The En-visioners

Two books that I’ve read lately have renewed my appreciation for an amazing gift possessed by a relatively few number of people.

Of all the abilities we might see in our children and colleagues and friends, this one, if present, ought to be steadfastly fanned into flame.

Steve Jobs (I highly recommend his biography) had it. He could en-vision how things could/should/will be. He had a grasp of ideals, overlaid on the current reality, and the indisputable gift of “seeing” a solution to move from point A to point B.

He was a dreamer-doer.

The amazing geniuses who created our earliest computers (new book: Turing’s Cathedral. Very techie, and very interesting!) understood, conceptually, how such a machine would work. There were massive calculation challenges facing them – many brought on by the need to win a war – and the most remarkable thing for me, reading the account of their efforts, was how firmly they envisioned what the computer would do – and how it would work – before the technology parts and pieces were available. They foresaw it, planned it, invented it – took their vision and theories in hand and brought it to life.

This gift does not require an IQ of 222 (though that certainly won’t hurt!). It’s a way of seeing, and a compulsion to “make it so.”

The en-visioners are our world changers. They may not fit easily into our school-factories, because they are driven by creativity, not conformity. And they don’t just invent objects – we need to encourage our young en-visioneers to create business models, networks, social structures, charitable approaches. We need to give them permission – no, encouragement – to step outside of the status quo. The next Apple, Avon, or Amazon will be the result.

Who are some of the en-visioners you see that are in the process of changing the world? List them in the comments. And, more importantly – who are the 8- and 12- and 15- and 20-year old’s who are right now seeing the future? Let’s nurture these kids and set them loose to make a better and richer future for everyone!

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Does Your Business Need a Lieutenant Commander?

Having just finished the biography of Steve Jobs (by Walter Isaacson – HIGHLY recommended, by the way), I am struck with the amazing combination of vision, strategic thinking, and operational excellence that percolated inside that brilliant soul.

Alas, his people skills were famously lacking, which the book discusses quite honestly. But Jobs was not content with painting pretty pictures of the future. He was obsessed with execution – with making things happen, and happen with envelope-pushing excellence.

There aren’t many like Jobs, are there? And that’s why we’ll be discussing the problem of visionary leaders who have trouble executing during LeadershipChat tonight (8 pm ET on Twitter – use hashtag #LeadershipChat).

The man who currently runs Apple, Tim Cook, was hand-picked by Steve Jobs to be his successor. This was not some random choice out of the air – Cook had proven himself time and again as a great operations guy, including during the medical leaves of absence that Jobs was forced to take as he battled with cancer. It was crucial to the future of Apple that there be a lieutenant that could step in. Tim Cook was that guy.

So what about the leader who has vision, and perhaps solid strategic thinking, but lacks the ability to execute? Do you try to transform that person into someone they are not? I consider that a waste of time. If it’s not already in the DNA (as it was with Jobs), then the best bet is for that leader to have one or more lieutenants who will help operationalize the vision and execute the strategies.

If you’re Steve Jobs, you can afford the luxury of some hubris (even though you will step on plenty of toes with that attitude, as he certainly did!). But for the vast majority of us who lead in one capacity or another, what we really need more of is humility – the recognition that we’re good at X and maybe Y, but not so good at Z. Bring on someone for Z.

Some leaders feel that they must live up to a god complex, and do it all. That’s a sure path to a nervous breakdown (and eventual business trouble). Hire or develop a lieutenant(s). Let the reasons be transparent to all. It’s a lesson from the top that will have many beneficial ripple effects all throughout the organization.

Join us at 8 pm ET March 20 to discuss this topic – bring your ideas and your questions (and be sure to read the prep post, 5 Reasons Visionary Leaders may Fail to Execute, by my brilliant LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli). We look forward to welcoming you to the lively and diverse LeadershipChat community!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

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Steve Jobs to Unveil Apple’s new iPants

All the hullabaloo about a new tablet has been a carefully orchestrated hoax, according to a source inside Apple who leaked plans for the elaborate announcement of a brand new platform from the stylish technology company – iPants.

Reportedly, Steve Jobs was behind an elaborately planned launch that included a 7-figure payoff to American Idol to feature General Larry Platt singing what will be the theme song for the new product, “Pants on the Ground.” This YouTube meme went viral just before the big Apple unveiling in order to generate awareness of a major cultural problem in the inner city, that of ill-fitting pants.

“We plan to conquer the ‘denim divide’” Jobs told insiders in a leaked e-mail. “For too long, Apple has been known to produce high-priced products for elitists. Now, with iPants, we’ll use our technology and fashion sense to reach a whole new demographic – jeans-wearers who are not designers or techies, but regular folks who are simply not aware that jeans should be on the waistline.”

Leaked photos showed that iPants device, secured to any belt that has sufficient bling to generate a small electrical current, will deliver a mild but uncomfortable electric shock to the wearer whenever the pants droop over 6 inches from the ideal waistline location, determined via real-time sub-space transmission technology married to GPS triangulation. Wearers who have iPhones and Twitter accounts will also possess the option of a Foursquare auto message, such as, “I just got zapped by my iPants at Broadway and 33rd.”

It is anticipated that Jobs may actually drop his famous jeans during the product announcement ceremony to demonstrate the iPants shock, and rumors are swirling that the audience will then get a preview of the long-rumored iBriefs, currently under hush-hush development in the top-secret textile section of the Palo Alto campus.

For General Larry Platt, who recently signed a recording contract to belt out a series of operatic duets with Sarah Brightman, the announcement will come as a major lift to his once-floundering career as a zeppelin test engineer. “I thought that the Balloon Boy kerfuffle might help elevate my professional opportunities, but now, starting with iPants, I plan to evangelize Apple products in every city, or at least on YouTube.” When pressed for future plans, Mr. Platt would not comment on the stylish matching black hat and turtleneck he was wearing, only stating that the “iThreads wi-fi network you’re detecting has nothing to do with these wires in my clothes.”

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Apple’s MobileMe = MobileMeh – for now

I really wanted it to work.

I signed on to Apple’s MobileMe because it purportedly would solve one of my nagging little digital needs – one place from which to sync my laptop and my iPhone, especially the Calendar and my Contacts.

So, I went on-line to pay my $99.00 and sign up. That was when Strike 1 occurred.

They have to ship the thing? You mean, you can’t just sign up on-line for an on-line service and activate? Oh well, says I, it must be a really cool program, since it has to be loaded up (assumes I) from a CD or DVD-ROM.

And, next day, the package arrives via FedEx. Cool! But wait – there’s no disc! The box contains packaging, instructions, and an activation code. I needed all that wasteful material just to get an activation code for an on-line service?? Strike one.

Then there are the well-documented problems with the service (which even Steven Jobs admitted to), which was rushed out too quickly. Now it does actually seem to sync my Contacts fine, but the Calendar is slightly flaky, and you cannot set an “alarm” within MobileMe – only on the iPhone itself. I wanted that pop-up and auditory alarm, to help me remember tasks and appointments! But the worst thing was more subtle – some sort of script-running problem on the MobileMe site that slows down my entire browser experience and leaves with no option but NOT to remain on the site all day (defeating the purpose). Strike two.

Will Apple fix it? Most likely. The concept is too right to give up on, and so I’ll wait and hope that things improve. I really want it to work, and I’d rather not issue Strike three on MobileMe.

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