Steve Jobs, the recently deceased cofounder and chief executive officer of Apple Inc. – a visionary and creative genius who also cofounded the Pixar Animation Studio – was a child of the Sixties. In other words, he was a hippie.
Indeed, except for his billionaire status in America’s corporate world, he was just about as hippie as you can get. His musical tastes ran toward hard rock from the late Sixties – especially the Beatles and the Jefferson Airplane – and at one time or another he’d tried every illegal street drug that came down the pike. He said LSD was “one of the two or three most important things (he had) done in his life.” He felt people who didn’t share his hippie perspective couldn’t fully relate to him. At the time of his death, he still used pot on a regular basis, as a practising Buddhist, and preferred jeans and flip-flops at staff meetings and conferences with Wall Street execs.
In many ways, Steve established the culture, ambiance and philosophy for the corporate digital world we know today; that is, the culture of Silicon Valley and other similar enclaves, like Redmond’s Microsoft campus, were modeled after him. So, not surprisingly, the employee dress code and physical surroundings in Silicon Valley – not to mention the ubiquitous use of pot – are contrary to the traditional, established business decorum of the last 150 years. The buildings have no cubicles as people work at open desks scattered about a specious “loft,” there are few offices and the hierarchy of command is blurred and unmarked. What status differential exists is conveyed when you casually mention that you invested several hundred thousand in Twitter six years ago. Faded jeans are the prevalent fashion for male employees and most of them haven’t worn a tie since their last high school prom.
And yet, Silicon Valley produces a few new millionaires every week and a few new billionaires every month.
By and large, Valley workers look upon government, whether local, state or federal, as a hindrance and a troublesome, first-class pain in the butt. They feel government is ridden with obsolete rules, is run by incompetent people and is inefficient as hell. Most Silicon people seem firmly convinced they can improve the world, morally and physically, solely by empirical innovations, without the need for debates, laws and good ol’ boy handshakes. They believe their social responsibility is fulfilled by their work and innovations, not by social or political action, and their business does far more societal good than charitable causes, government programs or the endeavors of Mother Teresa.
To a large extent, they subscribe to the notion that any new program or gadget must be good and it will help solve our social problems.
Well, I think that’s debatable. But not here and not today.
I’d like to close with some thoughts by Larry Page, CEO of Google, who feels that the innovation and creativity coming from Silicon Valley is produced from a crazed state of mind and imagination. “If you’re not doing something crazy, you’re doing the wrong things.” And, “If you’re not crazy, you’re not thinking.”
But, of course! It’s always the fella or gal on the “path least traveled”.