Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wilderness Years, Steve Jobs, and Innovation

Image: On Buckhorn Mountain (6 of 6) by and Courtesy of V.H.S. 

Fast Company's article "The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes" by Brent Schlender is an interesting piece.  Schlender reviews taped conversation that he had with Jobs, and he makes the argument that during the years Jobs was away from apple (i.e. the "wilderness years"), Jobs was able to gather the knowledge needed to make Apple an innovative juggernaut.

Two interesting takeaways from the article.

Vacations are not only seen as a perk, they are also viewed as a means to re-energize the associate.  Take this a step further, as was the case with Jobs, could/should top executives take an extended leave, a sabbatical?  It would force the organization to perform without its head leader (good for succession planning), and it could lead to greater innovation when the executive returns--both from innovation in absence of the executive and what the executive might bring back to the organization.

Jobs had a number of things wrong.  For example, his ideas regarding open organizations did not work.  It was in partnership with others that his ideas were either tweaked or disregarded.  Furthermore, he adopted others' ideas (e.g. moving Pixar to only animation).  I believe the mythology of the lone leader who is able to lead and innovate within a vacuum permeates throughout American culture.  We have elevated Jobs to mythical proportions.  However, this article humanizes Jobs, and it highlights the importance of partnerships with regards to innovation.

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