In a recent piece in the The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell called Steve Jobs “the greatest tweaker of his generation.”
Malcolm Gladwell as you may know, is the best selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, The Outliers. He seems to capture trends, occurrences, and happenings in our society that others may sense but have not fully realized nor described.
But in many of his shorter pieces, often in The New Yorker, where he has been writing since 1996, he seems to be on some kind of a kick to be a maverick about things technological, the Internet, etc. To me, he just doesn’t seem to get some of these issues right.
I post below a Letter to the Editor of The New Yorker written by Richard Margolies a psychologist, a long time consultant to government and business leaders, and a friend. The New Yorker didn’t publish it.
Malcolm Gladwell, (Annals of Technology, Nov. 14, 2011) describes Steve Jobs as a “tweaker” of existing technology. He analogizes to those who improved the cotton gin, saying Jobs was not a visionary. He describes Jobs’ demanding perfectionism, his disregard for those without his view of good design or his precise esthetic. Citing vignettes from Jobs’ life and products, he describes parts of Job’s vision but not the vision itself.
Jobs foresaw in the early 9Os that emerging information, computer, and telecommunication technologies could converge. He integrated these technologies in transparent and enjoyable forms for non-engineers. His vision aligned these parts into a system to uplift and facilitate the user’s life and work. He continually improved these parts in an expanding system.
A voracious learner from others, Jobs demanded his employees create better options. He acquired patents and companies infusing the system with greater potentials for users. In spite of the Great Recession, Apple has flourished, becoming the world’s most respected brand and valuable company.
Why have other companies not done as well in a shrinking global economy? Might it be that few corporate leaders have Jobs’ visionary personality or his strategic intelligence to design and deliver a delightful system of integrated technologies to enhance our lives? This innovative system, with that esthetic and practical purpose, is the vision.
Washington, DC 20009
Seems to me Margolies gets Jobs right, and Gladwell somehow was short sighted on this one.
What do you folks think?