The Steve Jobs I heard in ’94, seems like Zuckerberg in 2016

odyssey

When I moved to Silicon Valley in 1993, the Odyssey by John Sculley was my guidebook.  Guy Kawasaki’s “Selling the Dream” came next.  Each of these books placed a man named Steve Jobs on my radar.  According to both Sculley and Kawasaki, this guy Steve Jobs was a special, but prior to my reading he meant little to me.

sellingthedream

Apple captivated me but not Steve Jobs.  What Sculley and Kawasaki were beginning to make me think was this guy Steve Jobs just might be Apple.

When I had the opportunity to attend an Executive Program on Innovation at Stanford University my eyes were opened.  Two of the classes were significant.  Jim Collins, who was just releasing his book “Built to Last,” spoke about enduring companies.   When asked a question about Apple and Steve Jobs, he said the jury was still out (he wasn’t exactly positive when he said it), and to be fair he was absolutely right.

built to last

On that same evening, the speaker was Steve Jobs. We were in the Stanford Faculty Lounge, listening to him talk about great new products he admired.  He mentioned Odwalla, Whole Foods, and a company called Pixar.

He spoke about Pixar at some length, describing the development of a movie called “Toy Story,” which was due to be released in the distant future.  He spoke about selecting employees and building a leadership team.  At that point, he had everyone’s attention as we each began to realize his level of expertise. His depth of knowledge and insight about people was incredible. I began to wonder how Sculley ever replaced him at Apple, and why he was running some small, seemingly irrelevant company called Next.

Here in 2016 we all know Steve Jobs is a legend.  His second act at Apple was incredible, and each time he made a brilliant move, I thought about the night at Stanford.  Now I find myself examining people who run companies, and wondering if they are leaders.  I wonder if they know people or products like Jobs.  I wonder if they could answer questions delineating the abc’s of who is and isn’t a capable member of a team.  How to choose them?  Who not to choose?  How to make hard and unsentimental decisions for the sake of the company?

I have been looking around Silicon Valley, and the one guy who fits the mold is Mark Zuckerberg.

Julia Greenberg, in an article for Wired titled “Why Facebook is Killing It–Even When Nobody Else Is,” might just agree with me.  Her idea of what makes Facebook tick comes down to these 13 words.

“But throughout Facebook’s evolution, one constant has remained, and he wears a hoodie.”

The world seems to believe the socially maladjusted genius depiction of Mark Zuckerberg in the “Social Network.”  While there may be truth to this looking backward, the man currently at the helm of Facebook is a savvy visionary leader.  He is the reason Ms. Greenberg can say the company is staying one step ahead.

“More holistically, Facebook has been very good at staying one step ahead.”

 

When I look at the company Facebook has become it is impossible to avoid the idea.  Which idea is this you might ask?  The idea of Mark Zuckerberg as the new Steve Jobs of Silicon Valley, or more accurately the chief thought leader of this region.  Reading Ms. Greenberg’s description of the company how could anyone disagree?

“Facebook has an aggressive vision of what the future looks like—and it’s constantly testing, iterating, and exploring its vision. It should come as little surprise then that it was Facebook, not Apple or Alphabet, that earlier this month laid out its ten year roadmap. All of which is a strategy that ultimately stems from Zuckerberg’s own sensibility.”

This type of company building would not be possible, unless an individual understood how to build teams, who to select, who to avoid, and how to inspire them.  Beginning today, my eyes are on Zuckerberg.

What can I learn from how he is building his leadership team?  What can I learn from how he is developing his vision?   How has he learned from Steve Jobs, because his effort to keep control of Facebook, seems like a lesson drawn directly from the ghost of Jobs reaching out to him from Next.

Note: Read the entire Greenberg article to understand how Zuckerberg is using class C shares to avoid giving up too much control of Facebook (A key lesson from Jobs?).  Read this Forbes article to understand Jobs was a mentor for Zuckerberg.

 

The Generalist

“The great strategists of the past kept forests as well as the trees in view. They were generalists, and they operated from an ecological perspective. They understood that the world is a web, in which adjustments made here are bound to have effects over there— that everything is interconnected. Where, though, might one find generalists today? . . . The dominant trend within universities and the think tanks is toward ever-narrower specialization: a higher premium is placed on functioning deeply within a single field than broadly across several. And yet without some awareness of the whole— without some sense of how means converge to accomplish or to frustrate ends— there can be no strategy. And without strategy, there is only drift.”

Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

There are in my mind three great forces at work in the world.   They are economics, religion, and politics. Everything else is simply a trend.

Rereading Thomas Friedman’s “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,” caused me to consider my writing in light of these three great forces, and what he calls the “generalist.”  I wondered whether I was neglecting my natural inclination to be a generalist, because of all the spectacularly successful specialist in Silicon Valley?

My conclusion is I am a generalist.  This means my writing must change to see the whole, which means considering the influence of the three great forces at work in the world.   I look forward to the adventure.

5 Reasons We Love The Force

Yoda

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi

 “The Force Awakens” is upon us, which makes this a good time to reflect on “The Force,” which in my view is the real star in Star Wars.  Obi-Wan Kenobi gave us the best definition of “The Force,” when he explained it to Luke Skywalker in the 28 words above (How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, p. 58).

Here are five interesting and enjoyable reasons to consider for reasons why we love the Force.  They are in no particular order.

Reason #1 – The Tension Between Technology and Spirituality

VaderDeathStar

“We know that Vader believes the Force to be far superior to the technological power of the Death Star and that he can use it to choke people he disagrees with from across a room. Luke is taught to “let go your conscious mind” and “reach out with your feelings.” He is told the Force “will be with you, always.” Han Solo believes the Force a “hokey religion,” no substitute for a good blaster, but later grudgingly wishes for the Force to be with Luke.” (Taylor, page 58)

Since Star Wars first hit the screen in 1977 a cultural constant has been the tension between technological progress and spirituality (not merely religion but all aspects of mystery in the universe).  We enjoy movies which help us examine, question, and try to resolve the existential problems we face.

Reason #2 – The Battle Between Good and Evil

 dark side emperor

“But Lucas’s intent in the movies had been to distill religious beliefs that were already in existence, not to add a new one. “Knowing that the film was made for a young audience, I was trying to say, in a simple way, that there is a God and that there is both a good side and a bad side,” Lucas told his biographer Dale Pollock. “You have a choice between them, but the world works better if you’re on the good side.” (Taylor, pages 57-58)

While some may be disturbed by the spiritual overtones, there is no question that “The Force” adheres to a fundamental religio-philosophical principle, which is the existence of good and evil.  The profound journey in life is to choose between the light and dark sides of “The Force,” and this choice will determine our destiny.

Reason #3 – The Force as a Mystery

luke meets obiwan

“The Force is so basic a concept as to be universally appealing: a religion for the secular age that is so well suited to our times precisely because it is so bereft of detail. Everyone gets to add their own layers of meaning. Lucas, through a long process of trial and error, seems to have deliberately encouraged viewers’ unique interpretations. “The more detail I went into, the more it detracted from the concept I was trying to put forward,” Lucas recalled in 1997. “So the real essence was to deal with the Force but not be too specific about it.” (Taylor, page 58)

The first time I saw Star Wars I held no deep beliefs about anything other than success.  I can still remember being “Bewitched” by “Star Wars.”  What I mean is I felt the same emotion as when I watched “Bewitched” reruns on television, which is the mystery and wonder of the potential that there might be something beyond human power and ability.  In this way, I was step for step with Luke Skywalker in his discovery of “The Force,” and pursuit of its mysteries.  Apparently, this is exactly the quest Lucas hoped to encourage his viewers to take.

Reason #4 – The Power of the Force

luketrainingremote

Luke was able to destroy the Death Star because he puts his targeting computer aside and relies on the Force— you might just as well call it intuition. (Taylor, page 58)

Whether we find science or spirituality most compelling, each one of us believes there are capacities and power we are not yet tapping into.  “The Force” gives voice to the sixth sense we all have that there is more power available to us than we are currently using.  This makes it exciting to think there is nothing we can’t overcome or accomplish if we can only tap into the “Force.”

Reason #5 – The Force and Destiny

I can still remember watching Stars Wars at age 14.  One thing stood out to me more than anything else, which is each one of us had a destiny.  Watching Luke struggle to understand his destiny, the path he must travel, and need to master “The Force” was compelling.  This “Hero’s Journey” is not unlike the narrative identified by Joseph Campbell as a guiding principle in storytelling be it mythological, religious, or psychological.  This capacity to speak to every metaphysical demographic is probably why George Lucas, Star Wars, and especially “The Force” are so universally loved.

May The Force Be with You!