“The Co-operative Group has launched the biggest piece of consumer insight research it has ever done to develop a stronger brand message across all its business groups. The company, which has divisions in retail, holidays, banking and funeral care, is hoping to find out “what consumers love about the Co-op and what they love less” and will then build and strengthen its marketing and brand strategy with the consumer at the heart of everything it does.” [Marketing Week]
I read the paragraph above on the same day that I learned that Steve Jobs had died and I did not know whether to laugh or cry. Here we have a well known organisation and what are the people at the top talking about / concerned with? The message! They simply want to put out a better message. How the heck does that inspire and feed the human soul? Where is the greatness in that? How does that make the world a better place for us? Why would that inspire people to line up for the opportunity to work for the Co-op?
Now and then one of our fellow human beings comes along and discloses a new world of possibility, attracts a bunch of people that are attracted by that world of possibility and in the process, collectively, they change the world. A leader is not one who does it alone. A leader is one that inspires, unleashes, channels the greatness of many to bring about that which speaks to us – at a deep level. Was Steve Jobs such a person? I’ll let you decide that one. For my part I simply wish to share the following with you.
Design your own life – that is the ultimate ground of leadership
Nilofer Merchant wrote the following piece: Steve Job’s Legacy: Design Your Own Life and it is worth reading. Two particular paragraphs stand out for me:
“But when we define ourselves by what others want, we are trying to kiss a moving butt. To live in a box defined by someone else is to deny our uniqueness. Each of us is standing in a spot no one else occupies. That unique perspective is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and our vision. When we deny these things, we deny that which only we can bring to the situation, our onlyness. And that is surely not the way the world is made better.” [Nilofer Merchant]
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” [Apple ad – when Steve Jobs came back to Apple]
It is not about the technology!
In my view Steve Jobs was in touch with his humanity in its rounded aspect (the light side and the dark side). He had an appreciation for the ‘soft stuff’ that is treated with contempt in mainstream business. The real challenge is to make the human heart sing with joy. Here is a quote that spells it out for me:
“Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.
I have often said that if you are not fully human, if you do not have an affinity for your fellow human beings, if you are not touched by beauty then you give Customer Experience a wide berth and leave it to the people who have these qualities: the challenge of Customer Experience is design (that makes human life simpler, easier, richer and makes the heart sing) not management. The CRM folks did not get this and that is why CRM failed! Right now it looks like Customer Experience is headed the same way – yet there is time to get it and act differently.
Innovation and leadership
Many talk about innovation and leadership, few know what they are talking about. Here is what Steve says:
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
What is Steve saying? He is saying that innovation is a function of people, passion and leadership. He does not mention frameworks, methodologies, processes, metrics…….
Seven More Insights
I was going to write more and then I read this fantastic piece by Umair Haque. I urge you to read it. There is more useful insight (some might say wisdom) then a library of business books. Thank you for taking the time to put this together Umair.
A final word
The business world is full of people who talk about productivity, efficiency, process, standardisation, streamlining….. This way of looking at the world provides order: it makes the trains run on time. It also is worldview devoid of any beauty. Steve’s great contribution, for me, was to show that we can have both: well designed products that work exceptionally well and experiences that make our hearts sing. Finally, Steve said that he never did it for the money! Now contrast that with the vast majority of people who work in and run organisations: it is all about the money.