Steve Wozniak story – a story of innovation and inspiration

I was lucky enough to have four hours out of the office on Monday morning in sunny Darling Harbour, Sydney listening to Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple talking about his life and his experiences founding Apple Inc with Steve Jobs.

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the lion from The Wizard of the Oz, “The Woz” as he is known affectionately was disarmingly devoid of the charisma of Steve Jobs but warm, real, introverted and engaging.

A true techie engineer, child tinkler of all things electric, builder of calculators and computers, Woz would stay at home and eat pizza dreaming of every individual having a personal computer when at the time computers filled a room.  He was designing circuits, learning about electrons and by sixth grade, had built hundreds of transistors.

Wozniak created the Apple I and Apple II computers in the mid 1970’s and greatly contributed to the personal computer revolution of the 70’s. He was the technical brain behind the sales and marketing vision of Jobs. Steve “Would always find a way to turn them into money” Woz explains, “Steve knew where to sell things. I never thought about that, I just built things for fun”.

The coming together of Woz and Jobs was a partnership that sounded peaceful and constructive. Woz never saw firsthand the ‘difficult Jobs’ and Jobs was respectful to the end.

Woz struck me as someone who has a clear definition of success. When asked how he felt about ‘missing out’ on some of Apple’s success, Woz made it clear he knew early on that there were two types of success – the extrinsic success marked by what others saw – how you dress, where you live, your title and the car you drive – and the intrinsic success criteria which he rated far more important. That is how you feel about yourself and those closest to you – he reckons he know happiness.

As a young man, he and Jobs flunked college, caused mayhem by re-wiring the headmasters phone system to other staff members and experienced frustration first hand at the need to conform to a curriculum, when they wanted to create things outside the subject matter. As Woz explained, there were no rules books, text books or ideas about the things they were testing and creating. There was no-one to turn to for advice or instructions.

He wired and re-wired circuits, then calculators, then designing with micro-processors to finally capture colour on screen.

Many leading global technology brands at the time turned each of his new ideas or technology down.

When Woz later left Apple to go back to finish university under the guise of Rocky Clarke he had a better respect for education – finally teaching for eight years as a teacher of fifth grade and being able to influence and encourage innovation in young people. Another passion.

Here are my interpretations of some of Woz’s tips on how to harbour an innovative and creative environment:-

– Promote a space where collaborative creativity can happen

– It may start with one idea from a single person, but to make that idea a reality we need a team to see it through

– Everyone should be involved in the process, something that is suggested from the mail room could end up saving your company in time, resources and money.

Be aware that time alone and time spent thinking is also important to be able to create

Keep an open mind

– Help staff be open to innovation by asking about the emotion inspired within customers

– Invite your team to breathe new life into your business

– Create lots more time talking with your team

– Reflect and benchmark everything your company does

– Improve connectivity within and across teams

– Be aware success is sometimes going your own way and breaking out from the norm

– So be prepared to do things differently

– Break the rules!

– Bring passion to the experience, there has to be a reason to be

– Give money, give time, but give yourself if you care

– Lastly, creativity should be fun

Steve Wozniak ended the session by telling us that computer are fast becoming our best friends, we can interact them with more like humans through GPS, touch, voice and perhaps even smell. The future according to Steve Wozniak is an exciting place to be.

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