Innovation – the most overused (and dare I say abused) word in the corporate world today. Ask managers what the organization needs most and they will say ‘innovation and creativity’. And they are right! But when it’s time to walk the talk… well, you know what follows as well as me.
How was Steve Jobs able to accomplish so much in one lifetime? How was he able to turn 4 businesses into mega successes in 1 lifetime when most people can’t convert 1? Well, apart from being a brainiac (his IQ was claimed to be in the high 160s) he had an exalted perspective of things. Here are 3 gems of lessons which we can learn on innovation from him.
1. “Invest in people, not processes.”
This was Steve Jobs’ number 1 mantra. He believed in hiring the best and most driven people; people who wanted to achieve more than personal success. Jobs “saw over the horizon” and hired inspired people who could turn his dreams into realities. But he was never for processes in innovation. “You cannot make a process to innovate”, he said. It simply defeats the purpose. So instead of making an innovation process, hire the right people (however long may take) and give them free rein.
2. “Set an arduous goal for your team, and back them to achieve it”
The Macintosh was about to be introduced to dealers. With less than a week to go for disk duplication, Steve wanted the software to be final and not the proposed ‘demo’ version. The production team did not believe it was possible. But Steve didn’t react with anger. Instead, he told them how great they were and how Apple was counting on them. He set an audacious goal and encouraged them to achieve it. 15 minutes before the Macintosh was introduced, his team met the deadline.
Push your people to achieve 5-10% improvement and they will just work longer hours. But demand a 25% improvement, back your team to achieve it and watch. You will initially hear outcries of rebellion, but then your team will implement innovative thinking and bring about radical improvement.
3. “Look beyond your field for inspiration”
Ever wondered why desktop PCs are vertically assembled instead of horizontally? It was because Steve wanted the Macintosh not to occupy more space than a telephone directory. It called for innovative thinking on part of his production team who assembled the PC vertically, and the competition soon followed suit. Magsafe, the magnetic AC adapter that plugs an Apple laptop into a wall socket, was inspired by Japanese rice cookers being sold in Walmart. Laptop chargers drew inspiration from rice cookers! Can you believe it?
Noted author Edward de Bono writes: “Your mind creates patterns out of its surroundings. Once patterns are formed, it is possible to recognize and use them. These patterns then become firmly established in the mind.” To break free, expose yourself to varied fields. Attend seminars, meet different people and most importantly, keep an open mind. The results may not be visible immediately, but when you ‘connect the dots’, you will be glad.
3 lessons which are simple to comprehend but difficult to implement! I still have a long way to go in getting anywhere near Steve Jobs in applying these concepts. But in whatever small measures they have been implemented, they have provided phenomenal results, making me appear like a rock star! Imagine what we will become if these lessons become a part of our daily lives!
Do share your views and additional points on innovation in the comments section.