As we all begin to consider what a Jobless world looks like and more importantly, feels like, it’s interesting to look back at a bit of history. I should clarify – I’m not talking about the domestic unemployment rate which sits at 9.1%. I’m talking about a world without Steve Jobs.
Amidst the recent onslaught of Steve Jobs-related media spots since his death, one quote has stuck with me more than any others. When asked what market research Apple had done prior to the launch of the iPad, Steve Jobs responded by saying, “None. It’s not the consumer’s job to figure out what they want.”
In a Business Week article from May of 1998, Jobs said much the same thing, questioning the efficacy of focus groups: “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.”
Obviously, there is a lot of Risk involved in this type of thinking. Products with multi-million dollar R&D budgets fail miserably all the time. Even at Apple. The Apple Newton, for example, was an incredible failure.
Sure, it looks an awful lot like the Palm Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) that followed the Newton by several years and gave birth to an entirely new market segment, but… the Apple Newton bombed.
To shun the outside world and build the new dream, Jobs believed in constant iteration. Constant experimentation. Jobs was famously abusive towards many of his employees in his pursuit of insanely great products.
In the book The Journey is the Reward by Jeffrey S. Young, Jobs said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”
Jobs built a culture of experimentation within Apple. It was OK to fail. Ideally you failed quickly, learned and moved on.
Is it OK to experiment in your company? More importantly, is it OK to experiment and fail in your company?
Back in 2006 when I was a Project Manager with a residential homebuilder, we had a problema and we needed a solución. To clean their buckets and tools at the end of every workday, painters would use the laundry sink to fill the buckets with water.
Then what would they do with the dirty paint-water? They’d open a window and launch the water onto the ground in front of the home. This behavior didn’t do much to help us achieve our goal of having an immaculate jobsite. And if we sloped the grade correctly, the paint-water would eventually find its way into the sewer system. The Sierra Club and EPA would like this none too much.
So our team decided to tackle the problema.
We basically made a dumpster-on-wheels that would allow the painters to dump the water into the This Thing (we had no name for the working prototype) and then roll it out to the street. Waste Management would then suck this water out when it came by to empty the Port-o-Pottys.
We spent a little over $100 on the prototype. For many reasons, it didn’t work. It was a failure.
For the past several years I’ve hung onto this photo, not sure what to do with it. Because it failed, I was embarrassed. We made it to put a dent in our small little universe. Dent it we did not. With some time however, I’ve grown to love it. I look back with fondness the debate we had over This Thing and how it could work. We tried something new. We forced ourselves to think.
It was an experimento. It failed. We learned.
Experiment. Fail fast. Fail often. Go for insanely great.
Long live the legacy of Jobs.
Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry. He’s a big fan of Apple, dents in the universe, and prototyping. His new book, Spanish Twins, is available for purchase at http://www.blurb.com – after many iterations….
Categories: Jobsite Leadership