The Idea DiseaseIn this segment of The Lost Interview Jobs seems to contradict my weekend post. In the segment I highlighted for Steve Jobs On How Content Is Truly King Jobs warns against giving genius product developers over to a professional process managers. "Process Police" were enemies to passion, creativity and people like Steve Jobs.
In this different segment of the same interview Jobs discusses the "idea disease" John Scully, the former Pepsi executive Jobs so famously hired away by asking if he wanted to change the world or continue selling sugared water, came down with.
The "idea disease" is blind and shallow belief in an idea. Ideas, Jobs argues here, are only as good as the craftsmanship harnessed to implement them. "Craftsmanship" sounds much like "process", but the apparent contradiction creates a greater truth. Before tackling that "greater truth" here is Jobs on John Scully's "Idea Disease" (yes that is my cat Lucian you hear in the long silence that starts this video) :
The Greater TruthWe haven't caught a genius in a contradiction as much as contradiction exists. Any "ism", to quote Ferris Beuller, taken to extreme is harmful to product development. Process police who deny innovation by "playing devil's advocate" or by constantly reminding a scared team, "We've never done it like that before" are examples of reasonable checks and balances becoming an active obstruction.
Hard for me to believe that John Scully didn't grasp complexity of an idea's implementation. Think of the "invade Russia in the winter" distribution system Pepsi mastered even as a more powerful enemy sniped at them every day. I met Scully's brother David when he was President of H. J. Heinz. Hard to forget having one of the most powerful men in consumer packaged goods scream at you (albeit rightfully so).
I think it served Jobs purpose to paint Scully flat and stupid (I don't think he is either, and I know his brother isn't lol). That said, the "idea disease" does exist. I've created a LOT of STUFF and the idea disease is always there in lesser or greater degree.
Taleb may have provided the best answer in his great book The Black Swan. We constantly over estimate our powers while consistently under estimating the mountains we attempt climb. This is the "idea disease" - our tendency to take on too much with way too little.
We will never eliminate the "idea disease". In fact some "magical thinking" is why we queue up and do something all over again that was nothing but a trail of tears last time (think childbirth without magical thinking we would have faded from the earth thousands of years ago :). If we product developers didn't have Jobs masterful "reality distortion field" we wouldn't get out of bed much less attempt the impossible.
Our attempts at the impossible define human grace and beauty. We fail. We fail miserably and often, but we don't stop. Our not stopping speaks to the universal, the collective energy that changes but never lessens or disappears. Jobs is gone, but his energy, vision and creativity live on proving we can conquer the idea disease if only for brief moments, but oh what moments :).