Category Archives: Passion

A KFC Reject Becomes China’s Richest Man: Jack Ma

Source: Bloomberg, Jan 2015

You got used to rejection. Weren’t you turned down for admission to college?
There’s an examination for young people to go to university. I failed it three times. I failed a lot. So I applied to 30 different jobs and got rejected. I went for a job with the police; they said, “You’re no good.” I even went to KFC when it came to my city. Twenty-four people went for the job. Twenty-three were accepted. I was the only guy. …

Does Greatness Come from Oddness?

Source: The New Yorker, Feb 2015

Jobs and Ive had an intense first meeting. Ive said, “I can’t really remember that happening really ever before, meeting somebody when it’s just like that”—he snapped his fingers. “It was the most bizarre thing, where we were both perhaps a little—a little bit odd. We weren’t used to clicking.”

… Apple launched its “Think Different” campaign, and Ive took it as a reminder of the importance of “not being apologetic, not defining a way of being in response to what Dell just did.”

… a poster, well known in design circles, that begins, “Believe in your fucking self. Stay up all fucking night,” and ends, many admonitions later, “Think about all the fucking possibilities.”

… he linked the studio’s work to nasa’s: like the Apollo program, the creation of Apple products required “invention after invention after invention that you would never be conscious of, but that was necessary to do something that was new.”

as André put it, “There’s a hexagon pattern of negative shapes that are subtracted from the material from one side, and then there’s the same pattern, subtracted from the material from the other side. But it’s offset, so that the intersection between the two subtractions makes interesting shapes.”

Ive manages newness. He helps balance the need to make technological innovations feel approachable, so that they reach a mass market—Choo Choo—with the requirement that they not be ugly and infantile.

“Elegance in objects is everybody’s right, and it shouldn’t cost more than ugliness.”

“At the risk of sounding terribly sentimental, I do think one of the things that just compel us is that we have this sense that, in some way, by caring, we’re actually serving humanity,” he said. “People might think it’s a stupid belief, but it’s a goal—it’s a contribution that we can hope we can make, in some small way, to culture.”

Abrams told me that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” would reflect those thoughts, but he wouldn’t say how. After the release of the film’s first trailer—which featured a fiery new lightsabre, with a cross guard, and a resemblance to a burning crucifix.

He craved products that didn’t force adjustments of behavior, that gave what Powell Jobs called a “feeling of gratitude that someone else actually thought this through in a way that makes your life easier.” She added, “That’s what Steve was always looking for, and he didn’t find it until he worked with Jony. . . . They were really happy, they relished each other.”

she and Ive share a taste for Josef Frank, the Austrian-Swedish designer of rounded furniture and floral fabrics, who once announced, in a lecture, “No hard corners: humans are soft and shapes should be, too.”

At Jobs’s memorial, which was held on the lawn at Infinite Loop, Ive said, “Steve used to say to me—and he used to say this a lot—‘Hey, Jony, here’s a dopey idea.’ And sometimes they were: really dopey. Sometimes they were truly dreadful. But sometimes they took the air from the room, and they left us both completely silent. Bold, crazy, magnificent ideas. Or quiet, simple ones which, in their subtlety, their detail, they were utterly profound.” Ive said to me, “I couldn’t be more mindful of him. How could I not, given our personal relationship, and given that I’m still designing in the same place, at the same table, where I spent the last fifteen years with him sat next to me?”

Ive’s position was that people were “O.K., or O.K. to a degree,” with carrying a phone that is identical to hundreds of millions of others, but they would not accept this in something that’s worn. The question, then, was “How do we create a huge range of products and still have a clear and singular opinion?”

Swiping at Love in NYC

Source: NYTimes, Feb 2015

Tinder is a matchmaking service that enables people to connect with one another through no more than a brief swipe on their smartphones. While traditional dating sites, like OKCupid or Match.com, use algorithms to sort through personal profiles and to link up strangers with complementary interests, Tinder makes the daters do the choosing, stripping down and speeding up the process. You look at a photo, tagged only with a name, an age and, with a tap, perhaps a short introduction, and then you vote yes by swiping to the right, or no by swiping left.

The app’s popularity is based on two chief aspects of its software. The first, which plays off our desire for instant gratification, is a location function that lets those seeking companionship search for people in their area. The other, which avoids the embarrassment of rejection, is what the company calls the “double opt-in”: a match between two users will occur only if they each signal that they like the other’s profile. The matched pair can then chat through Tinder’s messaging service and, perhaps, meet.

social scientists say apps like Tinder are incredibly effective at identifying a local population of potential mates and at helping people contact one another (through instant-message systems), particularly in large, anonymous places like New York, where traditional modes of introduction — family connections or religious institutions — might not be available. But the apps are not so good, experts say, at predicting or inspiring chemistry; indeed, there is evidence, at least in theory, that New York’s bountiful supply of romantic possibilities can actually erode one’s dedication to any single partner.

“There’s tons of research that suggests if people know they have lots of options, they feel less dependent on and committed to their current option,” Professor Karney said. “But options aren’t the only or the main predictor of commitment. What’s most important is that you actually like your partner. What mobile technology does is make it easier to find someone, if you’re looking.”

“The best way to use Tinder is to see it as an opportunity to meet new people, to make new friends, to have nights out and be introduced to things you might never have done before,” she said. “But if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, if that’s your primary interest, you’re going to have a disappointing experience.”

Edwin Land – the man who inspired Steve Jobs

Source: NYTimes, Oct 2011

“Market research is what you do when your product isn’t any good.” And his sense of innovation: “Every significant invention,” Land once said, “must be startling, unexpected, and must come into a world that is not prepared for it. If the world were prepared for it, it would not be much of an invention.”

Jobs saw, and Jobs understood: “Not only was he one of the great inventors of our time but, more important, he saw the intersection of art and science and business and built an organization to reflect that.”

Related Resource: CBS News, Oct 2014

I was struck by how the truest creativity of the digital age came from those who were able to connect the arts and sciences. They believed that beauty mattered. “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Jobs told me when I embarked on his biography. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” The people who were comfortable at this humanities-technology intersection helped to create the human-machine symbiosis that is at the core of this story.

Like many aspects of the digital age, this idea that innovation resides where art and science connect is not new. Leonardo da Vinci was the exemplar of the creativity that flourishes when the humanities and sciences interact.

 

Imagination Precedes Ambition

Source: Fortune, Nov 2014

The Google CEO is the kind of guy who thinks the improbable is a given and the seemingly impossible is likely. He’s not one or two steps ahead of his engineers and research scientists; he often seems to inhabit an alternate universe, where the future has already happened. … “He wanted to make sure there was a moon shot after the moon shot,” says Astro Teller, who heads Google X. “Reminding us that his ambitions are this high,” Teller says, raising his hand well above his head, “helps people aspire to more.”

Page says his vision for Google is different: “We’d like to have a bigger impact on the world by doing more things.”

Page wants Google to keep attracting the world’s best talent so that he can build an entirely new kind of company—one that can stay at the top of its game not for a decade or two, but perhaps for generations. “It’s what’s continuing to drive me,” he says.

In an hourlong conversation he volunteers that he is “super-excited” about this and “really excited” about that and “very excited” about something else nearly two dozen times.

Page says it’s also part of how he manages the company’s armies of alpha scientists. “Deep knowledge from your manager goes a long way toward motivating you,” Page says. “And I have a pretty good capability for that.”

Page looks at Google’s projects as a portfolio, a “bucket of investments.” Some are short-term, others are medium or long-term bets. He says he is fairly certain some will pay off. And while the investments are sizable, they are also gradual. “By the time you know you want to put a significant amount of money into something, you’re pretty sure you’re going to make money from it,” says Page. “It’s not that the risk is so high.” To the most ambitious CEO on the planet, clearly the bigger risk is in not trying to conjure the future.

Bureaucrats and Doers/Innovators

Source: Donald Cummings blog, Oct 2014

… students leave university for politics and the civil service with degrees that reward verbal fluency, some fragments of philosophy, little knowledge of maths or science, and confidence in a sort of arrogant bluffing combined with ignorance about how to get anything done. They think they are prepared to ‘run the country’ but many cannot run their own diaries.

It is the startups who, generally, make breakthroughs and solve hard problems – not bureaucrats – but it is the bureaucrats who dominate the upper echelons of large public companies, politics, and public service HR systems. Civil service bureaucracies at senior levels generally select for the worst aspects of chimp politics and against those skills seen in rare successful organisations (e.g the ability to simplify, focus, and admit errors).

They recruit ‘people who won’t rock the boat’ but of course the world advances exactly because of the efforts of people who do ‘rock the boat’. They recruit a lot of lawyers, who are trained to focus on process rather than outcome, reinforcing one of the worst aspects of bureaucracies.

When struggling with General Relativity, Einstein caught a big break – his friend Grossman introduced him to ideas in non-Euclidean geometry that were needed for Relativity. The restructuring of expert attention – ‘a scientific social web that directs scientists’ attention where it is most valuable’ (Nielsen) plus data-driven intelligence – will enable a transition from the haphazard serendipity of ‘Grossman moments’ to ‘designed serendipity’.

when someone with a startup mentality strays into the bureaucratic world, the bureaucracy reacts like an immune system to expel the intruder. This is one of the reasons why young talented people who want to get things done more than they want to get ahead – they want ‘to do’ rather than ‘to be’ – soon leave the civil service.

This in turn explains why bureaucracies are the way they are – they filter out people with a startup approach so the dominant culture at senior levels is so distasteful for someone with a startup mentality that they leave and the institution becomes even harder to change. If your entire institutional structure selects against the skills of entrepreneurs or scientists, do not be surprised when the people in charge cannot solve problems like entrepreneurs or scientists.

Why teaching humanities improves innovation

Source: World Economic Forum blog, Sep 2014

To lay the foundation for a future based on ideas and invention, businesses and governments should consider how new products and methods emerged in some of history’s most innovative economies: the United Kingdom and the US as early as 1820, and Germany and France later in the nineteenth century. In these economies, innovation was powered not by global scientific progress, but by the population’s dynamism – their desire, capacity and latitude to create – and willingness to allow the financial sector to steer them away from unpromising pursuits.

What economies need instead is a boost in dynamism. The problem is that the historically most innovative economies have lost much of their former dynamism, despite retaining an edge in social media and some high-technology sectors. And others – for example, Spain and the Netherlands – were never particularly dynamic. Meanwhile, the emerging economies that are supposed to be filling the gap – notably, China – are still falling short of the levels of innovation required to offset the declining benefits of technology transfer.

economies today lack the spirit of innovation. Labour markets do not need only more technical expertise; they require an increasing number of soft skills, like the ability to think imaginatively, develop creative solutions to complex challenges and adapt to changing circumstances and new constraints.

That is what young people need from education. Specifically, students must be exposed to – and learn to appreciate – the modern values associated with individualism, which emerged toward the end of the Renaissance and continued to gain traction through the early twentieth century. Just as these values fueled dynamism in the past, they can reinvigorate economies today.

A necessary first step is to restore the humanities in high school and university curricula. Exposure to literature, philosophy, and history will inspire young people to seek a life of richness – one that includes making creative, innovative contributions to society. Indeed, studying the “canon” will do more than provide young people with a set of narrow skills; it will shape their perceptions, ambitions, and capabilities in new and invigorating ways.