I recently saw this video clip on Twitter of a young Steve Jobs talking to a room full of people.

Here’s an excerpt from the video:

How many of you are from manufacturing companies? Oh, excellent… Where are the rest of you from?

How many from consulting? Oh, that’s bad. You should do something.

No seriously, I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil in consulting. I think that… I think that without owning something over an extended period of time, like a few years, where one has a chance to take responsibility for one’s recommendations… where one has to see one’s recommendations through all action stages and accumulate scar tissue for the mistakes and pick oneself up off the ground and dust oneself off… one learns a fraction of what one can… coming in and making recommendations and not owning the results, not owning the implementation, I think is… is a fraction of the value and a fraction of the opportunity to learn and get better.

I love what Jobs says about taking responsibility for one’s recommendations and seeing a process through all the way to the end. It’s definitely apropos within the field of education. Consultants are helpful when they enter a school or district, share their point-of-view, explain how to make their recommendation work within the organization, and then stay until their implementation succeeds. Effective consultants sweat and bleed with administrators and teachers. They own what they preach.

Consultants who arrive, share a bit of what they know, and then leave aren’t inherently evil (as Jobs says), but they have no skin in the game when it comes to your organization. A consultant who becomes your partner and suffers the same scars as you is a sister or brother in the quest for improving student learning. And both of you learn an incredible amount of information together.

As always, it’s all about skin in the game.

Jony Ive…

on a lesson he learned from Steve Jobs. It’s all about focus:

Unfortunately, I’ve heard managers relate that saying “yes” over and over is important. This is very far from the truth. There should be 1,000 no’s for every yes.

P.S. Don’t worry about people liking you if you’re doing what’s right. 

[HT Daring Fireball]

Limitations are important

And sometimes necessary.

Chipotle, In-N-Out, and Chick-fil-A are popular, and one of the reasons for their success is a simple menu. The customer visits these restaurants with a clear idea about what he or she wants, and the establishments deliver.

I’ve used this philosophy in my classroom for years now: Teach the students important concepts and teach them well. I’m interested in depth of knowledge, not wide and shallow learning. That means I have to curate very carefully when deciding to include material and new lesson plans within my units.

Steve Jobs was a huge proponent of simplicity. He said he was more important about what Apple didn’t do than what they did do. He also said this:

That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

“Simplicity,” “focus,” and even “curating” are not copouts for avoiding hard work. On the contrary, they demand even more emotional and physical effort. Education would benefit a lot by incorporating Steve Jobs’s philosophy into best practice methods. Teachers need to sort out the bad and focus on the good. and in no realm is this more important than incorporation of technology in the classroom.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

There are so many great technological resources to use as an educator, but when I google “education” and “technology,” I am blasted by a fire hydrant of information when what I want is a sip of water. Teachers can’t use everything they think is “neat” with their students and 1:1 devices. This will result in a rudderless pursuit for mastery of standards. Laptops and tablets should definitely be used in student learning, but the students need a framework with which to navigate the internet, learn, and produce work. I’m working on finding the best way to do this right now. 

The job of the teacher has just expanded. Now we are curators who do a lot of work making things simple. It’s what the best companies do, and there’s no excuse to act differently.

Breakthrough myth

I really like this article on how Steve Jobs was “incrementalism’s grand master.”

The piece illuminates an idea I like to keep in mind: Breakthroughs often seem like they happened overnight. But in many cases, I’d say this isn’t true. A “breakthrough” really isn’t a breakthrough. Most successful people admit they had to plod along for a while at the microphone, keyboard, cold calls, etc., in order to find success.

Jobs’s leadership revolutionized many things, but he had to get up to bat a lot to hit it out of the park.

Style over substance

Is the saying “all style and no substance” valid?

The way I see it, they usually go hand in hand. When we first start working, writing, composing, or painting, we have no style and no substance. As we do our work, we become better and gain some of each.

You don’t normally see young artists with a lot of legitimate style unless their work can back it up with a certain amount of depth. Likewise, I’ve noticed that established writers like Philip Roth or Cormac McCarthy have a style all their own. (I’m not just using the word style synonymously with cool or hip. I mean something closer to individuality.)

I think people begin creative endeavors because they have good taste. The unfortunate thing, which Ira Glass has said before, is that when we start creating, our product is not as good as our taste. This can be disheartening, because a person knows what is good, but can’t quite attain that level of perfection yet. It takes time to get better.

When people denigrate the likes of Steve Jobs for being “all style and no substance,” they’re speaking callowly. They’re showing a lack of understanding as to how a person can have style, which is by having substance.

Here’s a good article written by Stephen Fry on the matter.  Money quote:

As always there are those who reveal their asininity (as they did throughout his career) with ascriptions like “salesman”, “showman” or the giveaway blunder “triumph of style over substance”.  The use of that last phrase, “style over substance” has always been, as Oscar Wilde observed, a marvellous and instant indicator of a fool. For those who perceive a separation between the two have either not lived, thought, read or experienced the world with any degree of insight, imagination or connective intelligence. It may have been Leclerc Buffon who first said “le style c’est l’homme – the style is the man” but it is an observation that anyone with sense had understood centuries before, Only dullards crippled into cretinism by a fear of being thought pretentious could be so dumb as to believe that there is a distinction between design and use, between form and function, between style and substance.