Thursday, July 02, 2009

Google and Jobs

Two contrasting articles in Harvard Business Online are pertinent not just to leadership in general, but to ministers in churches as well.

In one, Google Grows Up, Scott Anthony points out the way in which Google has approached innovation: Engineers are encouraged to dream up pet projects in their spare time. Teams self form around the best ideas. Market-based principles ensure that the best ideas receive funding. It sounds chaotic, democratic...and intoxicating.

Anthony goes on to show that even Google is now having to be more disciplined in its approach to innovation, and, he says, constraints can focus creativity.

Bill Taylor, on the other hand, in an article entitled Decoding Steve Jobs, says that in terms of the impact his products have had on the world, Steve Jobs represents the face of business at its best. And yet, in terms of his approach to leadership, Jobs represents the face of business — well, if not at its worst, then certainly not as something worth emulating.

Jobs, he goes on to say, bullies staff, shrouds his company in secrecy and refuses basic accommodations to products that would make them more user-friendly. Typical of his attitude is the way he has often parked right across two handicapped parks in his own place of business.

Taylor goes on to note: the sign of true ambition [is] absolute confidence in your infallibility as a leader. Over time, though, it has become a warning sign of failure — whether from bad judgment, low morale from disillusioned troops, or sheer burnout. The best leaders I know don't want the job of thinking for everybody else. They understand that if they can tap the hidden genius inside the organization, and the collective genius outside the organization, they will create ideas that will be much more powerful than what even the smartest individual leader could ever come up with on his or her own. Nobody alone is as smart as everybody together.

He concluldes: Leaders who want to both change the game and stay in the game for the long haul have come to appreciate the power of "humbition" over blind ambition. What's humbition? It's a term I first heard from Jane Harper, a nearly 30-year veteran of IBM. It is, she explains, the subtle blend of humility and ambition that drives the most successful leaders — an antidote to the know-it-all hubris that affects so many executives and entrepreneurs.

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