Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing and personally speaking with Steve Wozniak. At first I was not sure if I would even attend this even but now that I have am I glad that I did. Steve is one of the most inspirational and passionate people I have ever encountered. I truly believe that I am better off having been in his presence even if only for half a day. And I don’t only say that because he shares my passion for brightly coloured shoes (Steve’s shoes are custom designed by himself, I guess that’s what programmer minded people do).
So you may be wondering “who the hell is this Steve Wozniak guy, and why have i not heard of him”? well that’s understandable, even though this guy is a hero in my eyes beyond that of any Steve Jobs or Bill gates, the reason you don’t hear so much about him is because he is too busy getting shit done, literally. He had been so busy working away behind the scenes, developing newer and better products that he never even came up to say hello, plus he has one of those stereo typical data, programmer type personalities that make him a bit of an introvert (though you wouldn’t guess it from seeing him at the even yesterday in Sydney).
Steve Wozniak was quite literally the brains behind personal computing, he was the designer, creator and builder of the first apple computers and one of if not the most innfluetnail people behind computers today. There is no doubt that without Steve I would not be typing on a laptop as advanced as the one I am using right now.
So what did he talk about? For the most part he spoke about his incredible life journey and what he learned. He also spoke about his experience with being innovative, why being innovative is important and how to do it. On a side note I noticed that at the event I was like the only person who showed up with a pad and pen and bothered to take notes, I don’t understand how anyone is supposed to get any value out of an event like this without writing anything down?
Any way here are my take aways on innovation and business. If you want to know about his life story he has a book called: iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It there is just to much to cover in a blog post.
When your company has success from its first product, and begins to generate healthy income you must reinvest that income into innovation (in the same area you have skills in) or you will quickly be left behind. An example of this is Nokia, they once dominated the mobile market with an 85% market share. But one day this number plummeted dramatically. Nokia was not even close to hanging on because they they had not invested in innovation.
Steve mentioned that innovation is often viral and takes you by surprise. If you can picture a test tube that is seeded with a virus that doubles in size every minute and takes 12 hours to take over the whole tube how much is taken over after 11.59? One minute shy of total takeover? 50%. how much after just 11.56? 1/16 th! so just 4 minutes before total take over the virus is barley visible! No wonder company like Nokia didn’t see it coming.
A company must have a culture of innovation from the ground up. it cant only be the CEO it must be ingrained in the company culture. Ask yourself the question are the individuals in your organisation always looking for: New, Different, Powerful, Innovative and Risky? (Be honest with yourself).
You success of failure may often rest on the shoulders of one staff member. This staff member will be the one who’s passion is inline with your companies product (e.g. Steve Wozniak). You will know this staff member because he will do in his spare time what you have at work. (Steve used to build PC on the weekend because he loved it). He says that you want to give this staff member everything, buy him a house if need be because he is the one that will generate the leading innovation that the rest of the company will follow.
You want to be giving people resources (for free) for them to develop personal projects that are in line with the companies products, often this is where the cutting edge changes will come from.
Steve believes (as did Jobs) that innovation is built into people from an early age about 20. They will have an attitude of challenging the status quo, and doing things very different a need to be the best there is at what they do and willing to be wrong.
Lastly he said that innovation is an Art form. it often cannot be written about, it is the equivalent of trying to write to someone to tell them how good a song is and expect them to understand. It is never going to happen their are just to many elements to outline. Only once the person has heard the song will they truly know if they liked it or not.
Ask yourself who is your product for? Have a person that is similar to those people making the end decisions. E.g. If you product is for programmers and introverts, then have a programmer introvert type person making the decisions because they understand their needs.
The computer industry is still moving faster than ever before, don’t be fooled into thinking it is slowing down. People who are innovative will always win in these conditions.
Above everything else Steve is an inspiration to all to do what you love and all the riches you need in the world will come your way.
So that’s it. I hope you got some insight out of it. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask away.