“I am not that surprised that an academic of entrepreneurship (are you kidding me?) would lead a story about one of the world's best innovators and CEO's about that he actually and in fact ! OMG had body odour as a teenager because of his diet, not to mention the rest of your embarrassing piece. Forbes would be best sticking with writers that are inspired by such great entrepreneurs as Steve Jobs, and not with writers such as this, who are unhappy they have not had the courage to 'live the life they love and not settle' and so sit in front of their computer with not much else to do but trying to bring others down. Shame on you Mr Vermeulen”.
This is just one of the comments I received on my earlier piece “Steve Jobs – the man was fallible” (also published on my Forbes blog). Of course, this was not unanticipated; having the audacity to suggest that, in fact, the great man did not possess the ability to walk on water was the closest thing to business blasphemy. And indeed a written stoning duly followed.
But why is suggesting that a human being like Steve Jobs was in fact fallible – who, in the same piece, I also called “a management phenomenon”, “fantastically able”, “a legend”, and “a great leader” – by some considered to be such an act of blasphemy? All I did was claim that he was “fallible”, “not omnipotent”, and “not always right”, which as far as I can see comes with the definition of being human?
And I guess that’s exactly it; in life and certainly in death Steve Jobs transcended the status of being human and reached the status of deity. A journalist of the Guardian compared the reaction (especially in the US) to the death of Steve Jobs with the reaction in England to the death of Princess Diana; a collective outpour of almost aggressive emotion by people who only ever saw the person they are grieving about briefly on television or at best in a distance. Suggesting Princess Diana was fallible was not a healthy idea immediately following her death (and still isn’t); nor was suggesting Steve Jobs was human.
We are inclined to deify successful people in the public eye, and in our time that certainly includes CEOs. In the past, in various cultures, it may have been ancient warriors, Olympians, or saints. They became mythical and transcended humanity, quite literally reaching God-like status.
Historians and geneticists argue that this inclination for deification is actually deeply embedded in the human psyche, and we have evolved to be prone to worship. There is increasing consensus that man came to dominate the earth – and for instance drive out Neanderthalers, who were in fact stronger, likely more intelligent, and had more sophisticated tools – because of our superior ability to organize into larger social systems. And a crucial role in this, fostering social cohesion, was religion, which centers on myths and deities. This inclination for worship very likely became embedded into our genetic system, and it is yearning to come out and be satisfied, and great people such as Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, and Lady Di serve to fulfill this need.
But that of course does not mean that they were infallible and could in fact walk on water. We just don’t want to hear it. Great CEOs realize that their near deification is a gross exaggeration, and sometimes even get annoyed by its suggestion – Amex’s Ken Chenault told me that he did not like it at all, and I have seen that same reaction in Southwest’s Herb Kelleher. Slightly less-great CEOs do start to believe their own status, and people like Enron’s Jeff Skilling or Ahold’s Cees van der Hoeven come to mind; not coincidentally they are often associated with spectacular business downfalls. I have never spoken to Steve Jobs, but I am guessing he might not have disagreed with the qualifications “not omnipotent”, “not always right” and, most of all, “human”.
As a student, at Reed College, Steve Jobs came to believe that if he ate only fruits he would eliminate all mucus and not need to shower anymore. It didn’t work. He didn’t smell good. When he got a job at Atari, given his odor, he was swiftly moved into the night shift, where he would be less disruptive to the nostrils of his fellow colleagues.
The job at Atari exposed him to the earliest generation of video games. It also exposed him to the world business and what it meant build up and run a company. Some years later, with Steve Wozniak, he founded Apple in Silicon Valley (of course in a garage) and quite quickly, although just in his late twenties, grew to be a management phenomenon, featuring in the legendary business book by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman “In Search of Excellence”.
But, in fact, shortly after the book became a bestseller, by the mid 1980s, Apple was in trouble. Although their computers were far ahead of their time in terms of usability – mostly thanks to the Graphical User Interface (based on an idea he had cunningly copied from Xerox) – they were just bloody expensive. Too expensive for most people. For example, the so-called Lisa retailed for no less than $10,000 (and that is 1982 dollars!). John Sculley – CEO – recalled “We were so insular, that we could not manufacture a product to sell for under $3,000.” Steve Jobs was fantastically able to assemble and motivate a team op people that managed to invent a truly revolutionary product, but he also was unable to turn it into profit.
When Jobs was fired from Apple – in 1985 – CEO John Sculley took control. Sculley is often described as a bit of a failure, because “nothing revolutionary came out of Apple under his watch”, “he could have done so much more with the company” and especially for “being stupid enough to boot out a genius like Steve Jobs”. However, the years after Sculley took over were some of Apple’s most profitable. The man did something right, and that was focus on exploiting the competitive advantage that Apple had built up.
In management research, following terminology cornered by the legendary Stanford professor Jim March, we often say that firms have to balance exploration with exploitation. Exploration refers to developing new sources of competitive advantage and growth. Exploitation refers to making money out of them. Steve Jobs was “insanely great” at exploration, but not – at the time – at exploitation. Sculley was.
Now Steve Jobs is a legend. And rightly so; our world literally would have looked different without him. However, what Steve Jobs’ legendary status also tells me is that we – mere mortals – are inclined to overestimate the omnipotence of CEOs. We overdo it when we ascribe the failure of an entire company to just one man or woman (e.g. Enron’s Jeff Skilling) but also when we ascribe the entire success of a company to one individual.
Steve Jobs wasn’t omnipotent (John Sculley had qualities Jobs didn’t) and he wasn’t always right (eating only fruits does not eliminate the need for an occasional shower). His day-to-day influence on Apple over the last years must have been limited, given his rapidly and severely deteriorating health. If anything, he simply would not have been able to be around enough to control and take care of everything. Nevertheless, the company did well in spite of his absence. And of course that is his laudable achievement too; he managed to build a company that could do well without him. And perhaps that may prove to be his best business lesson after all: how a great leader eventually makes himself superfluous.
The Business returns triumphantly from Los Angeles this week, and welcomes a special guest - comedian and broadcaster Jordan Morris! Jordan is the co-host of MaximumFun.org's "Jordan, Jesse, Go!" and was an original co-host of "The Sound of Young America." You can also see him on Fuel TV's "The Daily Habit" and at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles. See the face attached to the voice you love!
We've also got all of your favorite regular Businessmen, making this a veritable "Jordan, Alex, Bucky, Chris, Sean, Go!" event. Tickets are still just five dollars, and we enable, nay, encourage the bringing of one's own burrito.
I made the kiddos some cookies this afternoon. Huge hit:o)
For some reason I have been in the baking mood. I have made a peach cobbler and chocolate oatmeal cookies in the past week too.
Could it be that I am a stress eater and I am freaked out about this craft fair?
Anyway, I found a great cookie & icing recipe over at Girl Inspired today. The cookies were really really tasty...yes, were..not are...just kidding. I left a few for the hubs;o) I froze less than half of them for another day:o)
I hope that you all are having a great Tuesday. Mine would be slightly better if the cleaning fairy would show up;o)
These pictures are terrible..I should have taken them while the sun was still on this side of the house, but I am too excited about finally completing an item for the craft fair....that's in TWO WEEKS!
The rocking chair was given to me by some dear friends. It was a cherry color before I had my way with it.. The seat cushion is covered in an antique grain sack, and the skirt is a ruffled painter's drop cloth.
This is when I should have taken the pictures...if only the rocking chair had been done then:o)
Isn't this aster bush amazing?
This bush is unbelievable. When I planted this last year, it looked like a dying twig...
see picture below.
Can you believe that is the same plant?!?
We have lovingly named it the "Mozzie" Bush. Mozzie was my great grandmother, and one of the sweetest women that graced the earth. This plant started in her garden, and has been passed along to several family members and friends...what a way to remember such a beautiful person!
There hasn't been too much going on in the crafting realm...I have been tending to sick children (they're better now) and nursing a cold. There have been days where we were bored to tears, and days where boredom would have been welcomed.
The hubs has started working on redoing the back yard...it is going to be beautimous! I can't wait to see how it all turns out. He used a sod stripper the other day and pulled out a ton of grass. Here the little ones are helping daddy clean up.
Here is evidence of how I had wished for a boring day:o)
S.R. lopped off half of her hair which caused Mommy dearest to come out:o) I was one UN-happy camper. Thankfully the child was blessed with naturally curly hair, so the 2 inch long hair blends in with the rest. She went from this:
I had to cut 3 and 1/2 inches off the back of her hair....oh well...thankfully it grows back!! Oh yeah, this was also the same day when E locked the dog in the outdoor toy basket and we thought he was lost in the neighborhood...um, yeah, we were so glad when 8 p.m. rolled around:o)
In other news, our homemakers club is hosting a craft fair. I am going to have a booth. I am really lacking any motivation to get anything done for my booth. I have been focusing mainly on advertising...
I have started on a few things, though.
Hymnal wreaths are in the works.
I also have some signs and chalkboards that I am working on.
Small furniture and some shelving will be added in too...I am kind of making things up as I go along:o)For those of you in the area, we would love for you to show some love and attend...check out the homemakers' blog, HERE, for more information.
This week at the Business we swap out our ever-changing parts for some familiar local faces and a few charming visitors. Chris and Alex are once again cheating on the Business with some dirty fling somewhere, but Bucky and Sean will be on hand to welcome Business favorites Caitlin Gill and Chris Thayer. Plus, after one previous false start, we are happy to have Isaac Witty here at the Dark Room. Also, secret special guests in the works!
As always the Business is just $5 and starts at 8pm. And as always we are close to many burrito and drink options (although few burrito drink options)
Hey LA! We've had fun playing in your sandbox this year. However with Santa and the Great Pumpkin and some turkeys coming our wayin the next few months, we won't see you guys again for a while. So our October Business LA show is going to be a big send off for 2011! Bring all your friends and relatives and let's celebrate every holiday at once!
All the regular Businessmen will be in attendance this time around: Bucky and Sean and Chris and Alex will all be on hand, as well as our special guests Brendon Walsh and Beth Stelling! We'll have some special surprises and as always the Medically Transported Mission Style Burrito Raffle will reward some lucky audience member with sketchy goodness.
Tickets are $8 online (no service charge!) and $10 at the door. I think you know what to do.
Yesterday I was a short order seamstress. The kids are on fall break right now. So I decided that they could tell me what they wanted me to make them, and I would make it right then and there....they loved it!
E got a pirate hat and pretend watch, and S.R. got a princess cape and mask.
While they were napping, I made S.R. this Halloween shirt.
This time of year is the only time that it is appropriate to wear such ghastly colors all at once:o)
For those of you who are from my hometown...S.R. will be donning her new "Boo" shirt at a certain high school athletic event involving a white ball and net tonight:o) Maybe we will see you there!!
While we are on the subject of shirts...I made this one for S.R. a few weeks back for our family pictures.
The picture taking process was excruciating. There was a melt down, and then funny faces, hands in the mouth, tempers flaring, etc...but we all looked cute:o) The pictures turned out fantastic, and I can't wait to share them with you all.
Anywhoodles, back to the shirt..I really wanted to do a peek-a-boo shirt for her. I think they are so sweet and I had never made anything like this before...
I am really happy with the results.
Yes, I am completely aware that this shirt is in desperate need of an iron, but laziness has overcome me at this point:o)
The Business opens its doors to the fairer sex this week as we welcome two of our favorite acts: Monday Night ForePlays, and comedian Natasha Muse. The feeling's right, oh what a night!
Monday Night ForePlays is Piano Fight's acclaimed night of female-driven sketch comedy. This month, they're presenting “Don’t Tell Mom the Weekend’s Dead!”, a show that promises to help keep the Saturday spirit alive! How? Through the showcasing of common Saturday night motifs and scenarios; you’ll see bison pan-sexuality, a vinyl-brassiered pop group giving financial advice, gamete on gamete romance in fertilization, and a special appearance from 90’s teen book club favorite, The Babysitter’s Club. If that’s not a recipe for weekend sustainability, we don’t know what is! This Wednesday, enjoy sketches entitled "Dr. Poonberg's Button Glove" and "Say Hello To Your Friends".
Natasha Muse promises that she is at least the second-funniest transsexual you know, and she's definitely the funniest we know. She has wowed crowds all over the Bay Area, from Cobb's Comedy Club to the world-famous Punch Line, Her sparkling wit and charming stage demeanor made her the 2010 champion of the “Battle of the Bay Comedy Competition." Her podcast is called "Too Soon?" and her talk show is called "A Funny Night For Comedy." She delights her countless Twitter followers as @NatashaMuse, but as you'll learn Wednesday, she's even more delightful in person.
Representing the unfair sex, we've got regular Businessmen Alex, Bucky, Chris, and Sean. Regardless of your gender, admission is just five dollars.