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Steve Wozniak: The origins & meaning of creativity
This week I had the pleasure to attend a Human Resources conference in Melbourne, Australia. The opening Key Note speaker was Steve Wozniak, the Apple inventor and business partner of the later Steve Jobs. Very early into the presentation I noticed that Wozniak was the brains behind the Apple technological revolution and Jobs was the marketing genius who enabled the brand to sell its breakthrough technology.
The key point of Wozniak’s presentation was that creativity in people isn’t something that you can learn in a university or a college. It’s something within you and you need to be released to explore your creativity. Wozniak spoke about being stifled in his role at Hewlett Packard, but that he got his freedom at Apple. To this end he could never have developed the Apple computer at HP, but he could when he was free to develop.
Steve Wozniak was generous with his time and question answering at the Conference and the key points follow in the next section.
AHRI HRizon Conference 26 September 2012
Key points made by Steve Wozniak:
- Good education is a key in developing people. Wozniak had a great education and even though he dropped out of college he was able to use this education to become creative. Children who build things with their hands will be more creative & have a tendency to develop inventor skills
- Independent thinking needs to be developed at a young age. Independent thinkers can and will challenge the status quo and get organisations away from group think
- At Apple each business partner had their role and their key value adds. Jobs knew about technology and how to market and commercialise it, whereas Wozniak knew the technology & how to make it. In one way it was the ideal partnership
- Business today needs different thinkers, those that can become entrepreneur inventors
- Your personal and organisations vision needs to be linked to outcomes. For Wozniak his interest remained in community & society. His goal was and remains to shake society and to make things better for people
- Therefore your innovation should also be linked to the vision. Apple development is about making things easier and better for humans
- So, the first PCs were made to be solutions to people's problems. Then new concepts bought change to the technology to shift the product into people's paradigms – a great example is the mouse & GUI, developed to work easier for people and to fit how they expected things to work, albeit better
- All business needs to innovate to continue. Early on Apple went to just making better PCs and but stopped innovating. So, iPod became the new innovation that was driven by Jobs to get creativity and innovation back into the brand.
- What is really important wasn’t just the creativity and the innovation but also the product design was integral to the success of the product
At the end of the session Wozniak answered several questions from the audience:
- How do you foster creativity in a business context? The best way is to identify the people in your business who have the different thinking to become inventive & to create change & innovation. Then give them the freedom to explore and experiment to develop new ideas for your business
- Is there a set amount of time per week to dedicate to being creative? Recoomend that you set specific time and give freedom to staff to pursue an idea or a project – Google allocate 10% of their time to working on non-BAU activity and could be used as a guide. However, the time is irrelevant, it’s about giving people the opportunity to be creative
- Is there a skill set required to be creative and innovative? Yes, people have to have some sort of skills, but skill combined with drive can create innovation, you don't need to actually know how to do it specifically
- What if your brand can’t foster creativity? Sometimes due to the business culture & brand you can't innovate or it won't work for them as individuals. Sometimes the best innovators need to leave to create creativity