Sunday, October 24, 2010

How To Innovate Like Steve Jobs

All the stuff that we've been reading in the local mainstream media and, all the interviews *blah-blah**yawn* never really tell you how innovative ideas come about.

There's a scene from a great 1980s movie, Working Girl, where the media tycoon, Trask, asked Melanie Griffith's character (who had been accused of stealing Sigourney Weaver's character's idea), "What was your impulse (for the multi-million dollar merger deal)?"

What was your impulse?

Where does the creative spark come from?

Do rote-learning help with creativity?

Does the lack of reading help with creativity?

Don't worry, I am just being rhetorical. Not substantive. Just light fluff. Just like how politicians talk at general assemblies.

Anyway, back to the point.

The lead-in to the extract that I'm setting out below is that we have to understand that Steve Jobs had a restless and inquisitive mind. He has always been a passionate man. I imagine that he reads voraciously.

True, he was a college dropout. But, remember that, just as it was with Bill Gates, Jobs dropped out of college because he had a kind of epiphany - a realisation that he really wanted to get into the nascent computer industry of the time. It was NOT because he felt that he was too dumb to pass his exams.

Some of us are plodders. We follow the syllabus. Others, like Jobs, have minds that are wired differently.

Remember the scene from A Beautiful Mind where Russell Crowe's character, John Nash was standing at the pub bar in Princeton. The girl walks in. All the men turned their heads to look at her. Suddenly it hit Nash. He saw the patterns of probabilities and possibilities in human behaviour that led him to his great Game Theory postulation. It eventually won Nash the Nobel Prize (was it for Economics or Mathematics?).

So, read on...the piece is surced from Forbes:

There’s a chapter in the book called, “Kick-Start Your Brain.” In it, Gallo explains that what scientists have found is that great innovators practice what’s called “association”. They look outside their industry for ideas they can apply within their organization. Steve Jobs has been doing that his whole life.

Here are two examples:

1) Gallo says Jobs’ inspiration for not having a designated cashier in the Apple Store, came from the Four Seasons hotel chain, which has a concierge;

2) When Jobs and Steve Wozniak were creating the Apple 2 computer, which became one of best selling personal computers of its time, Jobs wanted a computer people would have in their homes. But instead of looking at his competitors, he walked through the kitchen appliance isle at Macy’s for inspiration.

In that same chapter, scientists explain to Gallo that another key to kick-starting your brain and get those creative juices flowing is to try new and novel experiences that push you outside your comfort zone and push your interests.


de minimis said...

My apologies. Not "surced" but "sourced"

walla said...

Elsewhere it was noted that Gallo stopped short of saying that Jobs' one-time method to kick-start the brain was to experiment with the effect of lysergic acid diethylamide. Or LSD.

Let's just take comfort he came to his senses soon enough to achieve global fame as the industry's enduring icon through more conservative media.

And one of that, in fact the breakthrough for him, was the Apple rebranding campaign based on the theme - Think Different.

So that the 8 Principles Of Innovation According To Steve Jobs remain:

1. Do What You Love
Think differently about your career.

2. Put A Dent In The Universe
Think differently about your vision.

3. Kick-Start Your Brain
Think differently about how you think; innovation comes from creativity which comes from the act of connecting things which comes broadening one's experiences to understand human experience, so that

4. Sell Dreams, Not Products
Think differently about your customers; they are not consumers but people with dreams, hopes and ambition fulfilled by the products built.

5. Say No To 1,000 Things
Think differently about design. To Jobs, simplicity was the ultimate sophistication so that innovation was about eliminating the unnecessary so that the necessary could speak.

6. Create Insanely Great Experiences
Think differently about brand experience. In this case, the Apple Store for a unique emotion connect to customers.

7. Master The Message
Think differently about your story; be a corporate storyteller and turn product launches into an art form to get people excited.

8. See Yourself As The Brand
Think differently about yourself and your business to deliver ideas that will grow your business from improving the lives of your customers so that how you walk, talk and act reflects upon you as a brand in motion.

It remains to add to these 8 principles of innovation the 9 Management Lessons Learned Working At Apple.

And these are:

a) a tech company should be run by engineers;

b) build a culture of respect between the managers and employees;

c) give employees the freedom to own and improve products;

d) challenge your employees to grow;

e) deadlines are crucial;

f) don't play the features-game with your competition; innovate to change the status quo;

g) hire people who are insanely passionate about your product;

h) it's important to emphasize work/life balance;

i) maintain the start-up culture, even when one has become a big company.

walla said...


And in between all these, 5 key points from Jobs:

I. Hold your team to high standards and don't settle for products that don't meet the vision. In other words, iterate, iterate, iterate.

II. Be disciplined about which vision to pursue; choose products that have large markets.

III. Discover what is in the customer's head and tackle problems where design is a differentiator.

IV. Work on as few products as possible and keep resources in reserve for experimentation.

V. Pivot, or start over if you find yourself with a product that is not working.

In that chapter on kickstarting the brain, Gallo noted Jobs had attended calligraphy classes while in college whose experience was later connected to technology design at Apple. He also cited a Harvard study that found that creative thinking requires the ability to connect vastly different experiences in order to arrive at something wholly new.

It might also be instructive to think how Jobs rebranded himself after being thrown out of Apple. He did Next and it failed. But he then did Pixar and it succeeded well enough to give him the billions to buy back into Apple whereupon iPod was launched as an apple jukebox and it succeeded followed by the iMac, the iPhone craze and latest the iPad.

At which point there was a twist. Apparently the idea for an iPad came from way back in the late 60s as the Dynabook out from Xerox PARC, again that think-tank which had given the world the laser printer, computer mouse and ethernet. It was surmised that Jobs had read a 1972 journal paper on the Dynabook by Alan Day of that lab.

So it remains to say if we want to broaden our experiences beyond the immediate confines of a particular niche but are unable to be everywhere at the same time, we should read more journals to stay in touch with developments across disciplines. That explains the need for a good grounding in the english and other languages of technological innovation, something only recently admitted by our felicitous politicians, not that they may be expected to do anything out of their limited purview about it for the rakyat at large, for reasons best left to their own devised excuses.

In fact, the idea for the stealth plane that the US' Skunk Works lab developed came from an obscure journal paper published by a Russian radio engineer. Our budding composite materials aeroparts industry may want to note that. And if we can be Asia's first and best low-cost carrier, we might as well make them all stealthy inasmuch financially healthy.

So that talking about Russian prowess, the american Nash shared the Nobel prize for economics, a subject increasingly mathematical in nature to the extent of attracting quants, such as peppered Wall Street whereas the Nobel prize equivalent for mathematics is actually the Fields Medal, one of whose strangest declined recipients is the Russian topologist Grigori Perelman who had solved one of the Clay Millennium USD1 million dollar challenges (he also declined this prize), the Poincare Conjecture, using a clever approximation method in the Ricci flows.

And since it's all about shapes, hopefully we can finally get to appreciate that monumental breakthrough when duty is lifted on Gucci bags and shoes.

On a more serious note, the most important national mission before us is to ignite creativity and innovation in our industries. Otherwise, how does one achieve economic transformations beyond piling to build iconic towers and the usual hardware hardwired to economically debilitating political agendas?

And the most gruesomely neglected segment of our industrial landscape are our SMEs. They would have been the Apples of our industrial might if only the policies had been right and the bankrollers were not so blighted.

So, for them:

hishamh said...

MrNik said...

walla have passionate points on innovation. But we/SME dont have to be like him to be make the differences and waiting our nation landscape is ready to accommodate the creativity to spark. Maybe start small within our concerted capacities with small communities to drive it - the tipping point effect. just an idea.

walla said...

And we have been saying that for the last thirty years...all the way back when the others were not yet awake.

Is today any different for the rm9 billion given out and already consumed?

Just look at the ETP projects...where's anything to make sure the SMEs can really modernize?

Basically we were so ahead in Asia...but lost the plot to become even more relevant with each year. Others got real. Our leaders got stoned on the juice of their own illusions.

And for that generations will pay as those which have passed on. But with what?

Look at how our SMEs struggle. Look at them. Look at their products. Look at who they sell to where.

walla said...

and at which stage are we today?

and while we are still stuck thinking of the above, here comes (and itself replaced):