Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell to Steve Job-Wannabes: "Forget Being First"

Steve Jobs sees a mouse at Xerox and begins climb to being top cat.

It has been awhile since we've read something new from Malcolm Gladwell.  Fortunately for us, all it takes is a paid subscription of the May 16 issue of the The New Yorker to read The Creation Myth.   Yes, it begins with story of the mouse, of how a 24 year old Steve Jobs struck lightning after given a product tour of Xerox-Parc, then the top dog in Silicon Valley.  But again, in true Gladwell-ian fashion, he leads us to deconstruct the creative myth and asks us to re-examine not just innovation, but the more importantly, process that goes with it.

We didn't start the fire!

You don't want to be first.  Innovation process requires refinements
Gladwell argues that there is misplaced devotion to being first as if one invention is enough to cascade and create a powerful revolution.  He argues that essentially it takes a bunch of inventions, not just one, to create massive movement and see it come to fruition.  We think of creative innovators as people with original ideas. But Malcolm makes a distinction.  A true innovator may not be the one with a new idea but one that has a new take on an old idea.

Add constraints.  
Xerox had a $300 mouse.  Jobs wanted it sturdier, without clickable buttons and one that would retail for $15.  Now, how hard was that?
Think of constraints not as roadblocks.  What more constraints actually does is force you to be creative and come up with more practical (and more commercial) ideas.  

Invention is great  but innovation makes it work.  Don't be disheartened if somebody beat you to an invention, because to innovate is to persevere and to find angles which may or may not be different to what was the prevailing thought.  This would probably entail a lot of disappointments and even ridicule which you should leave by the wayside for every quality idea that emerges is a product of the volume of the failed ones. 

PARC responds and adds to the enlightenment.