Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
The Power of Responsibility 737.5
It’s been said that the line between childhood and adulthood is crossed when we move from saying, “It got lost” to “I lost it.” Indeed, being accountable and understanding and accepting the role our choices play in the things that happen are crucial signs of emotional and moral maturity. That’s why responsibility is one of the main pillars of good character.
Many people have been seduced by the Peter Pan philosophy of refusing to grow up and avoiding the burdens implied in being accountable. Yes, responsibility sometimes requires us to do things that are unpleasant or even frightening. It asks us to carry our own weight, prepare and set goals, and exercise the discipline to reach our aspirations. But the benefits of accepting responsibility far outweigh the short-lived advantages of refusing to do so. No one makes his or her life better by avoiding responsibility. In fact, irresponsibility is a form of self-imposed servitude – to circumstances and to other people.
Responsibility is about our ability to respond to circumstances and to choose the attitudes, actions, and reactions that shape our lives. It is a concept of power that puts us in the driver’s seat.
The grand panorama of the potential of our lives can only be appreciated when we begin to be accountable and self-reliant. Responsible people not only depend on themselves but show others that they can be depended on. This breeds trust, and trust is a key that opens many doors.
If you want more control over your life and the pleasures, prerogatives, and power of freedom and independence, all you have to do is be responsible.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
Marriage Is Not a Word 737.3
Marriage is not a word; it's a sentence.
Marriage is a three ring-circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, suffering.
A man is incomplete until he's married; then he's finished.
Marriage is finding the one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
Why are there so many mean jokes about marriage?
Today, my bride and best friend Anne and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary – and our marriage is no joke.
Marrying Anne was the smartest thing I ever did. We had the best prenuptial agreement you could create: we promised to keep loving each other. And we have.
They say a wedding anniversary is a time to celebrate yesterday’s memories, today’s joys, and tomorrow’s hopes.
In fact, our memories of ten years of diapers, strollers, and car seats help transform today's constant chaos of serving and supervising four active and independent teenage daughters into a form joy.
Every milestone event proves the wisdom of Mignon McLaughlin's description of a successful marriage as falling in love many times with the same person.
A happy marriage is as hard and as simple as loving enough to forgive each other and forgiving enough to love each other, no matter what. It’s a continuous conversation with the person who cares about the things you care about more than anyone else in the world. It’s telling each other a thousand things without ever talking. It’s not being able to imagine being without each other.
Contrary to the jokes, marriages are not held together by chains but by the thousands of tiny threads representing shared experiences. I am grateful for every thread and looking forward to a few thousand more.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
Here’s some favorite quotes about love and marriage:
A happy marriage begins when we marry the one we love, and blossoms when we love the one we married. –Sam Levinson
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction. –Antoine de Saint-Exupery
What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility. –George Levinger
Grow old with me!/The best is yet to be. –Robert Browning
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. –Marcel Proust
It doesn’t matter where you go in life, what you do... it’s who you have beside you.
There is no feeling more comforting and consoling than knowing you are right next to your loved one.
We have changed over the years, but the sparkle in your eyes is as bright as ever, and my love for you is even stronger.
Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away. –Dinah Craik
A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. –Ruth Bell Graham
Our wedding was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day. –Gene Perret
You make me want to be a better person.
Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate. –Barnett R. Brickner
Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can't live without. –James C. Dobson
A perfect marriage is one in which "I'm sorry" is said just often enough. –Mignon McLaughlin
My wife says I never listen, or something like that….
Marriage is when a man and woman become as one; the trouble starts when they try to decide which one.
The Japanese have a word for it. It’s Judo – the art of conquering by yielding. The Western equivalent of Judo is, “Yes dear." –J.P. McEvoy
Maslow 2.0: A New and Improved Recipe for Happiness
What are the ingredients for happiness? It's a question that has been addressed time andagain, and now a study based on the first-ever globally representative poll on well-being has some answers about whether or not a pioneering theory is actually correct.
The theory in question is the psychologist Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs," a staple of Psychology 101 courses that was famously articulated in 1954. It breaks down the path to happiness in an easy-to-digest list: Earthly needs, such as food and safety, are considered essential, since they act as the groundwork that makes it possible to pursue loftier desires, such as love, respect, and self-actualization (the realization of one's full potential).
The problem is, Maslow's theory remained a theory. Though it gained popularity, scientific psychologists largely ignored it. "They thought the needs were too inborn and universal," says Ed Diener, the author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, "and that the idea of self-actualization was too fuzzy. They started to believe everything is learned and due to socialization."
To find proof that Maslow's theory translated into real life, Diener, a University of Illinois psychologist and senior scientist for the Gallup Organization, helped design the Gallup World Poll, a landmark survey on well-being with 60,865 participants from 123 countries that was conducted from 2005 to 2010. Respondents answered questions about six needs that closely resemble those in Maslow's model: basic needs (food, shelter); safety; social needs (love, support); respect; mastery; and autonomy. They also rated their well-being across three discrete measures: life evaluation (a person's view of his or her life as a whole), positive feelings (day-to-day instances of joy or pleasure), and negative feelings (everyday experiences of sorrow, anger, or stress). Finally, Diener analyzed the poll data with fellow University of Illinois psychology professor Louis Tayfor a study in the current edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The results are mixed. Maslow rightly saw that there are human needs that apply regardless of culture, but his ordering of these needs was not right on target. "Although the most basic needs might get the most attention when you don't have them," Diener explains, "you don't need to fulfill them in order to get benefits [from the others]." Even when we are hungry, for instance, we can be happy with our friends. "They're like vitamins," Diener says on how the needs work independently. "We need them all."
The study's methodical investigation of both day-to-day positive and negative feelings and overall life evaluation uncovered novel nuances as well. As it turns out, the needs that are most linked with everyday satisfaction are interpersonal ones, such as love and respect. Our troubles, conversely, relate most to lack of esteem, lack of freedom, and lack of nourishment. Only when we look back on the quality of our lives thus far do basic needs become significant indicators for well-being.
For Diener, the implications for public policymakers are clear. Since each of Maslow's needs correlates with certain components of happiness, he says, "all the needs are important all the time. Our leaders need to think about them from the outset, otherwise they will have no reason to address social and community needs until food and shelter are available to all."
University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Martin Seligman, who says the study might be a breakthrough, adds: "Governments should take these measures seriously and hold themselves accountable for public policy changes for the well-being of their citizens." Focus away from monetary measures should be considered, especially in light of Diener and Tay's finding that income has little impact on day-to-day happiness and is significant for well-being only in so far as it allows for basic needs to be met. Seligman argues in his book Flourish:
...[G]ross domestic product should no longer be the only serious index of how well a nation is doing. It is not just the alarming divergence between quality of life and GDP that warrants this conclusion. Policy itself follows from what is measured, and if all that is measured is money, all policy will be about getting more money.
Perhaps, as Seligman suggests, governments could take their cue from Bhutan, a nation that consistently ranks high in "gross national happiness," if not GDP. University of British Columbia economist John Helliwell points to the recent riots in London, where social connections had ostensibly frayed, to illustrate the dangers of an unhappy citizenry. Such anti-social acts, he says, should prompt world leaders to adopt the recently passed UN resolution to make happiness a primary goal for global development and to consider Diener's model. "It shows clearly the importance in all societies of human connections and social supports, something that's been ignored in recent years," he says.
Indeed, Maslow's theory has led psychologists to focus on the self over the social for decades, what with self-actualization as the height of human motivation. Diener and Tay's revised model, however, aims to strike a balance between the pursuit of happiness as the end goal and the fulfillment of both personal and social goals to get there. "Maslow got right that there are universal human needs beyond the physiological needs that everyone recognizes," Diener says. "But it turns out people are inherently social. We are called the social animal now."
Images: STR New/Reuters and Debra Bolgla
By Jennifer Valentino-DeVries
Steve Jobs has stepped down as CEO of Apple, the company he founded and turned into the largest technology company in the world. Although his tenure as CEO will be remembered for ushering in fundamental changes in the way people interact with technology, he has also been known for his salesmanship, his ability to turn a phrase – and a knack for taking complicated ideas and making them easy to understand. Below, a compendium of some of the best Steve Jobs quotes.
“It takes these very simple-minded instructions—‘Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it’s greater than this other number’––but executes them at a rate of, let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.
“I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much — if at all.
“These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that.
“But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” [Wired, February 1996]
“I think it’s brought the world a lot closer together, and will continue to do that. There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything. The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television — but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent.” [Rolling Stone, Dec. 3, 2003]
“We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.
When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. [Wired, February 1996]
“For something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998, in a profile that also included the following gem: "Steve clearly has done an incredible job," says former Apple Chief Financial Officer Joseph Graziano. "But the $64,000 question is: Will Apple ever resume growth?"]
“This is what customers pay us for–to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Take desktop video editing. I never got one request from someone who wanted to edit movies on his computer. Yet now that people see it, they say, ‘Oh my God, that’s great!’” [Fortune, January 24 2000]
“Look at the design of a lot of consumer products — they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.” [MSNBC and Newsweek interview, Oct. 14, 2006]
On His Products
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard on something, but working on Macintosh was the neatest experience of my life. Almost everyone who worked on it will say that. None of us wanted to release it at the end. It was as though we knew that once it was out of our hands, it wouldn’t be ours anymore. When we finally presented it at the shareholders’ meeting, everyone in the auditorium gave it a five-minute ovation. What was incredible to me was that I could see the Mac team in the first few rows. It was as though none of us could believe we’d actually finished it. Everyone started crying.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
Playboy: We were warned about you: Before this Interview began, someone said we were “about to be snowed by the best.”
[Smiling] “We’re just enthusiastic about what we do.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.” [On Mac OS X, Fortune, Jan. 24, 2000]
“It will go down in history as a turning point for the music industry. This is landmark stuff. I can’t overestimate it!” [On the iTunes Music Store, Fortune, May 12, 2003]
“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. … One is very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple’s been very fortunate it’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.” [Announcement of the iPhone, Jan. 9, 2007]
“You know, my main reaction to this money thing is that it’s humorous, all the attention to it, because it’s hardly the most insightful or valuable thing that’s happened to me.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” [The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993]
Q: There’s a lot of symbolism to your return. Is that going to be enough to reinvigorate the company with a sense of magic?
“You’re missing it. This is not a one-man show. What’s reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there’s a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they’re not losers. What they didn’t have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” [Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998]
“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” [Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer Inc., May 1999]
“The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.
“So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.” [Fortune, Jan. 24, 2000]
“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient.
“But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.
“And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. [BusinessWeek, Oct. 12, 2004]
On His Competitors
Playboy: Are you saying that the people who made PCjr don’t have that kind of pride in the product?
“If they did, they wouldn’t have made the PCjr.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“Some people are saying that we ought to put an IBM PC on every desk in America to improve productivity. It won’t work. The special incantations you have to learn this time are the “slash q-zs” and things like that. The manual for WordStar, the most popular word-processing program, is 400 pages thick. To write a novel, you have to read a novel––one that reads like a mystery to most people. They’re not going to learn slash q-z any more than they’re going to learn Morse code. That is what Macintosh is all about.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”
“I am saddened, not by Microsoft’s success — I have no problem with their success. They’ve earned their success, for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products.” [Triumph of the Nerds, 1996]
“I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.” [On Bill Gates, The New York Times, Jan. 12, 1997]
On Predicting the Future
“I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I’m not there, but I’ll always come back. [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people––as remarkable as the telephone.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That’s over. Apple lost. The desktop market has entered the dark ages, and it’s going to be in the dark ages for the next 10 years, or certainly for the rest of this decade.
“It’s like when IBM drove a lot of innovation out of the computer industry before the microprocessor came along. Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency, and maybe some new things will grow. But until that happens, until there’s some fundamental technology shift, it’s just over.” [Wired, February 1996]
The desktop metaphor was invented because one, you were a stand-alone device, and two, you had to manage your own storage. That’s a very big thing in a desktop world. And that may go away. You may not have to manage your own storage. You may not store much before too long. [Wired, February 1996]
“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.” [1982, quoted in Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, 1987]
“When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.” [Wired, February 1996]
“I’m an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what’s happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don’t seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.” [Wired, February 1996]
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]
“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” [NBC Nightly News, May 2006]
And One More Thing
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]
Steve's Seven Insights for 21st Century Capitalists
11:07 AM Thursday August 25, 2011
Herewith, without further ado, a minor eulogy for Steve Jobs the CEO. When you look at the global economy today, here's what might strike you: Apple is an organization almost singularly unlike the massed hordes and would-be contenders to the throne that surround it. It is the one company seemingly tuned to hit the revolutionary apex, not race past the lowest common denominator. So how did Steve — after a legendary decade in the wilderness, exiled from the island of his own creation, watching it turn grey, dull, bland, and colonized, perhaps even lobotomized — rebuild it that way?
I looked through this excellent compendium of Jobs quotes and found seven lessons for people and companies looking to succeed as 21st century capitalists.
Matter. "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water — or do you want to change the world?" That's what Steve famously asked John Sculley. Translation: do you really want to spend your days slaving over work that fails to inspire, on stuff that fail to count, for reasons that fail to touch the soul of anyone?
Master. "Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works." Whatever your domain, you have to appreciate Apple's impact on the field of design. Apple built a mastery of design so deep, it reshaped the entire field. Would you say the Gap's reshaped textiles? Would you say McDonald's has reshaped nutrition? Nope and nope.
Do the insanely great. "When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it." We're awash in a sea of the tedious, the humdrum, the predictable. If your goal is rising head and shoulders above this twisting mass of mediocrity, then it's not enough, anymore, to tack on another 99 features every month and call it "innovation." Just do great work.
Have taste. "The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste." Great work doesn't just require legions of beancounters, or armies of willing muscle — it requires the capacity to make cultural judgments: in a word, taste. I don't mean to be rude (though I do mean to be impertinent) but if the opposite of taste is tackiness, then I'd say: we might just be approaching the tackiest point in history known to man. In a world where customer service can barely pronounce your name (and you theirs), a world where big-box stores barely even bother to tidy up the over-crammed shelves, a world where things get cheaper and cheaper — but look and feel like they were dreamt up by the dream team of Frankenstein, Simon Cowell, and the Wolfpack — a tiny morsel of taste is probably a competitive superweapon.
Build a temple. "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." If you have the audacity to do great work, then it probably deserves a home worthy of its title — not a doghouse. Putting great work in a big box store is a bit like the legendary Ferran Adria, arguably the world's most creative chef, deciding to serve his groundbreaking tour de forces of molecular gastronomy at KFC: it might get the job done, but people are going to gulp it and chomp it, rather than savor it, revel in it — and value it. The nuances, complexities, attention to detail, inspiration, and artistry inherent in great work need temples: places and spaces where they can be explored, investigated, discovered — where people can be delighted, surprised, and amazed. Think of it as a tale of economic complementarities, that works both ways: if you want to know why the Sony Style store doesn't work, the reason's simple: the work isn't great; it's an empty temple. The Apple Store's one of the most successful retail spaces in the modern economy — a testament to the power not merely of great work, or cutting edge design, but giving people beautiful spaces in which to want to actually spend time enjoying all the above. Imagine that.
Don't build a casino. "The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament." This one's easy in principle — but difficult in practice. To illustrate: guess how much debt Apple has? Zero. Not as in "a few million," but as in: "not a single penny." In an era where it's harder and harder to resist the voluptuous temptations of glittering casino capitalism, Apple did in practice what most companies struggle and strain to — it built an enterprise so solidly managed financially it might as well have been a fortress. Steve wasn't in it to win the alarms-blaring jackpot — his goal was to create stuff that endured.
Don't pander — better. "We didn't build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves." It's the received wisdom that Steve never listened to his customers — and he'd often make a point of saying so. But how many other CEOs do you know that were listening so intently that they responded to the average fanboy's (or troll's) emails? Steve's goal in paying obsessive attention to all things Apple wasn't merely to "listen" but to discern people's wildest expectations, and then firmly take a quantum leap past them, instead of merely discovering the lowest-common-denominator of what people wanted most today, and then pandering to it. Leapfrogging your customers means creating new markets, not just new products. And Apple's created (or rejuvenated) market after market by applying the logic above.
Those aren't the only lessons, nor probably the best lessons. Just a quick reflection on my own. You might arguably conclude: Steve took on the challenge of proving that the art of enterprise didn't have to culminate in a stagnant pond of unenlightenment — and won. In doing so, he might just have built something approximating the modern world's most dangerously enlightened company. Can you?
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Here’s a tip for rounding out your summer reading. Pick up a copy of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. The book, which pubs today, is one of the best business books I’ve read in many years. (Buy it at Amazon, BN, or8CR).
And to do that, they took a rigorous and painstaking approach. They recruited 238 people across 7 companies — and each day sent these folks a questionnaire and diary form about their day. Twelve thousand diary entries later — you read that right: Amabile and Kramer amassed 12,000 days worth of data — they reached a set of fascinating conclusions.
Chief among their findings: People’s “inner work lives” matter profoundly to their performance — and what motivates people the most day-to-day is making progress on meaningful work.
I asked Amabile if she’d answer some questions for Pink Blog readers about herbook and her insights. You can read the interview below. You can also talk to her live later this month on the next episode of Office Hours.
Lots of business books talk about the need for bold, audacious goals — and deride those who “think small.” But your book, which is based on research far more rigorous than its counterparts, takes a different stance. You emphasize the power “small wins.” Why are those so important in the performance of individuals and organizations?
Try to remember the last time you – or anyone you know – had a truly enormous breakthrough in solving a problem or achieving one of those audacious goals. It’s pretty hard, because breakthroughs are very rare events. On the other hand, small wins can happen all the time. Those are the incremental steps toward meaningful (even big) goals. Our research showed that, of all the events that have the power to excite people and engage them in their work, the single most important is making progress – even if that progress is a small win. That’s the progress principle. And, because people are more creatively productive when they are excited and engaged, small wins are a very big deal for organizations.
In addition to examining 12,000 daily diary entries from workers, you also surveyed a few hundred leaders — from CEOs to project managers — about what they think really motivates employees. What did you find out?
Our survey showed that most leaders don’t understand the power of progress. When we asked nearly 700 managers from companies around the world to rank five employee motivators (incentives, recognition, clear goals, interpersonal support, and support for making progress in the work), progress came in at the very bottom. In fact, only 5% of these leaders ranked progress first – a much lower percent than if they had been choosing randomly! Don’t get me wrong; those other four motivators do drive people. But we found that they aren’t nearly as potent as making meaningful progress.
Along those lines, many bosses believe that best way to ensure top performance is to keep their charges on edge — hungry and a little stressed-out. But you found something different. Explain.
If people are on edge because they are challenged by a difficult, important problem, that’s fine – as long as they have what they need to solve that problem. But it’s a dangerous fallacy to say that people perform better when they’re stressed, over-extended, or unhappy. We found just the opposite. People are more likely to come up with a creative idea or solve a tricky problem on a day when they are in a better mood than usual. In fact, they are more likely to be creative the next day, too, regardless of that next day’s mood. There’s a kind of “creativity carry-over” effect from feeling good at work.
Yet negative events have a more powerful impact than positive ones. Why?
We were pretty shocked to discover the dominant effect of negative events on inner work life – people’s mostly-hidden emotions, perceptions, and motivations at work. Setbacks have a negative effect on inner work life that’s 2-3 times stronger than the positive effect of progress. When we checked into whether other researchers had found something similar, we learned that it’s a general psychological effect; “bad is stronger than good.” The reason could be evolutionary. Maybe we pay more attention to negatives, and are more affected by them, out of self-preservation. So – because positive inner work life is so important for top performance, leaders should do whatever they can to root out negative forces.
I was especially intrigued by your findings about time pressure. Sometimes it helps; other times it hurts. Tell us what you found.
The typical form of time pressure in organizations today is what we call “being on a treadmill” – running all day to keep up with many different (often unrelated) demands, but getting nowhere on your most important work. That’s an absolute killer for creativity. Generally, low-to-moderate time pressure is optimal for creativity. But we did find some instances in which people were terrifically creative under high time pressure. Almost invariably, it was quite different from being on a treadmill. Rather, people felt like they were “on a mission”— working hard to meet a truly urgent deadline on an important project, and protected from all other demands.
What are one or two specific things individuals can do to improve their inner work lives and increase their chances of making progress on meaningful work?
Religiously protect at least 20 minutes – and, ideally, much more – every day, to tackle something in the work that matters most to you. Hide in an empty conference room, if you have to, or sneak out in disguise to a nearby coffee shop. Then make note of any progress you made (even if it was a small win), and decide where to pick up again the next day. The progress, and the mini-celebration of simply noting it, can lift your inner work life.
What are one or two things bosses can do to re-architect the workplace and its policies to put progress at the center?
Bosses can religiously protect at least 5 minutes, every day, to think about the progress and setbacks of their team, and what enabled or inhibited that progress. The daily review should end with a plan to do one thing, the following day, that’s most likely to facilitate progress – even if that progress is only a small win. I think this practice, if used widely, could make a real difference in organizational performance and employee inner work life. And good inner work life isn’t only a matter of employee retention or the bottom line. It’s a matter of human dignity.