The Staircase to Imagination
Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs had one exceptional and extremely rare talent in common:
They applied imagination to technology and business.
While many had their feet planted firmly on the practical terra firma of business, hands in their pockets, this small but legendary pantheon of innovation led them up the staircase to imagination.
It was only a few steps away — that magical land where the commonplace becomes amazing. A short journey, that for too many takes a lifetime.
Hobbled by imaginary constraints and illogical rules, many pause at the foot of the stairs, sometimes for an entire career.
For Them the Rules Didn’t Apply
Fortunately for the rest of us, these men believed that the normal rules didn’t apply to them.
Interestingly, each of these unique leaders had a few rough edges that made working for them an occasional ordeal.
Steve Jobs, the closest to us historically, was said to be completely uncompromising when it came to delivering upon his vision. Surely it was difficult and frustrating for some.
Still, few left.
There is something about looking up — into the future — that excites the imagination in all of us.
When asked by his biographer, Walter Isaacson, about his tendency to be rough on people, Steve Jobs commented:
These are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t.
He then said, almost wistfully:
And we got some amazing things done.
Yes they did.
Can you imagine the world without iPhones, iPods and iPads?
Can you remember the moment when your practical fingers touched an Apple keyboard for the first time? It was magical.
If pressed about his petulance and impatience, Jobs would eventually conclude by saying:
Look at the results.
Indeed. Look at the results.
- 35.1 million iPhones
- 11.8 million iPads
- 7.7 million iPods
- 4 million Macs
Revenue of $39.2 billion and a quarterly net profit of $11.6 billion for the first quarter of 2012.
The Challenge for the Rest of Us
It is no simple task to reach for imagination — when your legs are knee-deep in the day-to-day requirements of technology and business.
It means you must function from both sides of your brain at once.
It takes a special type of discipline — a special DNA.
Steve Jobs had a perfect way of expressing this unique mindset. He couched it in four words:
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
In today’s complicated world, you need to be a little crazy to fix your gaze on the impossible at the top of the stairs, when you should be content with the difficult halfway up.
If you manage a profit, that should be enough.
They didn’t insist in business school that you change the world; only that you survive.
You need to be a little crazy to reach for the sky, when your feet need to be firmly grounded.
Steve Jobs had an answer for this as well:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.