steve jobs

The fallacy of how things work

Have you ever realized that nearly every creative stride, every major innovation, in the history of the world was the result of someone tinkering?

In the early 1970s, IBM released one of the first “personal” computers. Before that, computers were expensive, difficult to work with, and often took up half of a room to calculate simple equations.

Back then the dedicated hobbyist could buy a computer, but that wasn’t enough to do much of anything. There was also the cost of connectors, a teletypewriter, a display (often which incorporated blinking LED lights and nothing more), and other components to even make the machine functional for everyday use.

Then something interesting happened that we should all be able to relate-to in our work as creatives today. Particularly for those of us in businesses that shy away from innovation.

Here’s what happened.

While attending a group meeting of local computer hobbyists in 1975, Steve Wozniak ran home to his garage and began working on a personal computer that would change how the world forever used the machine.

With help from his friend Steve Jobs, the duo would assemble the computer to be almost entirely enclosed in one unit, so rather than having to fiddle with additional components, owners of the machine could simply plug-in a keyboard and an inexpensive CRT TV and have a functioning computer.

The Apple I computer that premiered in 1975 was the first computer in the world that would allow even naive owners to make use of the functions at their fingertips.

But the concept of anyone having a computer was a ridiculous one at the time. In 1977, the then founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, Ken Olsen, stated: “There is no reason for anyone to have a computer in his home.”

But Jobs and Wozniak believed otherwise, they pressed on with their work and, now some three decades plus later, there are computers in almost every one of our pockets.

If you’re reading this, you’re doing so, in-part, out of the vision of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

But how many people would have the courage and motivation to make that same type of push today?

Particularly in businesses, where “what worked yesterday will work tomorrow” is the go-to mentality, how many of us can say that we’d have enough foresight to see what innovation needs to happen next?

It’s not easy, but it is possible with a simple twist of how we approach our work and the processes around it.

How do we do it? By changing our beliefs around the concept of: this is how it works.

Think about it, back in the 70s it was just common knowledge that computers just worked as a series of confusing and often expensive components that the average person didn’t need to know how to use. Before the first automobile, horse carriages were the primary means of transportation for those who could afford them because that’s just how transportation worked.

What happens is most of us feel content with the way things work. We don’t question it and we certainly don’t explore outside of it.

But before we know it, someone starts questioning. Someone starts poking and prodding, and before we know it “what works” becomes “what worked.”

Microwaves, smart phones, Facebook, the works of Jackson Pollock, are all examples of what can happen when people suddenly realize that the statement: “that’s just how it works” isn’t actually true!

What works is what you’re comfortable with, what will work is what you’re willing to discover by getting away from the norm.

A young entrepreneur named Alex Billington recently wrote a brilliant piece that I think perfectly explains this mentality that we need to embrace deeply as creators and innovators.

Alex writes in his article This is How it Works: This is Not How it Works:

“Stop using ‘this is how it works’ as a defense, or an excuse. Use it as motivation. Use it as a guide for where you should coming from. Use it as a starting point: 'this is how it works today, but this is how we want it to work tomorrow, and this is how we want it to work the next day.’”

This is such a subtle shift in thinking, but the ability to do so not only encourages you to pursue creativity, it forces results.

Steve Jobs spoke on this exact point himself some years ago. We’re fortunate today that the wisdom was recorded and is now available to watch every single day that we need it, right here.


Do you know what Steve Jobs thinks about creativity?

Named the most powerful person in business by Fortune, awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Ronald Reagan in 1985, featured on the cover of Time magazine several times, and listed as one of the top 100 most-influential people in the world by Time magazine, Steve Jobs is - without a doubt - a genius.

With Steve Jobs and all of his creative genius behind the wheel, Apple has become a globally recognizable company, one that people always associate with innovation and creativity.

What is the secret to Steve Job’s creative success? What fuels and inspires his creativity? For creative genius Steve Jobs, creativity is all about connecting the dots. Steve says:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile.

That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people have. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity.

A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem.

Steve believes that connecting experiences, ideas, and technology to create something new is a powerful way of being creative. And with all of the things Steve has done and created, what more proof do you need that he’s right?

If you gain experiences in your life, and find ways to connect those experiences, you will become more creative.