Innovation insights from the masters of creativity: Steve Jobs

In this blog series, we explore what innovation teams can learn from some of history’s most creative characters. This week, we take a close look at Steve Jobs.

Natalia Kassim
by Natalia Kassim
steve jobs

We don’t have to offer much in the way of an introduction for this one.

As the father of Apple computers and the inventor of the iPhone, Jobs is perhaps one of the most important innovators of our age. He has his name attached to over 241 patents at the US Patent Office, many of them being game-changing products that reshaped our world, created new markets and business models, and changed the trajectory of history.

So the big question is, how did he do it? Jobs was famous for taking a systematic approach to innovation that allowed him to generate new ideas from his team at a rapid pace. And the team part was key – he knew how to work the room in order to get the most out of the people he worked with. Let’s explore some fantastic quotes from the man himself that perfectly capture his approach to innovation.

“Creativity is just connecting things”

Jobs knew that all creativity really was is putting two unlikely ideas together to create something new. This concept drove his creative process, as he diversified his interests and knowledge base to bring new ideas into stale environments. For example, it was Jobs’ long-time interest in calligraphy that inspired his focus on the importance of presentation and design in his products.

Key takeaway: If you want your team to be creative, you need to give them the raw materials they need to combine ideas. Make sure they always have access to new concepts and principles, as well as the time and space in which to make connections. Education is key to this process, so consider creating a budget specifically for learning.

“Keep the creatives away from the critics”

This quote comes from a famous allegory from Jobs. He believed that any room of great people would have a mixture of creatives, problem solvers and critics. If you want them to all work as a team, you need to keep the critics away from the creatives – they will simply frustrate each other’s talents and create a hostile work environment.

This principle reflects Jobs’ deep understanding of the innovation process. Firstly, that creation requires multiple, discrete steps in a system; ideation, explication and critical analysis. These steps don’t function well together and need to operate within their own, safe environments where the full extent of their potential can be realised.

Key takeaway: If you want innovation to flourish, you need to create separate spaces for each of the component parts. Using different people, times or locations for each step in the system will help create a space to focus your team’s skills on the task at hand. For example, give the creatives the space to generate new ideas without fear of criticism. You can then build feedback loops that don’t inhibit the creative flow. Idea Drop can help you separate out your creative workflow and keep ideas anonymous using our cloaking feature.

“Innovation is saying no to a thousand things”

In 1998, Steve Jobs took a look at Apple’s lineup of 350 products and decided the company needed a change. From that diverse portfolio, he hand-picked ten different products that he believed had potential and scrapped the rest. In doing so, he rallied the company’s resources and made them work towards being exceptional in just one area at a time. That’s why the products made by Apple weren’t just excellent, they were ground-breaking.

This crucial concept is the counterweight to Jobs’ ‘connecting things’ paradigm. It also illustrates why the critics are such a fundamental part of your innovation team. In order to create not just lots of ideas, but great ideas, you need to have a process in place to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, this step is totally distinct from the process of generating ideas. Make sure you understand and internalise this crucial difference.

Key takeaway: One major skill for you and your team to develop is critical analysis. Without it, you’ll find it difficult to judge what the best innovation options are to carry forward into viable projects. Make sure that critical thinkers are a major part of your innovation team, or that you educate your existing team on what makes a great project. At Idea Drop, we use an intelligent scoring system to bring the best ideas to the top for you.

If you’d like to learn more about how we structure innovation processes here at Idea Drop, get in touch with us using the chat box below. It’s what we do!

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