Saving Steve Jobs' legacy from a 'Successories' future

Article Highlights

  • While adding “in bed” may make bland comments amusing, adding “like #SteveJobs” doesn’t make dumb ideas interesting

    Tweet This

  • The legacy of Apple’s founder is following the inevitable path of managers trying to channel their inner #SteveJobs

    Tweet This

The legacy of Steve Jobs appears to be following the inevitable adoption arc from bleeding edge to Successories; today’s WSJ describes managers’ often excruciating attempts to channel their inner Steve Jobs, and apply his management secrets to their parochial situations.

As the authors note, “Mimicking Mr. Jobs’s keynote style and adopting catch phrases like ‘one more thing’—the words Mr. Jobs often used to introduce products—may make bosses think they’re operating more like the genius himself. But it has provoked plenty of eye-rolling among staffers.”

This isn’t new, of course; in consulting, an innovation deck wasn’t complete without the obligatory references to Apple and Google.  It’s also very common within companies for advocates of ideas (occasionally profound, more often not) to invoke Jobs, especially when presented with contradictory information.  Common response: “Well, as Steve Jobs said, ‘customers don’t always know what they want.’”

Perhaps the most awkward example I’ve seen – albeit involving Apple rather than Jobs directly – was an academic speaker at an innovation conference pointedly emphasize his use of an Apple laptop “like most of the other creatives in this room.”  So uncomfortable.  So bad, in the Paul Fussell sense of the term.

The obvious problem here, of course, is that while adding “in bed” may make bland comments amusing, adding “like Steve Jobs” certainly doesn’t make dumb ideas interesting – or executable.

"I worry more that as the tao of Steve is progressively absorbed by the mainstream, it risks becoming yet another Great Management Technique Everyone Should Know – and being commoditized and devalued accordingly." -- David Shaywitz

I suspect this trend is likely to be self-limited, however, given that the misappropriation is generally as painful as it is evident.

I worry more that as the tao of Steve is progressively absorbed by the mainstream, it risks becoming yet another Great Management Technique Everyone Should Know – and being commoditized and devalued accordingly.

It’s far too important to suffer such a common and ignoble fate.

What Jobs evokes and awakens in so many of us – especially those in business (see here and here) – is a reminder that we each have the opportunity to author our own life, and to make a difference in the world, a dent in the universe – and to do so in a fashion that celebrates originality, embraces passion, and believes deeply and fundamentally in human possibility and humanity’s promise.

Are you going to get there by mechanically adopting Jobs’ catchphrases and wardrobe?  Unlikely.

But if you quote Jobs – hell, if you go whole hog, and adopt the black turtlenecks, the glasses, the works – but do this not to mimic Jobs but to remind yourself of his message and of your own potential, and if in the process you are genuinely inspired to “think different” – this seems like a worthy outcome.

Even if it’s also a tagline.

David Shaywitz is an adjunct scholar at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

David
Shaywitz
  • Dr. Shaywitz trained in internal medicine and endocrinology at MGH, and conducted his post-doctoral research in the Melton lab at Harvard. He gained experience in early clinical drug development in the Department of Experimental Medicine at Merck, then joined the Boston Consulting Group’s Healthcare and Corporate Development practices, where he focused on strategy and organizational design. He is currently Director of Strategic and Commercial Planning at Theravance, a publicly-held drug development company in South San Francisco. He recently wrote Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entreprenuers Heal Healthcare With Technology? 

  • Email: davidshaywitz.aei@gmail.com

What's new on AEI

image The money in banking: Comparing salaries of bank and bank regulatory employees
image What Obama should say about China in Japan
image A key to college success: Involved dads
image China takes the fight to space
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.