Steve Jobs the Book…

Steve Jobs The Book

So it goes to saying that I have to agree with John Siracusa (Ars Technica & HyperCrtical fame) that the choice of Walter Isaacson to write the Steve Jobs biography was a bad pick.  In writing this, I struggled with the idea of being a “Monday Morning Quarterback” as the thoughts came to mind.  As it’s always easier to make  a call after the fact than before.  Yet the struggle won on the side of calling this as I saw it, as what has been lost to the betterment of man because of this needs to be shared.

As one of the key points here is while Steve like all other guys put his pants on one leg at a time.  He clearly had the ability to view the world in a different light in his ability to make the normal, extraordinary.  Yet one of the best aspects Walter offers is the wisdom of Steve’s father that “the back side of the fence needs to look as good as the front“.  Well folks it seems like 40 some years back this was a common comment as I can remember my farther saying the same to me, yet Steven Jobs I am not.

As don’t get me wrong, as Walter is a good writer as books about Einstein as in Albert and Franklin as in Ben are very good books.  Yet do you see something in these two subjects?  Yes, both are dead and therefore are not very good conversationalist so how do you get information?  Yes, the simple answer is “research” as this is what Walter happens to be good at, in fact very good.  Yet here the metaphor which strikes me is that in the movie “Contact” where the heroine played by Jodie Foster upon realizing her travel says “they should have sent a poet”.

As for the Jobs book, they needed to send an interviewer, a David Frost, or (don’t laugh) Oprah Winfrey as the key miss was in asking the right question.  Walter sat and listened to Jobs, he lacked the ability to ask Steve what Steve didn’t know to say.  As how do you know what makes you great if you don’t know (realize) that your great?  Well unfortunately the opportunity to get into an amazing mind has been lost by that very mind as remember Steve picked Walter…

The Passing of an Icon…

Time is Marked, An Era Ended...

The day sits in my mind very clearly, it was August 16 1977 that Elvis Presley died when we were on a family holiday in Northern Michigan and I was in a small party store running an errand for my mother.  On the radio it came , the news that the King had died, while not an Elvis fan myself, my mother and aunts (who were with us) were and sure enough by the time I had made it back to our cabin all were in tears as an social Icon of a time had passed.

In the future the same would repeat as the day it was announced that John Lennon had been murdered,  it was during the school day and the female teachers of the era wept at their desk, while the males sat quietly staring off into the distance seeking their own solitude or maybe truth to the moment.  While not a big Beetles fan, I also understood the iconoclastic impact John Lennon brought to the world and the void his passing would leave behind in the hearts of society.

Maybe it’s from events such as these and many others that followed which has developed into a weekly habit of when the Economist comes out, I first turn to the Obituary section as this  week its headlined by Tiger Pataudi, the King of  Indian Cricket.  Next week it will assuredly be someone else, as that is the only real guaranty in life, is the finality of death.  With this it seems to be the one moniker which is forever and therefore a solid marker of the passing of time.

However next week I will be saved the chore as the name is already known as they will list the name of Steve Jobs in that section and time will once again be marked with a life passed on.  However this one much like the priors mentions not only mark time however because he touched so many people with his vision and no nonsense compromise [or lack of] will leave a quiet void in the hearts of society.

As here time is once again marked, and as in the Annie play says the sun will come up yet again tomorrow and more Apple products will be sold.  Yet somehow they will be different, as with the world as a whole and this time it’s not my mother’s turn, or my teachers turn, it is my turn to remember, it is my era, my icon which is passing on …

Marking Time…

Get ready, Start! Ok, times up next task!

Yesterday we spent some time waining about the selection or maybe better put the appointment of Tim Cook the prior COO (Chief Operating Officer)  as the new Chief Executive Officer of Apple by Steve Jobs. As the reasoning for this was that the skills of a COO are far different than those typically needed by a CEO as one is focused on (the prior) being the “here and now” while the later is concerned with what is to come down the road as “what is in the future”.  So today let’s take a deeper look at “operations” as it’s worthwhile to understand this enigma a little better as it also applies to our lives as a whole.

To achieve this it struck me that a key to “operational” efficiency is the ability to “Mark Time” as what is the Marking of Time you are asking yourself.  While it’s the relation of all the tasks we do to a point in time.  Ok, think of it this way as you move through your day be it getting a cup of coffee, making a phone call or playing with the kids, you view them as a task with a time in a Gantt chart.  As just like any of my PMI ™ certified friends will tell you, the key aspect of a project is it must have two things, the first is a “start” and the final is an “end”. While doesn’t your day have both a start when you awake and an end when you lay you head upon the pillow?

So accepting this axiom means that everything which happens between these two points mean they are “tasks” which are intended to carry us from “start” to “end”.  Therefore when we awake and make or way to the coffee pot, that is a task which requires use to invest a set amount of time therefore value in the task.  As it’s here we see the bane as well as boom of marking time as to “mark time” we need to recognize three things about this, as the first is to acknowledge the “task” itself as this is key because as you reach for that coffee you are investing something more valuable than money, as yes your time as once it’s gone, you’re not getting it back.

As once the commitment to task (getting a cup of coffee) the “marker” is set and the clock is running so the mark is set, thus the operation types out there will next think how much time can be devoted to task to return the optimal value also allowing all the remaining tasks to be completed before their head hits the pillow even if it’s in the wee hours of the next morning.  As it’s here that the separation happens as Cook’s roll was to make sure you had an iPhone when you wanted an iPhone (save for the market scarcity hype to convince you, that you wanted one) while it was Steve’s  Job (pun intended) to figure out what it was that you wanted (i.e. iPhone) in the first place.  So do you really think if Steve spent his time worrying  about how long he spent at the coffee machine that we would have an iPhone today…

The End of an Era…

While they dress alike, iconoclast? Well that's yet to be seen...

By the time you read this, even if you’ve been living under a rock you will have heard that Steve Jobs has stepped down from the top spot of Apple.  It’s clear that his long plaguing health issues have returned forcing this action and unfortunately believe this to be for once and good this time without a return.  Here too, there will be many stories, blogs and the like written about this son of a graduate student and Syrian father who was put up for adoption, grew up to lead a computer as well as media revolution (Pixar), fight off pancreatic cancer, lose half his bowel and have a liver transplant.  Wow, if that isn’t a life, not sure what is however these words will be left to others as here we will wax about his success and the business of Apple going forward.

As in his departure from Apple, Steve suggested that the COO (Chief Operating Officer) Tim Cook be named by the board as his successor which they did.  While too many this might make some sense as Tim has been a regular stand in for Steve as he’s dealt with his health issues in the past.  Yet one should look a little deeper as why would one select a COO?  As the name implies in its use of the word “operating” as this means daily as “operations” is centered in the here and now rather than the future.  So Tim deals with things which happen in very short periods of time rather than long time horizons as design can take.

Whereas a CEO needs to be a futurist as the world isn’t today, it’s 12 to 48 months into the future as what is new today is old in ten minutes.

As it’s here in the next “ten minutes” which calls for a COO as this is a critical component of any and all companies today as it allows for the “current” delivery of the company obligations.  However to do such requires a very short horizon of focus and this is where the issues build as to be successful here one must surrender future looking abilities [which a CEO requires] as this only clouds short term judgment.

A good working example of this was Roger Smith taking the helm of General Motors and running the once proud manufacturing stalwart into the ground.  How did he do this you ask, simple he took a short term view of the business and the business as a whole.  As in the era of business 101 of the past, the belief was that the “business” was what the company does.  In The case of General Motors, Smith’s (Roger) view was it provided cars.

Yet it’s here we have to come to understand that it was just the opposite reason General Motors came into existence as Henry Fords premise was very utilitarian (as with Roger Smiths).  You want a car, it’s black, and oh you want a different color?  Sorry they are all black; oh you want another model, again sorry there is only one.  This is where William Duran the founder of GM found that people would pay a premium price for what they feel they wanted rather then what Henry felt they should.  Does this sound like Apple or not, as you can find everything Apple sells for cheaper, however it’s now the most valued brand as well as the largest company in the world from a market perspective because it gives the same yet different.

While the jury may still be out, solid money will be that Apple seeks a new CEO within the next 18 to 24 months…

How Many Times Do We Have to Rehash Why Successful People are Successful…

Ngram:People Reaching Their Goal

The American populous has this repeated love affair with the concept of why successful people are successful.  In fact one could also say that this is only second to “fad diet books” in the priority of pop culture books which are sold.  Everyone has a fascination with being the next Donald Trump or Steve Jobs as why not they have G6’s lots of money and well both have bad hair.  Guess it’s not only love that money can’t seem to buy, however the two gentlemen picked where “picked” for a reason.

As the first was born with a silver spoon in his mouth which he turned to gold, and the latter (Job’s) jumped past “silver” straight to inventing a platinum spoon for himself.  Picking these two was a logical selection as mentioned Trump was born into the “have’s” and Jobs became a “have”; therefore what they have in common is important.

As what got me thinking of this was yet another rehash of the concept set in a Harvard Business Review  story titled “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently”  and guess what, they say it’s not who they are, however what they do!  Wow that was a waste of electrons wasn’t it, how many times can people write this stuff?  To this end it was to Google Ngram that I went to answer this and typed the string “people reach their goals” then pressed enter.  The resulting graph was very interesting as this phrase does not appear in mass till around 1959 and zooms upward in the mid 90’s (see graph or click HERE to actually run).

Back to the HBR story the first on Heidi Grant Halvorson, the author’s list was to “Get Specific”, ok getting specific you might lose 5 pounds, however you’re not going to become “The Don” nor the “Job’s Miester” as here there is only one word which can be first on the list of successful people.  Yes the word that all people fear in one fashion or form, “Risk”.  The more “Risk”, the more Reward it’s that simple and there is no way around it so don’t waste your time looking as life is Zero Sum so if you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win!  Now you can whine about it, use various geek quant based methods to minimize it in your mind however reality is always different and life WILL toss you a Black Swan.

However “it is what it is”, being a roll of the dice plain and simple, as how many of you go to work every day like your job is on the line?  That’s what I figured, not many hands raised out there, well guess what for most of you it is so why act otherwise?

Yes this is “risk”, however do you think you just get paid to go and sit in your chair all day long?  If you do guess what, someone has got your name and it’s on a list and they just haven’t made it to your desk yet.  We are all paid for performance which also involves innovation as if we are not adding value every day, then we are not earning our paycheck and both are driven by “risk”.  As do you think either “the Donald” or “Steve Job’s” avoid taking risks…

 

Serendipity, does it Work for You…

Ngram: Serendipity

As just how lucky are you, look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, are they both just the beneficiary of Serendipitous type circumstances?  So much of life is still left to the luck of the draw, like with Marlin Monroe’s story of being at just the right street corner soda shop, at just the right time.  Also what about all the inventions which just seemed to happen by accident such as our friend the Aspirin, insulin, Viagra, penicillin, antihistamines and the smallpox vaccine, Scotchgard, Teflon, Velcro, Nylon, Ivory Soap, the Post-It note, and the list keeps going.  While seeking something else, someone found something new and was bright enough to seize the moment.

What is also worth looking at is the history of the “word” Serendipity as the popularized form of the word we know today comes from a 1754 story retold by Horace Walpole, of an old Arab tale where one fine day, Three Princes from Serendip (known today as Sri Lanka) were sent afield by their father for a lengthy journey to seek out worldly experiences. However misfortune soon befell the trio of princes when happening upon a camel driver who inquired about a lost camel. Though the princes had never seen the humped animal, they were nonetheless able to describe it in detail as it was blind in one eye, lacking a tooth, and also lame in one leg. Furthermore, the camel which they described in detail was carrying butter on its right and honey on the left side. Shocked that their description was so accurate the camel owner accused the princes of thievery having stolen his camel, formally charging them in the emperor’s court.

Yet, in the presence of Emperor Behram, the facts became clear that the princes were entirely innocent, having merely pieced together observations made while walking in the desert. The princes explained that they thought the camel to be blind in the right eye because the grass which they had passed had been cropped only on the left side of the road. They then too inferred the animal was missing a tooth from the bits of chewed grass which were scattered across the road. Its footprints seemed to also suggest that the animal was lame in a leg as it was dragging one foot in the sand.  Finally, finding ants on one side of the road and flies on the other, they concluded that the camel must have been carrying butter on the ant’s side, and honey on its other.

As we see from the story, the princes did far more than simply make chance observations as the tale is instructive as the princes relied on their ability to recombine a series of casual observations into something which turned out to be meaningful information.  As it was this “combinatorial skill”  or the rote ability to combine events or observations in “meaningful ways”.  It’s here that serendipity separates its self from that of pure blind luck as “Serendipity” is the ability to see meaningful combinations where others only see shuffled sand in a sea of desert and ragged grass with various insects about.

Many times we see the world as a random place, yet hidden in what we might see as chaos is really a diamond simply waiting to be discovered…