I’ve been reading the Steve Jobs biography, and I’d really rather be in a room full of people like Steve Wozniak than Steve Jobs. Most people know that Jobs was sometimes an asshole to work with. But they excuse it because he was creative, a sort of artist of the corporate world. And they love Apple products.
And so do I, as much as anyone. But I do think it’s a problem when the adulation of Jobs eclipses the role of hackers like Wozniak who created the products that Jobs shaped and refined.
And I think a lot of people are just confused when they talk about educating a generation to be like Steve Jobs, or create more people like him. I don’t actually think too many people actually are saying that.
What they really mean, when they refer to the spirit of Steve Jobs and Apple as something to encourage and emulate, has more to do with Steve Wozniak.
Design thinking, as exemplified by Steve Jobs, is important. But the spirit of early Silicon Valley, of the Homebrew computer club, was one of tinkering and sharing. The good news is, it’s easier to encourage this than to create another Steve Jobs.
The Steve Jobs of the world are going to exist no matter what. They’re people who for whatever reason, have massive ego and drive. The Steve Wozniaks, on the other hand, are people who need to be cultivated. The space for tinkering and creative play, in education and the workplace, can help.
The history of Silicon Valley, the PC, the Internet, and the whole digital revolution in our lives is very far from being written and seen in perspective and understood. But I think that already we can look to the past and expect it to repeat itself.
It’s exemplified in this awesome vintage documentary I found on YouTube—and you have to love the idealism, the ingenuity, and the mustaches on these dudes.
The “hackers” and hobbyists and tinkerers and amateurs will keep inventing and pioneering, and the business world will continue capitalizing on those innovations. This isn’t always a bad thing, of course; often it’s a very good thing. The Wozniaks of the world need the Steve Jobs types to get them out of tinkering in their garages endlessly, to shape their hobbies into useful products.
But I’d rather live in a world full of people like Woz than people like Jobs: more people in love with the creative process for its own sake.