Steve Jobs wasn’t even Steve Jobs

I’ve been noodling on a post for a while about the effects Steve Jobs has on the business world. He’s seen as a hero and other leaders want to also be heroes. They love hearing about this guy who was so difficult, meticulous and sort-of command-and-control. It makes them think they can do it too.

But, they usually turn out to be envious goats who take the batta-batta-batta-“iPad”-swing, miss, then get fired.

The leaders of Intuit don’t want to be Steve Jobs. This is from an excellent piece in Forbes about innovation at that company.

Plenty of companies are a religion, where people take their cues from the top. Intuit is a science lab, where anything can be tested and proven incorrect. “When you have only one test, you don’t have entrepreneurs; you have politicians. When you have lots of ideas you have entrepreneurs,” says Cook.

He’s found a kindred spirit in Smith, who became CEO in 2008. “Genius and a thousand helpers are not going to solve the problems of today or tomorrow,” says Smith, 48… “There are very few Steve Jobses out there. We run small teams and lots of rapid experiments. No politics. No PowerPoints.”

I agree. I’ve seen innovation choked by politics in organizations that take their cues from the top. I’ve seen those same organizations languish and go through multiple leaders who all had the same general idea – their idea, whatever that was.

Other ideas could not get the resources even for a small test because those would take resources away from the leader’s idea. Too bad the hit rate for new ideas is so small. That’s the key insight that the leaders either don’t realize or think they can outsmart it. Or they don’t care because they’ll make a decent sum whether they produce or not.

But, I even think the Steve Jobs story as command-and-control genius is overplayed. No doubt the guy was hard-charging genius. But his greatest genius of all was opening his products to benefit from lots of small tests that would come through the iTunes and app communities.

If iPods and iPhones were just music boxes and phones, I would probably have neither. But, along with these devices, Jobs created a wide community to create stuff for them to make them more useful with minimal political drag on which apps and podcasts could be made available.

This resulted in lots of small bets placed by the thousands of developers and podcast creators and that resulted in tons of content and functions that more and more people found useful, even if it was just a handy way to kill time while standing in line at the grocery store or as a pacifier to keep me from saying truthful, but career-limiting, things in business meetings.

I bought my first iPod when I got tired of listening to the few podcasts that I followed on my computer and discovered that listening to those podcasts while exercising and traveling was something I valued. That was a start.

So, now I have both. And since then, I have found many other ways to make them useful — most of which are not produced by Apple. I have three music boxes: my library, Pandora and another app that lets me tune in radio stations. I play Words/Chess with Friends, but with Family. I ask Siri stupid questions and occasionally, it gives me a useful answer. I don’t get lost. And so on.

The key point: It was those many other things that made iPod, iPhones and iPads the success. I don’t believe any of Apple products would have been nearly the success if they only stored music and surfed the web. iPods probably would have been slightly more successful than the Nomad MP3 players if all they did was store and play music.

So, congrats Steve Jobs. You figured out how to make money off Wikipedia’s operation model and Wikipedia itself (another tool I often refer to through my Apple devices) (I wonder if there is a Wikipedia article on that?) and fool most folks into thinking it was all you.

Links

The Wall Street Journal addresses President Obama’s comments, point by point. I’d like to see much more of this from the media with all sides of a debate.

Another week and another must-read from Thomas Sowell. As I read it, I imagined how the 24/7 news media would have treated a Republican doing, or not doing, these things.

Sowell goes further than merely pointing out some things that should cause a voter concern. He educates as to exactly why they should cause you concern.

Backwards

Another week, another link to Thomas Sowell. This time he wrote about the Fallacy of Redistribution and backs up what I wrote in my post, the iPad Tax. I greatly appreciate his ability to simplify things.

In theory, confiscating the wealth of the more successful people ought to make the rest of the society more prosperous. But when the Soviet Union confiscated the wealth of successful farmers, food became scarce. As many people died of starvation under Stalin in the 1930s as died in Hitler’s Holocaust in the 1940s.

How can that be? It is not complicated. You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth — and that future wealth is less likely to be produced when people see that it is going to be confiscated. Farmers in the Soviet Union cut back on how much time and effort they invested in growing their crops, when they realized that the government was going to take a big part of the harvest. They slaughtered and ate young farm animals that they would normally keep tending and feeding while raising them to maturity.

Barack Obama can endlessly proclaim his slogan of “Forward,” but what he is proposing is going backwards to policies that have failed repeatedly in countries around the world.

Backfire

It just occurred to me that one reason the news media is obsessed with twisting a typical Republican message of personal responsibility into some sort of tape scandal is to keep our attention away from the disaster brewing in the Middle East.

Try this thought experiment.

Instead of a democratic President, imagine just about any Republican was the incumbent in this election year.

Now consider that American citizens were killed and an embassy destroyed as a result of a terrorist attack on the anniversary of a previous terrorist attack.

That President doesn’t cancel entertainment rounds. He or she goes ahead with fundraisers and is slow to respond and characterize the attack.

Do you think the general news media would be painting over this juicy coverage to make a relatively routine fundraising speech from months ago something that we should be waving our arms over?

I don’t think so either.

The big news story last week was Romney’s response to the terrorist attacks.

I think that backfired as more people found his response to be a bit more ‘presidential’ than the functionary response given by the president. It seemed to have erased the DNC “bump” in the polls.

Also, talking about it reminded people of the trouble brewing in the Middle East.

Enter the red herring of a ‘heavily edited’ fundraising speech from six months ago. That allows the trumped up criticism of Romney to continue without having to remind folks of the Middle East mess.

My prediction: Romney’s fundraising remarks will play as well as his terrorist attack response.

Incentives matter

If I was one of Romney’s advisers I would have recommended that Romney not concede anything regarding his remarks.

I don’t think his “not as elegantly stated” concession did as much for him than if he would have simply stood behind his comments and challenged opponents to state their case and have a public debate about it.

I’ll give credit to ABC News last night for at least trying to present a fact-based case against his statement. They showed a pie chart of the recipients of government transfer payments.

Social Security was a slice. ‘People who have a job but make less than $50k’ was another big slice.

But, a pie chart does not make a compelling case.

The question is how many people in the pie chart  have come to depend on their government benefits to the point that it influences their vote out of concern about losing those benefits?

As I mentioned in my previous post, Democrats reveal that they agree with Romney as many of their campaigns do nothing more than tell the folks in the ABC News pie chart  that voting against them puts their government benefits in jeopardy.

I’d like to have citizens cast their votes based on who they think will uphold the Constitution, not based on who gives them the best benefits. In many other parts of society, this conflict of interest would be easily recognized as corruption.

Consider a city councilman who gets to vote on awarding a road construction contract and one of the bidding firms happens to be his own paving company. Nobody would trust the city councilman to represent the people’s best interests in that case, even if he was the most upstanding and fair person.

We would demand that this city councilman remove himself from this vote.

Not so seismic

ABC News described today as a “seismic shifting” day, for Romney, exposing what he really thinks, with the release of his recorded comments at a fundraiser.

Is it scandalous to suggest that someone who has a financial interest in government may have a conflict of interest when it comes to casting their vote? I thought that was common sense.

Isn’t this very fact exploited over and over by Democrats in their campaigns when they try to scare these people into voting for them to keep getting their goodies?

Today is a seismic shift…to a new dumb.

I have a simple solution. You have a choice. If you are eligible to receive benefits from the “social safety net” you can choose to receive the benefit or choose to vote. It’s your choice. Choose wisely.