Experts debate whether good ideas are the product of individual genius and hard work or “groupthink” and brainstorming.
One could argue that Steve Jobs’ prominence in the collective imagination of what a truly innovative business leader should think, say, and do has only strengthened exponentially after his recent demise. As it often happens in the case of similarly influential, seminal figures, the hard recollection of facts and of “what really happened” gets quickly out-shined by references to memorable, albeit often anecdotal, events in that person’s life. These are the stories that tend to be told again and again until they take on the aura of myths, and as even the modern Greeks can easily attest most human beings tend to embrace myths, especially when they come wrapped in compelling narratives involving a hero.
Along these lines one could also argue that Jobs’ near-ubiquitous biography has been instrumental in this still ongoing “mythification” process: If you happen to work as a professional in the creative industry, countless conversations these days start with a client, a colleague, or even a friend quoting a passage from the book, and one can can come to see this state of things either as a precious conversation starter or as an unavoidable reference to someone whom you’re expected to either praise or criticize.
There’s no denying that the role Jobs has come to play in the field of innovation-at-large is usually associated with the term “genius”—and I largely agree with this value statement—but what I’m interested in is how Jobs’ role in the high-tech industry fits with the forces currently shaping the perception of where innovation comes from in a contemporary business environment, both in large corporations and in small start-ups.
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