The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs – Part 4 : in Memoriam

Combine the Humanities with the Sciences

“I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Jobs told me on the day he decided to cooperate on a biography. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” It was as if he was describing the theme of his life, and the more I studied him, the more I realized that this was, indeed, the essence of his tale.

He connected the humanities to the sciences, creativity to technology, arts to engineering. There were greater technologists (Wozniak, Gates), and certainly better designers and artists. But no one else in our era could better firewire together poetry and processors in a way that jolted innovation. And he did it with an intuitive feel for business strategy. At almost every product launch over the past decade, Jobs ended with a slide that showed a sign at the intersection of Liberal Arts and Technology Streets.

No one else in our era could better firewire together poetry and processors in a way that jolted innovation.

The creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences exists in one strong personality was what most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein, and I believe that it will be a key to building innovative economies in the 21st century. It is the essence of applied imagination, and it’s why both the humanities and the sciences are critical for any society that is to have a creative edge in the future.

Even when he was dying, Jobs set his sights on disrupting more industries. He had a vision for turning textbooks into artistic creations that anyone with a Mac could fashion and craft—something that Apple announced in January 2012. He also dreamed of producing magical tools for digital photography and ways to make television simple and personal. Those, no doubt, will come as well. And even though he will not be around to see them to fruition, his rules for success helped him build a company that not only will create these and other disruptive products, but will stand at the intersection of creativity and technology as long as Jobs’s DNA persists at its core.

 

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