I was pondering Steve Jobs’ legacy again recently. And I continue to be fascinated that he delivered an integrative power – showing how/when being jack of all trades (and master of none) is the only way to deliver something exceptional. And he showed that, in certain critical development, integrating solid technologies delivers far more consumer power than exotic technological advancement.
But Succeeding with Integration isn’t Easy. In the Isaacson biography of Jobs, I was fascinated by how hard he had to work to keep the drive for perfection within silo’s (where, often the product must be perfect according to each silo’s criteria) from destroying good product. And I’d guess some of his well-documented rudeness comes from the frustration of this challenge.
This is critical for development. In today’s world, expertise in the silo tends to win the battle…always. As I talk with design leads at consumer goods companies they all express frustration with the degree to which products end up over-engineered or manufactured. And how this silo dominance can quickly kill a good idea.
I don’t blame the engineers in the silo. It is very difficult for an engineer to know how to make the compromise trade-offs – especially when everything about engineering training tends toward “perfect engineering” not “effective end result”.
But also, engineers rarely have the opportunity to gain the field experience that would lead to them instinctively knowing these trade-offs. So it must fall to a strong leader to set that vision. Jobs was such a leader.
Fighting the Excellence of Silos is also a Problem in Advertising and the Creative Fields. Crafting our national TV advertising, for example, we have to manage/guide each of the discipline’s tendency to pursue perfection according to that discipline’s criteria. Left unchecked, you end up with ineffective film/video that might win awards for perfection but will be dull, meaningless, and completely ignorable for the consumer.
Brilliant work comes when strong individual limit the search for perfection in each field by focusing on the most powerful integrated end result.
From what I read, I think Jobs created this balance among the competing silo’s of tech. And that’s also why some in tech find him so hard to love. He didn’t tend to put things in the product (e.g. cameras) that people would say “that’s the most advanced camera technology”. Rather, he would put in the camera that practically delivered the most satisfaction to the largest number of end users.
And this isn’t merely a challenge in product development. Silos are a fact of life in nearly every big endeavor. In manufacturing, in marketing, in advertising, in retail stores, and in all of the logistics, quality and support areas that make things happen.
In all these areas, our challenge is to continue to challenge silo dictatorship – and fight for the tremendous advantages that come only when each silo integrates. And what I’ve found most exciting is that everyone wins when this happens – including the silo’s. Because nothing is more exciting than a successful product.
Copyright 2015 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved
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