Steve Jobs was a great innovator but he was not alone in his achievements at Apple. He most likely surrounded himself with an odd population of people with different perspectives that – combined with his own intuition – gave fantastic results. Within Apple there most certainly was and still is a good context for innovation, be it culture, people composition, systems and processes.
My MBA thesis title was “The Business Case of Diversity” (beyond equal opportunities).
One of the major findings was that my initial approach was totally wrong. Data collection was impacted. There were no documented business cases for diversity per se to learn from. The best scenario to understand value would be to have an existing business case or challenge and apply diversity of thoughts or perspectives on that – irrelevant where they came from- be it gender, age, ethnic, socioeconomic background, personal experience. Stereotyping is still very easy, “you know-Indians/Swedes/Italians…”, but dangerous when looking for diverse skills.
Groucho Marx from “Duck Soup”, 1933:
“Clear? Huh? Why a four year old child could understand this report. Run and get me a four year old child! I can’t make head or tail out of it”
My second finding was that to gain advantage of different perspectives, assuming a shared team objective initally to relate to – and rather see diverse opinions as a source of innovation and not as a source of conflict. With increased collaboration across borders in our virtual context in distributed environment, constantly working in new projects, the art of conflict management – to drive innovation – ought to be a very much needed capability itself. How do we teach that capability in school?
I assume the approach to conflict management increasingly will be influenced by the “eastern way” (whatever that is) … what conclusion can we draw from that? How will our approach to conflict management (of perspectives) change?
Imagine all the unheard Steve Jobs out there stuck in the wrong context.
Life of Brian:
Brian: “You are all unique!”
Crowd. “WE ARE ALL UNIQUE!!!”
Single quiet voice in crowd: “Not me”