It’s Better to be a Pirate than Join the Navy

With all the hullabaloo about the sales numbers for Apple’s iPhone 6 over the weekend (10 million phones!), here’s a reminder of what’s behind Apple’s success:

Leading Apple with Steve Jobs details the management principles Jay Elliot learned from Jobs – and what every manager can learn about motivating people to do the best work of their lives.

Elliot was personally hired by Jobs just in time to accompany him on the last of his historic visits to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center – visits that changed the course of computing (the graphic user interface and the mouse, among others). Elliot was Senior VP of Apple, overseeing all company procedures and strategic planning, as well as software development and HR.

First, an image:

Recognize it? This is the flag designed by a couple of the original Macintosh team and flown over the building that housed the small but outspoken crew that was responsible for bringing Jobs’ vision of the personal computer to the masses. It reflected a phrase that Jobs used at a team retreat:

It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy

Those with a cursory knowledge of the Apple story might think that this is a reference to Apple against the rest of the computer world – which it has been for all of its existence. But the real origin of this phrase and the accompanying image comes from Jobs’ insistence of creating a visionary team within Apple – a team that would band together and fight against the corporate bureaucracy that Apple had become in just a few short years.

To protect innovation, Jobs created a company within a company, gave them their own identity, and turned them loose. He didn’t want the Macintosh group to be dragged into the same mess (Jobs used a more earthy term) and lose their entrepreneurial focus – the ability to see and be motivated by an inspiring vision of the future. Jobs’ achieved this by

…building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision.

The rest is history…

Application for ChurchWorld:

Churches don’t have a product like Apple, but then again Apple has always been more than just a product. It’s about creativity and innovation and experience and passion and people – terms which certainly have application to the church – or should. One thing that the church (no matter what its size) has in common with Apple or any large business is a tendency to gravitate toward institutionalism and bureaucracy. Leaders need to resist this, and one way to do this is to create a “pirate” crew that has the qualities of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and an absolute passion and commitment to the vision of the church.

Choose your crew wisely, and they will challenge your thinking, fuel your ideas, pump up your momentum, sharpen your creative edge, and accomplish great things.

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