Amidst all of the reporting and tributes, here is my favourite from MG Siegler posted on Techcrunch:
When I wrote my piece entitled “One More Thing…” in August following the news that Steve Jobs was formally stepping down as CEO of Apple, I knew that sooner or later there would have to be a follow up. Unfortunately, it ended up being sooner.
While the reaction following Jobs’ resignation was powerful, the reaction to his passing has been nothing short of amazing. Former employees, colleagues, celebrities, adversaries — even the President of the United States paid tribute. But once again, the most fascinating group of people showing their support are the ones who did not know Steve Jobs. It’s the everyday people that simply used and loved his products.
The Tweets, Facebook messages, blog posts, etc, flowing in from all over the world have been a unifying force. I happen to be in London right now, and in one Tube ride the day after he passed, I overheard several emotional conversations about Jobs. I also met a complete stranger yesterday and when I told him I was American, it was the first thing he brought up. Even my mother messaged me about it.
This type of global unity tends to happen when a major celebrity passes away — think: Michael Jackson — because nearly everyone on the planet knows who they are. People always look for common bonds, and those are easy ones to establish. That’s because pop culture shoves them in our faces for years if not decades. And the type of fame they achieve goes hand-in-hand with celebrity.
But Steve Jobs was not a celebrity — at least not in the traditional sense. Sure, he was famous, but he did not seek fame. Nor did he need it. The main goal of his career was not to sell his image. He was the head of a company.
When you think about it that way, I think the reaction we’re seeing to his passing points to something different. One element, as I wrote about following his resignation, is the emotional tie that people have to Apple products. Because so much thought and care is put into them, those who purchase and use them tend to cherish them. And as iPods, iPhones, and iPads have come around, the Apple user base has grown exponentially. Steve Jobs was the personification of Apple’s products — hence, a strong connection.
But it goes even deeper.
People have been writing about their profound sadness over the loss even though they’ve never met Jobs. And many of them have noted that they didn’t expect to feel this way. Thinking about it, I believe this is related to two things.
First, Jobs died young. Even though his illness ravaged his body and made him appear far older than he actually was, Jobs was only 56 years old at the time of his passing. The average male life expectancy in the U.S. is just about 76. For the world overall, it’s 67. To be fair, those ages are calculated at birth, but Jobs was also a billionaire with access to any doctor in the world that he could have wanted. He was simply dealt a bad hand with cancer. And it robbed him of at least 20 years on this planet.
But it didn’t just rob Jobs. It robbed us too. That’s why people who haven’t met the man care so deeply. Not only is his early death a sad story, it takes away a man who will go down as one of the greatest innovators of not only our time, but of any time. And while you could certainly argue that someone like Michael Jackson contributed great art to the world — he did — he hadn’t done anything significant in nearly 20 years at the time of this death. Steve Jobs was in his prime when it came to his trade, when he passed away.
It’s both sad and frustrating to think about what we’re going to miss in terms of innovation over the next 20 years because Jobs won’t be here. Even if you aren’t a fan of Apple, you cannot argue that Jobs hasn’t transformed industries and made them significantly better. He was a true iconoclast.
And we’re now in an age where technology is becoming increasingly important to everyones’ lives on a daily basis. The fact that we have to push forward without the best mind in the field is quite frankly, a little frightening. Others will step up. But there will never be another Steve Jobs. The world aches knowing that.
Many artists and geniuses aren’t appreciated in their day. It’s only after they’ve died that their legend is established. But Jobs was appreciated and given proper respect well before his death. This also plays into the outpouring of emotion we’re seeing. Most people realize that the world has just lost a genius.
And now we have a plethora of tools to talk about it in real time when it happens. When Disney died, when Einstein died, people had to read about it in the paper the next day and then talk about it with maybe a dozen other people that they happened to run into in the subsequent days. It’s hard to establish broader global context that way.
Before that, it was hard to know the significance of a great person dying at all. Michelangelo was considered the greatest living artist of his time. But even if people in say, China, had learned of his death, would they have any idea who he was? Probably not.
I might argue that Jobs is the first truly transformative figure to die in an age of transformative technology. He’s someone who will be talked about a thousand years from now. And the fact that he was transformative in technology just compounds the reactions to his death right now.
In many ways, it’s perfect that the video below surfaced again just after Jobs’ passing. It’s the original Apple “Think Different” commercial. In it, images of transformative people throughout the 20th century are shown as a narrator toasts to them for changing the world. In the versions that aired on TV, the narrator is Richard Dreyfuss. But in the version below, the narrator is Steve Jobs.
The toast reads as follows:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Chinese students are brought up in a society where they are told what to do, rather than make their own decisions based on their own beliefs. They are trained to execute orders without any questions asked. They apply this mentality to all parts of their lives. So what is the problem? The problem is that Chinese students don’t know what they like, what they want, what kind of job they want, what kind of university they want to attend, and even what kind of life they want to live. This is the most important problem in my opinion. Maybe you will say how can that be? Everyone knows what they like, which university to go to, which job to choose? But Chinese students really don’t know why they make that decision. They know Tsinghua University and Peking University are the best, but they don’t know whether they are suitable for this kind of university. They know that working for the Government is a very good job, but they don’t know whether they are suitable for that position. So from these examples we know that Chinese students always choose the best option but not the most appropriate one. They like the high salary a government position offers, but are not interested in the actually work that it entails. They attend Tsinghua and Peking University because their parent’s desire, but not based their own desires. They are not able to comprehend if a decision is good or bad. They do not see the bigger picture! Most of time they choose the wrong way to get their goal because they don’t think about it in their mind. Don’ they have abilities to think? Yes they have the ability but they don’t need to think because from the day they are born, they are told what to do and why by their parents, elders, government. Gradually they become accustomed to following others’ words and don’t believe they can plan their own lives by themselves. But the way to succeed based on society or the government is not suitable for everyone. No one could make everyone the same. Everyone’s life is unique because we are free, especially in mind.
Actually Chinese students don’t know that they have the ability to think freely. They don’t know they should be and must be free to choose which kind of university to apply, which kind of job to seek, which way to take and which kind of life to lead. Because they are conditioned to listen to others and follow their orders from day one.
I think only if one day the students of China will try their best to think about what they want and why they make a certain decision, and also their parents can think about the real freedom of their kids, the problem of innovation will be solved.
Notice: Thanks a lot to Andrew for correcting my English.
A few weeks ago Twitter announced the launch of voice tweets. Then this week, Techcrunch featured a range of new social media mobile apps including Sonar, which let’s you search for people geographically near you.
Interestingly, Tencent’s WeiXin 微信 has had both of these services for half a year. Although WeiXin is essentially a Chinese version of Twitter that also borrows from Tencent’s flagship QQ product, we are seeing clear evidence Chinese innovation within this product category, as well as the usual strong localization.
The introduction of location based services to find and befriend people who would otherwise be strangers offline, is a departure from the more traditional Chinese approach to making friends through introductions by existing friends and family (guanxi), and the distrust of strangers in Chinese society. It will fascinating to watch not only the impact of social media on freedom of speech in China, but also traditional Chinese values and social norms.
Today I attended the the Sixth China International Solar Energy Product and Photovoltaic Engineer Exhibition in Beijing. There were numerous Chinese Solar firms. Every year the participants at these solar exhibitions increase as the solar industry in China gets more and more crowded. I am beginning to worry that the Solar industry in China is over saturated and is need of consolidation. There are just too many players doing the same thing. I believe in the next few years, China’s solar industry will see a large increase in M&A. The small players will be forced to sell or run out of business. Consolidation is needed to make a China’s solar industry more lean and efficient.
I moderated an interesting session on new technology at the World Economic Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian on Friday 16 Sept 2011. The key take-outs from a fascinating discussion were as follows:
- Discussion very quickly gravitated to social media. It was clear that social media was front of mind as the most transformative and disruptive of new technologies currently. The disruptive nature of social media was how it has turned the phase “Information is power” on its head! In other words, in highly distributed, decentralised, ubiquitous, collaborative and open networks, the power to create, report, share and express is massively diffused across the population. Innovation comes not from the centre, but from the fringes. What was previously invisible would become visible.
- This new technology is transforming our values, our organisations, our communities and our countries. In China, Tian Ning spoke of how social networks not only are empowering the hundreds of thousands of SMEs that struggle to find voice in a business landscape dominated by state owned behemoths, but is challenging the government to be more transparent and open. The Chinese blogosphere is allowing sensitive content to find itself to Hong Kong, be published in Hong Kong and arrive back in China through social media, blogs and micro-blogs.
- However, a key challenge to realising the empowering benefits of this new technology are concerns about privacy and data security. Carlos Moreira, Chairman and CEO of WiseKey, stressed the need for new, comprehensive identification and authentication solutions to protect and empower internet users. If we could be sure about who someone on the internet was, there could be far greater confidence to transact, take risk, share and interact.
- However, there are circumstances in which users’ identifies must be legitimately hidden. In repressive regimes or where anonymity is essential, mechanisms must be available to ensure invisibility.
- Indeed, we are in a new world where social media allows ideas to be come from anywhere, for open source networks to replace rigid institutions and closed structures, to disaggregate power and information from hierarchies to the commons. Perhaps then a key driver of competitiveness will be an individual, organisation, community or country’s ability to be open, collaborative, highly connected and dynamic. And if this is so, perhaps this new technology will indeed drive us to a more open and collaborative world.
I am attending the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) which is being held in Dalian, China from 14-16 September 2011. The Young Global Leaders (YGL) program will take place from 12-14 September and involve over 300 YGLs from across the globe.
On Friday 16 September, I will be moderating a session titled “From the Frontier: Information Technology” in the Beta Zone, World Expo Centre from 9.15-10.15am. Our topic will explore how new generation information technology is influencing communities, values and organisations.
The three speakers are leading global experts in this field:
|Ramayya Krishnan , Dean, H. John Heinz III College, and William W. and Ruth F. Cooper Professor, Management Science and Information Systems, Carnegie Mellon University, USA|
|Carlos Moreira , Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, WISeKey, Switzerland|
|Tian Ning , Chairman and President, Zhejiang Panshi Information & Technology, People’s Republic of China|
Please join us if you are attending the conference.
We completed our training for Dana Holdings (Taiwan) earlier this month. It was interesting that the cross-cultural challenges were not only in respect of negotiations with Western parties, but also Mainland Chinese suppliers from different provinces. The cultural differences between Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese managers and professionals is significant.
It was reported today that Wang Qishan, Vice Premier of China in charge of finance, told a group of European business leaders that the RMB will be fully convertible by 2015. This indicates that the Chinese economy is becoming considerably less dependent on exports which will be impacted if the yuan is permitted to appreciate. It also signals China’s increasing integration with the World economy.