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Steve Jobs: Unity of Opposites

Steve Jobs is one of the most analysed and written about figures in twentieth century business. On the one hand, what more can the Pocketblog say about him? On the other, how can we possibly ignore him?

Steve Jobs

Short Biography

It is hard to disentangle the biography of Steve Jobs from that of the company he co-founded, Apple. Perhaps it is enough to say that he was born in 1955, was adopted, and grew up in California, where he had eclectic interests from the start, but dominating them all was an interest in computing. While working at Atari, he was described by its cofounder, Nolan Bushnall, as ‘very often, the smartest guy in the room’.

Jobs had already been introduced to a technically excellent engineer and enthusiast, Steve Wozniak, with whom he hooked up for a number of minor ventures where Jobs’ acumen was combined with Wozniak’s expertise. In 1976, they formalised the relationship, cofounding Apple together with one of Jobs’ Atari colleagues, Ronald Wayne. Wayne is sometimes described as one of the unluckiest men alive, having sold up his shares early on, for very little money, concerned that of the three, he was the only one with assets at stake, should the nascent company fail.

The rise and rise and fall and rise of Apple is history and very well documented elsewhere. Perhaps the turning point in many ways came around the end of 1983. Concerned about the rise of Microsoft, which had entered the market in 1981 and was starting to threaten Apple’s hegemony in personal computing, Jobs made the decision to hire heavy weight corporate expertise, in the form of former PepsiCo President, John Sculley. Together, they launched the Apple Macintosh with a breakthrough TV advert directed by Ridley Scott, that many people of my generation still remember clearly. Here it is…

However, despite a successful launch, Jobs and Sculley had different visions for the technical basis of future Apple computers. It was the corporate man who won the confidence of the Board and, in 1985, Jobs found himself fired. In the period up to 1996, when Jobs returned to Apple, he built two businesses, whose legacy dominates the entertainment industry.

NeXT Computers

Whatever happened to the other computer company that Jobs founded: NeXT? Is it just a footnote or did it really have an impact? Very much the latter. It was a NeXT computer that Tim Berners-Lee worked on, when he created what we now call the World-Wide Web. And it was NeXt software that Apple subsequently used to build the iTunes store.


In 1986, Jobs bought the graphics division of George Lucas’ Lucasfilms  for $10 million, and renamed it Pixar. Its first film was Toy Story, and virtually everything it has created since has been Hollywood magic and financial gold-dust. When Jobs sold Pixar to Disney in 2006, he became Disney’s largest shareholder, by far.

Back to Apple

When Apple bought NeXt in 1996, Jobs returned to a business that, under three CEOs, had declined from 20% to 5% market share. Jobs cut investment in many projects and focused on new computers and then in other, breakthrough digital appliances: the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

The big innovation, however, was not the technology, but the move into digital sales of music and then books, films, applications and just about anything.

It is a triumph for a view that split Jobs from Apple all the way back in 1985: the integration of software and hardware.

In 2011, Jobs resigned from Apple towards the end of a long battle with pancreatic cancer, which finally defeated him in October 2011. Pocketblog marked the event.

What can the rest of us learn from Jobs?

I think that what made Jobs remarkable was the way he embraced opposites and brought unity to them. Form and Function, of course, in designs that he called ‘insanely great’. His products had to be the best they could be in both beauty and power.

Microsoft and IBM became powerful players, and today it is Google and Samsung too. But all of these companies respect a significant divide between hardware and software. Each specialises. Apple did not and continues to create tight integration and a closed system that, many argue, is the key to their simplicity and reliability*.

But the biggest integration is almost certainly the one that is primarily responsible for Apple’s awesome commercial dominance today (early 2015): the fusion of computing and entertainment. The iTunes store that sells TV, film, books, and more to consume on Apple hardware, via Apple software. Whatever next: Apple production?

So what else can we learn?

I take away five lessons form the business life of Steve Jobs:

  1. The drive and passion to create what he wanted; his vision, no matter what.
  2. The eclecticism that led to design ethics and a range of business interests that made Apple the company it is
  3. The ruthlessness and acumen that has been both lauded and criticised but, when focused well, has fed the drive
  4. The faith he had in the place of art, design, and beauty in commerce
  5. The confidence to dare to be different, combined with the acumen to make his distinctiveness the core of a brand that looks today as if it will outlive hm by many years.

In His Own Words

Whilst it is tempting to post some of Jobs’ greatest presentations in the form of landmark product launches, instead, here is a short video of Jobs addressing students of Standford University, in 2005.





* Declaration of interest: the author of this blog switched from Windows to Mac 12 months ago and has no regrets.

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Frederick Herzberg: KITA versus Enrichment

Frederick Herzberg was a clinical psychologist who saw a gap in the research on workplace psychology and filled it with his convictions about what gives people a sense of wellbeing. This places him amongst other great humanistic psychologists, from Maslow to McGregor. His work was widely influential and his keystone Harvard Business Review article, ‘One More Time: How do you motivate employees?’ remains one of the most widely read of that publication’s reprints.

Frederick Herzberg

Short Biography

Frederick Herzberg was born in Massachusetts in 1923 and grew up in New York, where he attended the City College of New York, initially studying history. Incidentally, Maslow also attended City College. Although he loved history, he found the way it was taught too impersonal and overly-focused on events, so he transferred to psychology. But before he completed his course, he enlisted in the US Army, where he served with distinction as an infantry sergeant. He was among the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp which must have affected him profoundly, not least because he was a Jew whose family had come to the US as emigrants from Lithuania.

After the war, he returned to New York to complete his degree and went on to earn a masters degree and a PhD at the University of Pittsburg. In the mid-1950s, Herzberg worked at the US Public Health Service where he started to become interested in workplace psychology. After surveying all of the existing literature and finding it wanting, he conducted his own research, interviewing over 200 engineers. This work led, in 1959, to his first book, with Bernard Mausner and Barbara B. Snyderman, Motivation to Work. He followed this with his 1966 book, Work and the Nature of Man, in which he extends the same ideas in a more philosophical direction, adopting the metaphor of the characters Adam and Abraham from the Bible.

Herzberg’s earlier academic work was done at Case Western Reserve University, from where he moved to the University of Utah in 1972. He remained there up to his retirement. He died in January 2000.

Herzberg’s Contribution

Our earlier post, What Motivates your Team Members?, summarises Herzberg’s Hygeine and Motivation theory. He discovered that the things that leave us dissatisfied at work are different from those which satisfy us. Fixing the dissatisfiers (or ‘hygiene factors’) will only stop us being grumpy. Other things motivate us positively and Herzberg argued that employers should stop trying to use the granting and withholding of hygiene factors (which he colourfully described in his HBR article as giving employees a Kick in the Ass – KITA) and start working on the positive, aspirational motivators that enrich our lives. He was an early advocate of engaging employees and bringing the best out of them.

Indeed, Herzberg catalogued what he saw as essential in bringing out creativity and innovation from your team:

  1. intelligence
  2. expertise
  3. an unconventional viewpoint
  4. effectiveness in ambiguity
  5. self awareness
  6. separating motivation from hygiene factors
  7. controlling anxiety
  8. suppressing over-concern for advancement
  9. accessing intuition
  10. passion

Ultimately, Herzberg had an individualistic view of workplace success, ascribing more significance to personal talents and attitudes than to team efforts. He drew a balance between the attitudes and talents that eschewed simplistic egalitarianism, in favour of offering primacy to individuals with more relevant knowledge and expertise. But he also wanted to create a balance between a focus on data and fact on the one hand, with passion and experience on the other.

He taught us, as much or more than anyone else, that the simple approach of carrot and stick brings little more than ‘okay’ performance out of people. It is virtuous behaviours that enrich a workplace, which create great results.

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George Eastman: Visionary Philanthropist

George Eastman is mainly remembered as the father of Kodak, seller of cheap cameras and the film-stock you use for your holiday snaps. Yet I am aware that many adults reading this will only be dimly aware of the days when you had to get your photos developed. The ability to do that, however, was a huge step forward. Who knows what Eastman would have made of the iPhone and Instagram.

George Eastman

Short Biography

George Eastman was born in upstate New York in 1854 and his father died when he was still at school. This meant leaving at 14, to get a job at an insurance company, but at the same time he studied accounting at home, with the hope of getting a better paid job; which he did.

In 1878, while working at the Rochester Savings Bank, he was introduced to photography, buying a load of then state-of-the-art equipment and learning how to use it. The big problem he saw was the need to develop images quickly, while the emulsion on the photographic plate was wet. His genius was to take a suggestion of using a dry, gelatine emulsion and find a way to make it work. In 880, he patented this innovation and one other: a machine to mass produce dry plates.

Eastman gave up his job at the bank and, with a new partner, George Strong, he founded The Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company in 1884. Eight years later, this was to be renamed The Eastman Kodak Company. In the time until his death, in 1932, Eastman proved himself a pioneer in six areas of management (at least), as well as a massive donor to academic, cultural and medical institutions across the US and in Europe.

In the final years of his life, Eastman suffered agonising pain from a spinal disorder that left him inactive and increasingly depressed. In March 1932, he committed suicide with a single gunshot through his heart. He left a short message: ‘My work is done – Why wait? GE.’

Six Pioneering Principles

1. Democratising Technology

When he took up photography, it was an expensive and complex niche pastime, that required much equipment and many skills. Eastman saw the potential to make it easier and less expensive. He took a new technology and, throughout its life, was actively involved in its maturation. Eastman wanted to ‘make the camera as convenient as the pencil’.

2. Crisis Management

Early on, some of the dry plates Eastman distributed were faulty. Without skipping a beat, he recalled everything and replaced them, using up all of his new business’s financial reserves. He recognised the value of reputation above all else:

‘Making good on those plates took our last dollar. But what we had left was more important – reputation’

3. Humanistic Management

At around the time when Frederick Winslow Taylor wanted to apply the principles of science to management, to create scientific management, Eastman took a different tack. It was a tack that would not become mainstream until Elton Mayo effectively knocked Scientific Management over and replaced it, in the 1930s, with Humanistic Management. In 1899, he started distributing a ‘wage dividend’ to all his workers, rewarding them all for their efforts in proportion to the dividend paid on the company’s shares. In 1919, he went further, handing a third of the company’s assets to his employees, and instituting life insurance, a disability benefit scheme, and a retirement plan.

4. Brand Recognition

The name Kodak is a made-up work – not a contraction, a translation or an acronym. It just sounded good to Eastman, who thought the K sound was strong (many English language comedians will also say that the K sound sounds funny – but not as funny as Q). He also chose the distinctive yellow and red colours of the logo. And the cherry on the cake was an innovative slogan, ‘you push the button, we do the rest’ that promised a new level of simplicity.

5. ‘Trust us’ marketing

That slogan is the basis of a style of marketing that is now commonplace: you can trust us, we’ll take care of it.

  • ‘Don’t leave home without it’
  • ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a…
  • ‘You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world’
  • ‘It does what it says on the tin’

You identify the brands.

6. Black-box Service Offering

No longer did people need to understand the equipment they were using. To take a photo, you needed a simple camera and a roll of film. Technologists would sort out the optics and the chemistry for you. We now live in a world where everyone from politicians to crazed loonies derides aspects of science, without stopping for a moment to wonder how a mobile phone can possibly make a voice and visual link to somebody thousands of miles away, access a billion articles, take still and moving photos, as well as add up your shopping basket, store your shopping list and ring an alarm when it is time to go.


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Nilofer Merchant: Innovator

Nilofer Merchant may teach innovation at Santa Clara University, but she does so with a track record as a practitioner and an armful of interesting ideas.

Nilofer Merchant


Brief Biography

Nilofer Merchant was born in Mumbai, India, but came to the US at the age of five. While at high school, she packed her bags and left home to avoid an arranged marriage that would have denied her the college education she craved. She got her BSc in Economics at the University of San Francisco in 1992. She later got an MBA from Santa Clara University. Her first job was as an admin assistant at Apple, but her talent for asking questions that reveal answers allowed her to move up that organisation and move into senior executive roles at GoLive (which was acquired by Adobe in 1999) and then Autodesk.

From there, she set up her own innovation and technology consulting business, Rubicon Consulting, made it a success, and then wound it up ten years later. Her current career is as an author and a much sought-after speaker, sharing her provocative ideas. In 2013, she won the Thinkers50 Future Thinker award. Merchant is author of two books: 2010’s ‘The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy‘ and 2012’s ‘11 Rules for Creating Value In #SocialEra‘ (and yes, there really is a hashtag in the title!)

Merchant’s Ideas

It’s New Year in two days, so you won’t want to read a long blog. So I will summarise Merchant’s ideas as best I can in short snippets, and then hand over to her in two TED talks: one, with over 1.5 million views, and the other a trail for a book she has contracted to write for Viking (Penguin in the UK). They published Susan Cain‘s ‘Quiet‘ and I suspect ‘Onlyness’ may have a similar level of impact.

Idea 1: Innovation is necessary to business success

Merchant sees today’s core business as the source of funding for developing tomorrow’s. Success grants you the opportunity to invest in building the next source of revenue.

Idea 2: Walking is good, sitting is bad

Too many of us are far too sedentary in our day-to-day work.

Idea 3: Onlyness

This will be the topic of Merchant’s next book – and see the video below. We each have a distinctive story and our own ideas. It is how we connect ours up to to the distinctiveness of others that is the source of creativity.

Idea 4: Organisations need to connect talent

Many of us (me included) are now solo-workers – freelance, ‘solopreneurs’. Organisations of the future will need to find ways to connect talent in order to innovate.

Got a Meeting: Take a Walk

Merchant’s 1.5 million + TED Talk

[ted id=1726]


Merchant’s 2012 TEDx talk will become big, because she has just announced a book deal. This is the core of her current thinking.

For more…

Merchant’s website is exceptionally good. Stunning design and insightful writing in a very personal and non-corporate style.

Nurturing Innovation Pocketbook

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Eiji Toyoda: Yes we can

Eiji was not a management theorist and neither did he found a business. His genius lies in his absolute determination to take on a huge challenge and do difficult things… and he did it twice.

Eiji Toyoda

Brief Biography

Eiji Toyoda was born in 1913 and grew up near Japan’s third city, Nagoya. There, his father had a textile mill, so Toyoda grew up surrounded by the potent combination of engineering and business that was to define his life. He studied engineering at Tokyo Imperial University and, upon graduating in 1936, he joined his cousin’s Toyoda Automatic Loom Works business, where they set up an automobile works and soon changed the name to Toyota.

Toyoda took on a number of roles in setting up research and production planning, but the steady growth of the business was interrupted in 1941, when Japan entered the war. The General Motors car parts they needed were no longer available, and besides; the country now needed trucks. So Toyota became a truck manufacturer. In the early years after the war, trading was tough and Toyoda was heavily involved in the inevitable lay-offs. But he also decided to diversify the company’s future by establishing Toyota Motor Sales.

But there was still precious little to sell. In 1950, Toyoda visited a Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan. In the time since Toyota had produced their first car in 1936, they had built around 2,500. What Toyoda saw was a plant producing 8,000 every day. He saw immediately that this was the future and determined to revolutionise Toyota’s manufacturing.

Toyoda – like many of his Japanese contemporaries – was often described as under-stated, or taciturn. This was characterised by his outward response to his experience in Michigan. He wrote back to Toyota headquarters that he ‘thought there were some possibilities to improve the production system.’ He brought a manual of Ford’s quality-control methods, which he had translated into Japanese, changing all references to Ford to ‘Toyota’.

This was the start of his first big challenge.

In 1955, Toyoda led the introduction of Toyota’s first mass production car, the Crown. It was a huge success in Japan, but in serving the Japanese market, it was poorly suited to the US Market, where it failed to gain a foothold. That came in 1960, when Toyota launched two new models, the Corona and the Corolla. Both sold massively in the US and, by  1975, Toyota overtook Volkswagen as the largest car importer into the US.

By then, Toyoda had been appointed president of Toyota, serving for longer than anyone to date, from 1967 to 1981, when he stepped into the newly created role of Chairman. It was as Chairman that he really took on and equalled the US, forming a joint venture with General Motors in 1984 to manufacture Toyota cars in the US.

But it was a year earlier, in 1983, that he kicked off his second big challenge: to create a luxury car to challenge the best.

This was to become the Lexus, which later grew into a new brand, to create a clear marketing distinction between the mass-market Toyota cars and the elite Lexus vehicles. His success was complete. Lexus regularly competes with prestige German marques Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

In 1984, Toyoda resigned from the Chairmanship although he continued to go into the office (where all three of his sons are executives) into his nineties. He died, shortly after his 100th birthday, in 2013.

Challenge 1: Become a World Class Manufacturer, to rival the US ‘Big Three’ auto manufacturers

Toyoda set out to take US mass-production ideas and fine tune them to the point where he could out-compete the US auto giants. He worked with a veteran loom engineer, Taiichi Ohno (who deserves, and will doubtless get, his own Pocketblog one day). They created together the ‘Toyota Production System (TPS)’ which is now more generically known as ‘Lean Production’. It rested on three core tenets:

  1. Just in time (JIT) production
    Ohno extended the concept of quality to reduction of waste and asked ‘why stockpile components?’. The result was a revolution
  2. Value Stream – also known as Value Chain
    To make JIT work, you need to see the production process as a part of a longer stream of activities from procurement to production to delivery. Customer demand drives ordering.
  3. Kaizen and Responsibility
    TPS makes everyone responsible for quality. While Toyota did not invent continuous improvement, or Kaizen, it is only when everyone takes responsibility for quality that it can really work.

Challenge 2: Create a World Class Luxury Brand, to rival established German auto manufacturers

From a top secret meeting to a world class luxury marque, Toyoda created a new brand from nothing but determination and around $2 billion of investment. Well, you can do a lot with $2 billion (I think – I’d love to try). But who, in 1983, would have thought that a Japanese car maker would out-engineer the German luxury brands? To do this, Toyoda’s engineers had an eye for detail that today reminds me of Apple. They tested the Lexus on Japanese roads, but knew that Japan would not be their primary market if they were to succeed. So they built new roads in Japan, mimicking roads in the US, UK, and Germany, and tested the Lexus on these. In the process of building the first Lexus, Toyota innovated and experimented like never before.

And what did Toyota get for their 200 patents and 450 prototypes? The Lexus LS400 and the start of a whole new world class business.

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Jeff Bezos: Deliberate Billionaire

Is it possible to think yourself rich?

Is it possible to define a hugely successful business through careful consideration?

I think the answer is yes, and the evidence is Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos

Brief Biography

Jeff Bezos was born in 1964 and grew up in New Mexico and on his grandparents’ ranch in Texas. From an early age, he enjoyed tinkering and building engineering and science projects in his parents’ and grand-parents’ garages. After graduating in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University, he started a rapid rise through the corporate world, moving from a New York start-up, Fitel, to Bankers Trust, where he became its youngest vice president. He then went to a Wall Street firm called DE Shaw & Co, where someone said of him: ‘he is going to make someone a lot of money one day’.

I don’t know how much he made them, but it was whilst he was there that he had the inspiration that would lead him to found Amazon led the internet revolution in the late 1990s, rapidly overtaking its major competitors, the big US retailers, in turnover. It rode out the storm of the 2000 dot com bubble bursting, and went on to where it is now, taking on just about any big interests – most notably at the moment, the big publishers (about which both I and my publishers have a vested interest and I, for one, as an author and a reader, have complex and mixed views).

But Amazon is no longer just a book seller: it sells anything anyone wants to sell. It also manufactures handheld devices as part of its revolution in eBook selling, and has recently launched its first mobile phone. Bezos himself is now worth over $30 billion and uses his money to pursue his passion for space exploration, his belief in the long term future of the planet and, recently, in acquiring the Washington Post newspaper (2013).

Bezos and Business Strategy

All of the above is well-documented (indeed more fully documented) elsewhere. So why put Bezos into the Management Pocketblog? I think there is one really important lesson I want to draw from the often told foundation story of Amazon, which can be a vital lesson for managers everywhere. It comes in three parts:

1. Openness and Perception

We all come across interesting facts and curious statistics every day. It sometimes seems that this is what the internet is for (if it is not for cat photos or shopping at Amazon, that is). The difference with Bezos is that he took a statistic that millions were aware of and thought about it: In 1992, the internet was growing at 2,300 per cent per year. No matter how small the base was, this meant a huge potential and he saw it. And he also saw that this meant a potential for successful online commerce.

2. Deliberate Analysis

Bezos didn’t just go for what he knew, for what he liked, or for what seemed easy. He made a long list of every category he could sell and whittled it down to find the category with the greatest potential to make a breakthrough in online retail. Books had a lot going for them, he reasoned:

  • A huge inventory of titles – that traditional retailers could not offer but he could
  • No single (or few in number) dominant retailer
  • Easy to transport by post

He then selected his base of operations a long way from where he was living (New York) or his family (Texas and New Mexico) because it was right for the business. Seattle offered:

  • The right workforce of skilled software engineers
  • The right taxation regime
  • The proximity of a major book wholesaler

3. Constant Innovation, Development and Striving

Amazon has never rested and the driving force for that has been Bezos. It has innovated in:

  • Customer engagement
  • Retail software
  • Synergistic hardware development

Bezos Quote

What could you achieve with a fraction of Bezos’:

  1. Openness and perception?
  2. Deliberate analysis?
  3. Innovation, development and striving?
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The DUCK Creativity Model

Any thoughts that readers may have that all management models originate in the US or the UK – or the wider Anglophone world – can be put to one side. I have discovered a marvellously powerful method for creative innovation, emerging from France.

The French model can be translated into the English acronym DUCK and it gives us the four stages of radical innovation.

D – Drop
– abandon wholly your old ways of doing things

U – Upend
– turn the old ways entirely on their head

C – Create
– build a new process, system, toolkit or idea from the inverted ideas of the past

K – Kindle
– ignite the sparks of your creative thinking with bold execution of your new ideas

DUCK Methodology

What I love about the DUCK method is its gutsy Gallic determination to stimulate creation. From now on, whenever I am in need of new ideas, I will doggedly DUCK the issue.

By the way, on a curious note, the French word for duck is canard, which the English dictionary defines as ‘a false report, rumour or hoax’.

How can that be?

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Innovation, Creativity and Heroism

Neil Alden ArmstrongNeil Armstrong died last week (25 August 2012).

He died a pilot, a professor, a scientist and a hero.

There are a lot of pilots, a lot of professors and a lot of scientists.  But if the word is to mean something worthwhile, there are few heroes.






Like many words, the word hero has become debased somewhat, by overuse, but my 1988 Collins dictionary defines it well (although old-fashionedly in its gender assumption) as:

‘a man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, etc’

That’s my emphasis, please note.


One of Armstrong’s exceptional etc’s was curiosity.  And anyone who reads my own newsletter will know that I am a big fan of what NASA has started to achieve with its Curiosity rover, on Mars.

The development of this project was an exercise in astonishing boldness, heaped upon massive innovation, grown out of remarkable creativity.  And what makes it particularly appealing to me is that I believe curiosity to be the magic ingredient of creativity.

We choose to do these things…

In launching the Apollo space programme that put Armstrong on the moon, John F Kennedy made two key speeches: the first to Congress in May 1961 announced the goal of going to the moon.  Then, in September 1962, speaking at Rice University, he spoke at length about the project, saying:

‘We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.’

Is that not the nature of creativity and innovation?

What is the nature of heroism?

Innovation, by its very definition, is risky.  It is new, it is uncertain, it could fail.  But if it presents a challenge that is truly worthwhile, if it addresses a deep hunger for knowledge and a nobility of endeavour, then being prepared to take that risk, for its own sake, is heroism.

Neil Armstrong was a hero.

Neil Alden Armstrong was an American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, U.S. Navy pilot, test pilot, and university professor.
Source: Wikipedia

Born: August 5, 1930
Died: August 25, 2012

University of Southern California(1970)
Purdue University (1947–1955)

Creative Manager's PocketbookNurturing Innovation PocketbookProblem Solving Pocketbook

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Reward Failure

Yup, you heard me.

Nice Try

But why?

Well, first, we need to define terms:

Reward: celebrate, congratulate, give praise.

Failure: making the effort and not succeeding.

You get what you reward, right?

Dead right.  So, if you only reward success, people will succeed more, yes?  Of course yes.  But to achieve that, what behaviours will you get?

Protective, cautious behaviours that are calculated to minimise the risk of failure of course.

So what will change?  Very little – too much risk.  In fact, all you will get is ‘safe’.

But what if you reward failure?

Well, if you just reward failure, that would be silly.

But if you reward the effort,

… and if you include in your evaluation of effort the good judgement that leads to well calculated risks

… and if you assess ‘well calculated’ against the evidence available at the start, and eschew ‘hindsight bias’

Then maybe your team will realise that success is not easy, but that striving for real, hard-fought, worthwhile success is something you value – and so should they.

Reward good judgement and effort – not success, which may, after all, have little to do with either, and everything to do with luck.

Don’t reward luck.

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What’s All the Hype About?

There is a well known model of technology adoption that suggests a small number of us (the ‘Innovators’) adopt a new technology as soon as it is available.  Then enthusiasts called ‘Early Adopters’ get a hold of it and create a real buzz.  This leads to the ‘Early Majority adopting, followed by the ‘Late Majority’.  Finally, when there is no doubt left that this is the new prevailing orthodoxy, the ‘Laggards’ will catch up.

Technology Adoption Model

Diffusion of Innovations

This model has been around since the late 1950s, when it was developed by Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers at Iowa State University, building on earlier research conducted there by Neal C. Gross and Bryce Ryan.  The original authors were interested in how farmers adopted new seed stock.  It was then generalised to all technologies by Everett M Rogers in his book, ‘Diffusion of Innovations’, in which he examined different technologies and different cultures.

This model is widely used, but I recently came upon a newer model that captures something of the flavour of the world of more rapid change we live in.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle

The Gartner Group specialises in analysing technology and technology businesses to provide business intelligence.  They have developed a number of proprietary models, like the Magic Quadrant and the Hype Cycle.  Let’s have a look at the latter.

Gartner's Hype Cycle

This suggests that new technology goes through five stages.

Technology Trigger

Some new breakthrough offers the promise of something good.  The press get hold of it (in any number of ways) and they – or its inventors – start to promote it towards…

Peak of Inflated Expectations

It is now the next BIG thing that will change the world.  Some commentators get carried away and some otherwise rational (or maybe prescient) investors place big bets.  Then reality kicks in…

Trough of Disillusionment

Early promise is unfulfilled or things just take longer than anticipated.  Research and development is like that.

Of course, the technology may well fall off the curve here and never realise the promise of the hype that once surrounded it.  If it doesn’t, it moves on to…

Slope of Enlightenment

Now development is bearing fruit and interest is building again – but now at a more realistic pace.  Products are becoming available at mainstream prices and Early Adopters are jumping onto the Technology Adoption curve.  The rest of us start to follow as the product reaches…

Plateau of Productivity

With mainstream adoption comes a realistic assessment of the products true potential and level of impact on the world.  Has it lived up to the hype?  Few ever do.

See a lot of familiar products charted onto this curve by Gartner, here.

You Might Like…

The Nurturing Innovation Pocketbook

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