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Fear of Failure

I’ve just finished Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography; which may not be a complete warts and all biography and I suspect there are more tales to tell but it does give you an insight into the man and his drives. Well worth reading and it does have some relevance to what is going on in the world of Enterprise IT.

Firstly, Steve’s insistence of controlling the stack both hardware and software has a lot of resonance with VCE’s vBlock, Oracle’s Exadata and many of the other stack plays in play at the moment. The control of the complete user experience has worked wonders for many and people have certainly been willing to pay a premium in the home. If you are not anĀ inveterate tinkerer like me, it certainly makes sense. I find it interesting that amongst most of the inveterate tinkerers; the laptop of choice is a MacBook of some sort; if it’s closed already, you might as well get the best engineered laptop you can.

But does this have resonance for the corporate IT department; actually, I think where vBlock et al make the most sense at the moment is for the small-medium Enterprise who don’t have the economy of scale at the moment with server specialists, network specialists, storage specialist but a small team of generalists focused on providing IT in general. And if you don’t have a huge investment in legacy, it makes sense…actually it makes sense at that point to simply deploy into the public Cloud in my opinion. You have less cultural change and resistance to deal with in a smaller company.

I think the second take-away from the book is the almost breath-taking arrogance of the man; a man who believed that he knew better than his customers or at least never asked them what they really wanted.

But it’s not just vision, it’s also hard graft mixed with agility; Apple are known to prototype, refine, prototype, throw it away and then prototype again until they get something which really works. Too often, we don’t do this; we prototype, it kind of works, we put it into production, blame the users, refine it a little bit, blame the users a bit more and forget about the fact that prototyping really means that we should have been prepared to fail at this stage.

We are simply too scared to fail and so we fail a lot in and in public (and inflict our failures on the public).


  1. vmtyler says:

    Good takes- I tend to use the Apple model when talking about converged stacks. It’s easier to control the experience when control the whole stack.

    The duality of Jobs as an arrogant, insufferable prick as well as a great thinker who made markets is very interesting study. I think you hit on one of the big takeaways companies should get from Apple- don’t be afraid to fail. The other one (which you briefly mentioned) is that Jobs didn’t ask customers what they wanted. I think the focus group is a crutch many consumer product orgs use and it’s worthless for new products- they don’t know to ask for something that doesn’t yet exist.

  2. Thanks Martin, another well written post. Now I have another book to add to my reading list (could even read it on my iPad #;-)

  3. Roman says:

    Not asking customers what they wanted was the method of choice in the days of the mainframe. What has happened is that the world and It in general got carried away with choice. Sometimes a lack of choice is a good thing.


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