Michael Simmons recalled the impact of Steve Jobs last January in Top predictor of career success 2015.
Simmons then says: “We think we understand what caused his success. We don’t. We dismiss usable principles of success by labeling them as personality quirks. What’s often missed is the paradoxical interplay of two of his seemingly opposite qualities; maniacal focus and insatiable curiosity. These weren’t just two random strengths. They may have been his most important as they helped lead to everything else … Jobs’ curiosity fueled his passion and provided him with access to unique insights, skills, values, and world-class people who complemented his own skill set. Jobs’ focus brought those to bear in the world of personal electronics.”
In the post, he quotes Steve Jobs form 1995: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”
How does any of this relate to you and your career? Simmons reports from his 2013 interview of an expert on networks that a key indicator is being in “open networks.” He then indicates how that is beneficial:
• More accurate view of the world. It provides them with the ability to pull information from diverse clusters so errors cancel themselves out. Research by Philip Tetlock shows that people with open networks are better forecasters than people with closed networks.
• Ability to control the timing of information sharing. While they may not be the first to hear information, they can be the first to introduce information to another cluster. As a result, they can leverage the first move advantage.
• Ability to serve as a translator / connector between groups. They can create value by serving as an intermediary and connecting two people or organizations who can help each other who wouldn’t normally run into each other.
• More breakthrough ideas. Brian Uzzi, professor of leadership and organizational change at the Kellogg School of Management, performed a landmark study where he delved into the tens of millions of academic studies throughout history. He compared their results by the number of citations (links from other research papers) they received and the other papers they referenced. A fascinating pattern emerged. The top performing studies had references that were 90% conventional and 10% atypical (i.e., pulling from other fields). This rule has held constant over time and across fields. People with open networks are more easily able to create atypical combinations.
Here is a quote that I find interesting (and can relate to):
This is challenging in that it can lead to feeling like an outsider as a result of being misunderstood and under-appreciated because few people understand why you think the way you do. It is also challenging, because it requires assimilating different and conflicting perspectives into one worldview.
And this really does ultimately get back to Steve Jobs, who said “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” If you have not read, or better yet, watched this, find time to do so: The 2005 Stanford commencement address Jobs – “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
Michael Simmons is a bestselling author and the co-founder of Empact, a global entrepreneurship education organization that has held 500+ entrepreneurship events including Summits at the White House, US Chamber of Commerce, and United Nations.