Thursday, December 30, 2010

Steve Jobs Understands Team Building

I stumbled upon the following excerpt from the 1998 book In the Company of Giants by Rama Dev Jager and Rafael Ortiz. They interviewed Steve Jobs, who had the following to say about team building, as printed in BusinessWeek:

Q. What talent do you think you consistently brought to Apple and bring to NeXT and Pixar?

SJ. I think that I've consistently figured out who really smart people were to hang around with. No major work that I have been involved with has been work that can be done by a single person or two people, or even three or four people... In order to do things well, that can't be done by one person, you must find extraordinary people.

The key observation is that, in most things in life, the dynamic range between average quality and the best quality is, at most, two-to-one...

But, in the field that I was interested in -- originally, hardware design -- I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you're well advised to go after the cream of the cream.

That's what we've done. You can then build a team that pursues the A+ players. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.

Q. So you think your talent is in recruiting?

SJ. It's not just recruiting. After recruiting, it's building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision -- all those things.

Recruiting usually requires more than you alone can do, so I've found that collaborative recruiting and having a culture that recruits the A players is the best way.

Q. Yet, in a typical startup, a manager may not always have the time to spend recruiting other people.

SJ. I disagree totally. I think it's the most important job... When you're in a startup, the first ten people will determine whether the company succeeds or not.


Steve is right. That is why I Tweeted this last week:

Real IT/security talent will work where they make a difference, not where they reduce costs, "align w/business," or serve other lame ends.

I was emphasizing the point that motivated people want to make a difference. They want to bring good things to life. (I loved that motto -- time to junk the present one, if you catch my drift, and go back!)

Photo credits: Wikipedia

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Real IT/security talent will work where they make a difference, not where they reduce costs, "align w/business," or serve other lame ends.

I was emphasizing the point that motivated people want to make a difference. They want to bring good things to life."

Absolutely agree. Or even perhaps cause someone to leave a company because all their work and passion makes no difference and isn't appreciated. Or even watches as all their work is dismantled, changed, or otherwise ignored. But we've probably all experienced that in some fashion or another if one has worked as a professional long enough.

-cjd

Ryan said...

Love it.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, as a person that recruits and hires (and probably advises on those practices) how much motivation to make a difference allows a candidate to overcome lack of experience or technical shortcomings?

@IsaiahMc

Brian M. said...

This explains a lot of Apple's success, as far as I'm concerned. People credit the guy at the top - but too often for the wrong thing. Steve Jobs (and Bill Gates, for that matter) generally do a spectacularly good job of surrounding themselves with people who are passionate about what they do and excel in their field.

Anonymous said...

Where I work, I don't have full attention from my management. I try to implement new ideas for providing infosec services for the market (Middle East) but all my work is not appreciated. Which makes me think of leaving and starting my own business.

Mike A. said...

As many other leaders, he only state what you have to do, but there is no information about how you do it.

Everyone understand that having motivated people is a key factor, but where is the leader who talks about how you motivate them? The closest thing I've seen so far is the speech Paul Graham gave on OSCON in 2004. He talks about how you recognize "great hackers", how you get them to work for you and how to motivate them.