Yes, that title is associated with Steve Jobs – and therefore this post is inspired by his death this week – but it is not another “cult of the individual” tribute.
In fact it is a tribute to the ideals encapsulated in that quote.
Actually, the quote is not originally attributable to Jobs – he simply used it to summarize the messages in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University (USA). I have embedded video of this speech at the bottom of the post (recommended if you have another 15 minutes to spend watching).
In his speech, Jobs correctly attributed the quote to the iconic, counter-culture publication the Whole Earth Catalog.
The Catalog was launched in 1969 by Steward Brand. It’s purpose was to disseminate information about useful ‘tools’ and to help educate on subjects outside the mainstream. They had a very broad definition of tools, which included items of hardware and information. The common theme was summarised in the purpose statement from the original 1969 edition;
a realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG.
Today we have a range of choices to help in this quest – which includes things like Blogs to publish and share, and of course search engines to find a wealth of information. That was not the case in 1969.
In the 2005 Stanford speech, Jobs was exhorting the graduating class to live life and follow their hearts and intuition. He talked about not being trapped by dogma – constrained by the results of other people’s thinking.
He talked about how you cannot join up the dots of your life looking forward – you can only do that looking backwards. We have to trust our instincts to guide us along the way.
His personal example of dropping out of college and then being free to ‘drop in’ on a course he was interested in (calligraphy) paid off handsomely when he was designing the original Mac to use attractive fonts – but had little direct relevance when he attended the classes.
If we are to achieve anything innovative we have to break free from the chains of conventional wisdom and follow our own instincts. Even when that conventional wisdom may be packaged and sold to us as “Good” or “Best” practice.
Seeking to build and maintain resilient organisations is a quest for innovation. Each may need to locate or invent their own tools along the way. No two need to take the same path, as they are working in different contexts.
We can only really connect the dots that prove resilience after we have suffered a disruption.
Those of you who have met me in the real world may doubt my claiming to be hungry, certainly I do not look like I have missed a lot of meals, but I am sure you would agree with my foolishness!
But if I have learned anything in the past 2 years of research in this space, it is that we have to learn and act in new ways if we want to practice resilience. Hopefully I can stay hungry to improve myself and contribute in this space.
So let us mark the passing of an innovator by taking the opportunity to promote the cause of innovation and free thinking.
Stay foolish, in challenging convention, constraints, dogma and dogmatic people.
Stay hungry to learn and to craft change in this world.