The business world can teach us a little bit about art. I believe.
by Loren A. Roberts (guru of multi-hyphenate media)
Many people have been talking about Apple in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death, including Fast Company co-founder Bill Taylor, who reviewed Adam Lashinsky’s Inside Apple last month. Listen to what stuck with him from the book:
The story goes back to January 21, 2009, during Cook's inaugural conference call with investors after Jobs announced his medical leave of absence. The very first question, Lashinsky reports, was from an analyst who wanted to know whether Cook might replace Jobs permanently and how the company would be different if he did. Cook did not respond with a detailed review of the products Apple made or the retail environments in which it sold them. Instead, he offered an impromptu, unscripted statement of what he and everyone at Apple believed — "as if reciting a creed he had learned as a child" in Sunday School.
"We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that's not changing," Cook declared.
"We believe in the simple not the complex...We believe in saying no to thousands of products, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us," he added.
"We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in ways other cannot...And I think that regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well," he concluded.
It doesn’t matter what you are selling -- computers or art, a musical or a car -- you MUST believe something. Tim Cook wasn’t concerned about the product -- he was concerned about the mentality that continued to make incredible things. He believed that the DNA of his company (those deeply-held beliefs) would be the thing that continued to drive Apple’s success.
I remember getting a first draft of a novel handed to me by a colleague several years ago, and, upon finishing it, I honestly didn’t care about anything or anyone in the novel. Why? It was decent prose, the plot was okay, the characters were well-drawn. So then why couldn’t I accept the story? Because the author didn’t really believe anything that he had written.
It should come as no surprise to us artists that we have to believe in what we are doing. But how often do you actually do a self-check and make sure that you believe?
Simon Sinek has a different, but equally valid, way of looking at separating those who will succeed from those who will never break out from the pack: not asking what to sell, but asking why:
It’s so easy to get caught up in the doing that we forget to make sure that we believe in the art that we are making. Unfortunately, it’s all too transparent to others when that happens.
Make sure you believe.
LOREN A. ROBERTS produces films, videos and music, designs magazines and logos, plays and sings in a rock-and-roll tribute band, and is a student of what happens when science, the arts, technology, and culture collide. www.hearkencreative.com
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