In a recent Blog post by Jonny Evans in Computerworld What’s wrong with the Steve Jobs ‘reality distortion’ lie He discusses the implications of Steve Jobs being labeled a “Reality Distortion Field” purveyor. The implication being of course this is a pejorative label. He goes on to say that:
- This is a label that suffering competitors like to promulgate.
- That it is intended to diminish his contributions and impact.
- That it is the view of those who don’t want to see change like that successfully introduced by Steve Jobs.
Evans goes on to assert that if we were to put a more accurate label on Steve Jobs we would use terms like:
- Reality creation field
- Reality disruption field
I believe there is a fundamental leadership talent management performance issue here. The impact of conceptual intuitive leaders on their organizations, competitors, customers, even society. They change the concept of what success looks like. They change the playingfield.
Most organizations at the leadership levels are populated by practical sensates (N.B. this is an opinion – would love to see research confirming/challenging this). These are people who demonstrate the required competence to get things done they are practical, they are influenced by data, they are focused on measureable results.
Conceptual intuitives on the other hand are are focused on redefining the game, are interested in how a re-conceptualization of the game creates new insights and possibilities. They change the competitive landscape not by being measurably better than the competition (e.g., faster, smoother, higher, etc.), they change how we look at the world thereby changing what is being competed over.
They are by their very nature disruptive to everyone around them. Because they are looking at different ways of seeing, thinking, and doing, they are viewed as theoretical (because we haven’t done it that way before).
Some human endeavours are more inclined to have larger numbers of these kinds of people – the arts, sciences, architects, and the likes (here again this is an opinion).
A recent book called “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne talks about how organizations fundamentally change the competitive landscape by creating new ways of conceptualizing it.
I believe Steve Jobs was successful several times at exemplifying the Blue Ocean Strategy shifts for personal computers, animation, music, movies, smart phones, etc. In each case, his initial offering was derided by pundits and competitors. They have all virtually learned to regret their initial stances.
We have all been flabbergasted by someone proposing something about which we know a lot in a completely “off the wall” way. Because of the oddity of it we are predisposed to consider it in pejorative ways. Yet this is the moment from which our world quantum shifts.
It is okay to be setback on our heels from the radical novelty of a fresh perspective. Yet, I would argue that we should indulge ourselves by considering:
- “What if this is a better way to view the world?”
- “What if our customers will be better served from this new perspective?”
- “What if this makes our comparative competitive strengths irrelevant?
Those of us who do strategy work, need to find approaches that enable the quantum shift movement. I suggest that we begin by:
- Encouraging the weird voices to be better heard. Let them speak and ask them to offer up how we can substantiate the merits of their radical claims.
- Ask what a new intruder into our business would do to make all our competitive advantage investments “millstones” around our businesses’ necks.
Creative talent that operates at it highest levels is disruptive at its most benign levels of impacts. More often it is downright destructive to those of us who comfortably enjoy what we have and all the perks that go along with it.