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12Oct/111

Steve Jobs als Wille und Vorstellung

At a risk of incurring wrath of Apple aficionados I would like to ponder the question what made Steve Jobs a hero of the self-styled “free thinkers” with sizeable disposable income to plunk on gadgets…

Visionary? A hit-and-miss record rather

Moral authority? Uhm…not really

Philanthropist? Ahm… next question!

Technical prowess? Jobs' supposed opus magnum was a Breakout game - designed by Steve Wozniak, for which Steve Jobs got $5,000 bonus from Atari (generously paying Wozniak a whopping $375). Otherwise, name a single app that Steve developed by himself, or device - electronic or otherwise -  he had designed.

So, what’s left? Impeccable timing and marketing savvy, no-nonsense authoritarian leadership style, greater-than-life personality and healthy disdain for conventions. With these qualities he had changed the world - at least in minds of the consumer clamoring for the gadgets...

R.I.P, Steve. It was a great ride.

Yet I cannot help but wonder: Dennis Ritchie died on October 12, 2011. I wonder how many of those mourning Steve Jobs would know his name... Ritchie was one of the key developers of the original Unix operating system, and the principal designer of C programming language. Does not ring any bells?  Oh, the Internet basically runs on Unix; your iPhone/pod/pad run on Unix-derived system, your favorite apps - from Microsoft Word to Skype to Chrome Browser are written in C;  entire Windows/MacOS/Linux/Android operating systems are written in C or its derivatives.. The changes that Ritchie brought about are infinitely more profound than a slick package design, and has affected life of every single person on this planet - yet he's not a household name, and unlikely to become one...

P.S. An interesting post from Nuno Barreiro comparing respective contributions of Steve Jobs and Richard Feynman adds yet another perspective... alas, not in Steve Jobs favor.


14Aug/102

Shhhh… wanna buy some talent?

The reqruiterspeack made its way into boardrooms of the corporations. The talk about “talent acquisition” surreptitiously crept up over the last decade, and became de-facto standard for bundling together workers of all stripes. Whatever happened to skills and knowledge that used to be the market staple over last couple thousands years? What had  happened to the talent, genius, giants?

 Obviously, a devaluation had taken place. Talent used to be unique and mysterious, a combination of skills, knowledge and something not quite identifiable – but you know it when you see it… If you listen to the HR departments today they are all in business of “talent recruitment”, “talent retention”, “talent acquisition”.

How do you quantify talent?  Does this sound right to you: “I have thirty talents working for me”?

One fallacy which this perpetuates is the idea that “talents” are interchangeable. They are not. Talent is unique, a singularity unto itself, and it has to be treated like this.

Tell the Apple board that you’d like to replace Steve Jobs with another “talent” at 50% discount, or Mozart with a diligent graduate of a local conservatory, or Einstein with a hard-working fellow student from Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule…

Another one is that talent can be taught. “Learn to think like Newton, and we’ll teach you how to think like Leibnitz for half-price!”

Maybe, this is the real reason that the innovation sputters in the USA?