Friday, March 7, 2014

Do Something Wonderful

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me.”
Steve Jobs

Carmine Gallo is the author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success. He is also an author, keynote speaker, and a communications consultant to businesses and advertising agencies. Gallo is also waging a one man crusade against the cluttered PowerPoint slide. If he saw almost any presentation by one of the engineers at my laboratory, I am sure it would cause him to throw a screaming fit.

He starts his presentation by noting that Steve Jobs did what he loved. That is pretty unusual in and of itself. So many of us can not find someone to pay us a salary doing what we want to do. We get paid to do what the man wants us to do. Some of us make the great compromise. We find the least objectionable path that will provide an acceptable standard of living for our families. The entrepreneur finds an unmet need that he can fill. Very few of us are willing or able to do what we love after counting the cost. Steve Jobs was one of those people.

Gallo’s second point is, “Make a dent in the universe.” Here he is talking about vision. Nobody cares about your mission statement. The author of the Invitation begins the poem with this line, “It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.” Gallo would agree. The world isn’t interested in your agenda. They want to know what makes your heart sing. What is your vision? Make it simple, bold, and concise. Except for the Manhattan Project that created the first atomic weapons the race to the moon was the most complicated technical program in history. Kennedy reduced that enormously complex and fabulously expensive effort to a tweet, “Man on the moon in ten years.” If you can’t write a vision statement that can be sent as a tweet, go back to the drawing board.

Steve Jobs was brilliant at what Gallo terms, “Kick starting the brain.” He intentionally took input from many different sources when designing a new product for Apple. Once he took a project team from the home in Silicon Valley to New York City so they could get input from artists and Broadway performers. The layout of Apple stores is based on what Steve Jobs and his team saw in the Four Season hotel chain. The best short list describing attributes that indicate intelligence that I found in my readings comes from Godel Escher Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter. This is exactly what Steve Jobs did whenever he developed new products.

1) To respond to situations very flexibly;

2) To take advantage of fortuitous circumstances;

3) To make sense out of ambiguous or contradictory messages;

4) To recognize the relative importance of different elements of a situations;

5) To find similarities between situations despite differences which may separate them;

6) To draw distinctions between situations despite similarities which may link them;

7) To synthesize new concepts by taking old concepts and putting them together in new ways;

8) To come up with ideas which are novel;

“Say no to 1,000 things,” is the fourth point in Gallo’s lecture. Rather than creating a device or a service that is more complex, seek simplicity. The easier it is to use a website or a product, the more likely it will be that someone will actually use it. Gallo showed some video from Apple of a group of two year olds playing with some Apple products. If a two year old can understand and use your device you are probably heading in the correct direction.

The fifth point is make the customer’s experience, “Insanely Great!” People, particularly visual artists, love their Apple computers. They rave about the experience. There is not a Starbucks coffee shop on every street corner in America because they sell a better cup of coffee. Howard Schultz set out to make Starbucks into a “third good place.” We need three good places in our life. The first good place is the home. With half of American marriages ending in divorce that is something of an assumption, but OK. The second good place is the workplace. Again sociological studies might not agree with that conclusion since most Americans view the workplace as not much more than a necessary evil. In the ideal world home, the workplace, and the third place all have things in common, familiarity, safe relationships, and a convenient location. The third good place is a vital part of our psychological health. It can be found anywhere, a beauty parlor as in the movie Steel Magnolias, another example, a barbershop as in the movie of the same name, and the quintessential example, the neighborhood pub as brilliantly portrayed in the long running TV series, Cheers.

Having a good product or service is only the beginning. Gallo states that the successful innovator must, “Master the message.” Again simplicity is an important component of a successful message. Studies indicate that people don’t pay any attention to boring things, like cluttered PowerPoint slides--go figure. They respond much better to simple visual images. In applying words to these images, Gallo recommends what he terms, the rule of three. Psychologists have determined that humans only process three or four images or ideas at a time. Any more content in your message will be lost. The iPad II was introduced as thinner, lighter, and faster than the original model. That was all you needed to hear in a commercial for this product. In 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone his audience expected to see three new devices an iPod, a new kind of phone, and a breakthrough Internet communication device. They got the iPhone, three new devices in one package.

The last and most important point is, “Sell dreams not products!” People are interested in their own problems, hopes, and dreams. They don’t care about you or your agenda. The vision statement for Dave Ramsey’s organization is, “We sell hope.” Harley Davidson is not in business to sell overpriced motorcycles to fat middle aged men. They are fulfilling adolescent dreams of freedom. There is nothing that sounds like a Harley. That sound is patented. Having operating chrome plating baths, I am simply astonished by the chrome on Harley Davidson motorcycles. Nothing else in the industry looks like that. When my neighbors rode off on their Harleys they were no longer harried cubicle dwellers. They were Peter Fonda heading off into an electric sunset. Joel Osteen, arguably the best Christian motivational speaker in the world, always preaches a message of hope. General themes are you can become a better you. Your miracle is just around the corner. God is good and interested in your problems. Those are a sample. The general theme is then always broken into real problems. Joel always hits ‘em where they live. Unemployment, underemployment, no husband, inability to conceive, and getting out of debt are just a few of the very human problems that will underlie the inevitable message of hope.

Now go out there and live a bigger dream!

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