Saturday, June 9, 2012

Malcolm Gladwell discusses Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (video): History will recall Gates not Jobs



I had to watch the Malcolm Gladwell video above for two reasons: 1.) I'm fascinated with the way Gladwell thinks, and 2.) in it he talks about entrepreneurs in general and two in particular that intrigue me as well as others—Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. As, CNN.com reports, the author of Blink and other books is speaking at a Toronto Public Library event in Canada, and during the conversation he says that in 50 years no one will remember Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder, or even the company Microsoft, Apple's competitor, but they will recall the philanthropic work of Bill Gates, Microsoft's founder.

He reminds the audience that Gates was a ruthless capitalist, but one day he said "enough," left and started focusing on helping the world. So, "there will be statues of Gates across the third world. ... There is a reasonable shot because of his money that we will cure malaria," says Gladwell.

He also talks about the account of Jobs's death in his biography by Walter Isaacson and how as Jobs lay dying, he was concerned about the appearance of his oxygent mask.

He further discusses the fetishization of being first in business. He thinks being the "first" entry into a new business is overrated, and being third may be better because you have the chance to learn from the other person's mistakes. "When ideas get really complicated, it's foolish to think that the person who is first can work it all out."

I think it's important to see what he's saying here about "complicated" ideas because when I was in school decades ago, the advice was it's good to be first in a business. Think of branding, for instance. How many people still refer to any kind of facial tissue as "Kleenex" or who call all cola drinks "Coke." However, those are simple products. Dominating in the field of complicated products, such as software, smart phones, and social media platforms, hinges on developing and marketing a better product, not on being first.

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