Thursday, August 25, 2011

Success to the Successful

Calling Steven P. Jobs "one of the most successful chief executives in corporate history," the New York Times today reported that he "once said he never thought of himself as a manager, but as a leader. And his notion of leadership revolved around choosing the best people possible, encouraging them and creating an environment in which they could do great work."  This touches on several themes near and dear to Art of the Future.  Jobs is an anticipatory leader who has been able to integrate his vision into the hearts and minds of everyone in the Apple organization.  Apple attracts top creative talent and retains them through challenging assignments and a supportive workplace environment.  Apple is a great example of a life-sustaining organization.
The NYT article goes on to quote Jobs discussing the role of design integrity and elegant solutions in making the company a success.  "When discussing Silicon Valley’s lasting contributions to humanity, he mentioned the invention of the microchip and 'The Whole Earth Catalog,' a kind of hippie Wikipedia, in the same breath.  Great products, Mr. Jobs once explained, were a triumph of taste, of 'trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.'" Anticipatory leaders, like Jobs, have the ability to synthesize information existing in the present, project it forward into the future,  and create the next generation of products and services.   In the past 15 years, Apple has produced a series of "blockbuster, culture-changing hits like the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad"- often to the surprise and delight of customers who never dreamed of such things.

As Jobs transitions to Chairman of the Board, the triple play of attention to its people, its products and the environment has endowed Apple with a strong legacy that bodes well for its ability to survive and thrive in the wild and wooly environment we face going forward.  As the NYT puts it, "success begets success. And at this point, few companies have as high a concentration of geniuses — in technology, design and marketing — as Apple. Leaders like the design god Jonathan Ive and the operations mastermind Tim Cook won’t let the company go astray."

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