk, why do so many excellent people who could find jobs at the click of a finger in the middle of a recession stick with him and still stick to the company they created together?
The whole story is one of an imperfect, impatient man who found a way to find his balance, bringing just enough of the personal in. Today a Sheryl Sandberg can talk of leaving work at 5:30 pm in the US, even she wasn’t as open with it until recently. Taking the personal with the professional in just the right mix gives you critical path.
Jobs talks of the importance of being honest, how things can’t get to point where managers are so polite that mediocre people get comfortable sticking around. That’s something we use in parenting every day – praise the effort and give truth, getting people to feel complacent is the beginning of mediocrity, compete with yourself, do your best, et al. If everything is an ‘awesome’, then the concept of awesome gets devalued enough to become a cliche very soon. Like ’empower’ or ‘different’ or ‘value add’.
He also seems to embody what Javed Akhtar said very well in an interview yesterday (one with Barkha Dutt last night – do watch, it was mind stretching on a few concepts) – just like you try to be modest about your successes, don’t make your failures and struggles into medals. Jobs could have taken the whole adoption experience and been devastated by it, not going on to become this ‘himself’ because someone else controlled certain early events. Several people don’t rise beyond circumstances they consider debilitating and he had a few of those that would have qualified as struggle medals. From what I can infer, there seems to have been bitterness in him and yet, he’s channeled it into something else bigger, better and very positive. He also was part of a close knit nuclear family unit from other accounts with a wife who is pretty successful in her own right and fashioning a relationship with his biological sister by choice.
My morning has been thinking about how I can take these principles and apply them to my daily life. Where can I make things more focused, simple, less-outcome based, more reality distorting, et al.
Things have to be integrated alright – Jobs showed us how that was good for everyone in certain industries. We need to take the principles learned and apply them to several more spaces. Where do you think you can apply it today? In applying it well, we have it in us to do at least as far as Jobs. And more.
Have a wonderful weekend!