Now that Steve Jobs is dead, are we going to enter the dark ages of user interfaces?
Pick up an Apple product. Usability is intuitive. You don't need to employ a manual, it just works.
But even though Apple has been making products like this for over a decade, no other company has mastered this seemingly simple paradigm. Remote controls still come with a plethora of buttons. And setting up a TV usually requires a visit from an outside contractor.
Apple is the world's most valuable company because it makes insanely great products that are easy to use. And we can attribute this to Steve Jobs.
I just finished reading this book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking". It posits that he who speaks loudest is not always right. And that great creativity is often fostered alone. Which is why our rush headlong into collaboration is so wrong. I refuse to get on conference calls. They're a complete waste of time. Not only do they go on too long, nothing is accomplished, some blowhard bloviates ad infinitum, snide jokes are made and anybody with a left field, innovative idea is shut down, if he or she even bothers to mention it.
So many of our great achievements were made by one person, acting alone. Films by committee ruined the movie business and you can argue this same groupthink has ruined the music business. What's the first thing the label wants you to do? Cowrite! And when you visit the cowriter's house does he stimulate you to do something new and different or does this usual suspect drive you to create me-too music?
Which leads me to a fascinating article in the "Los Angeles Times", by Neal Gabler, which asks why all our sitcoms and films are endless repeats of what came before. Gabler posits "Puttnam's Law":
"It is more acceptable to fail in conventional ways than in unconventional ways. And its corollary: The reward for succeeding in unconventional ways is less than the risk of failing in unconventional ways. In short, you can screw up with impunity so long as you screw up like everybody else."
In other words, sign a boy band or a melisma shrieker and fail and everybody shrugs their shoulders and you keep your job. But sign an unattractive madcap balalaika player and stiff and not only do you lose your gig, no one returns your phone calls.
Everyone's playing it safe. And all innovation comes from the outside, usually as a result of the efforts of a single individual.
Like Elon Musk.
Read up on him, he doesn't seem to be an easygoing guy, hell, he's got that in common with Jobs. But not only did he make mega-millions with PayPal, he went on to start Tesla and SpaceX.
Tesla might still fail, it's literally living on borrowed time, deposits on future vehicles, but it's already lasted longer than any new car company in decades. Usually, they launch and fail, like DeLorean. And it looks like Fisker. But not only did Tesla produce its first model, it's well on its way to delivering its second.
And SpaceX had a successful launch.
Musk seems to be doing the undoable.
In other words, there was no Doors without Jim Morrison.
And Elektra could not have been successful without Jac Holzman the first time and Bob Krasnow the second. Krasnow broke every rule, he operated in every genre, but not only did he triumph, his acts were perceived to be paragons of excellence in their field, whether it be Metallica (which an indie did develop), or the headscratchingly successful Gipsy Kings.
In other words, one man or woman can make a difference.
But these people who do make a difference, they listen only to themselves, they categorically can't work for someone else, unless that person gives free reign, which is incredibly rare.
If we're looking for breakthroughs, we need to look outside the system. Don't expect the usual suspects to deliver them. And sure, many obtuse ideas will fail, but enough will succeed to change the paradigm.
20th Century Fox was not a believer in "Star Wars", I saw the trailer multiple times and the audience laughed, it was so cheesy. Not only did "Star Wars" become the biggest grossing movie of all time, it spawned sequels and imitations and created the merchandising paradigm.
Capitol refused to release the first Beatles album.
And Apple fired Steve Jobs. Because he just couldn't get along, he was a troublemaker.
Now ultimately these people needed help to succeed. But they didn't share power, they were dictators, it went down their way, their vision was unsullied.
There's no safety net when you're trawling the far reaches of creativity. But that's where the next big thing is gonna come from.