Creating products with a spirit of enlightenment
And now, instead of writing stories about how Snapchat is doomed, people are wondering: What's wrong with product development at Facebook?
- Why is Facebook innovation so bad that it has to copy products from smaller startups? Facebook has a long history of copying smaller startups. At various points, it has cloned features from: Instagram, Twitter, Quora, Foursquare, Groupon, and Yelp.
- Why can't Facebook seem to rip off startups that well? Everyone thought Facebook would kill Instagram, Twitter, Quora, Foursquare, Groupon, and Yelp with those products. It did not. At all.
What's wrong is the same thing that's wrong at Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and many other tech companies: You cannot create with your rational left brain. Creativity comes from intuition, from the root chakra, from being grounded in yourself, from knowing yourself. That's the thing that Apple understands, that most tech companies - and I guess most companies, period - simple don't get.
You can't rationalize or think your way to great products. You have to tap into a deeper source. There's no substitute and no shortcut.
What tends to happen is that these companies come into being through a spark of creativity. And I'm not saying there's zero creativity beyond that point - it's not a black-and-white thing. But they tend to misattribute their success to the wrong factors, and over time they move further and further away from the source of their creativity and their genius, and then later on, they can't replicate it, and they don't know why, and they resort instead dirty tactics and manipulation and all manner of unsavory play in order to mask this fundamental and intractable problem.
When product development isn't rooted in our intuition, our connection with something bigger than ourselves, they feel flat and lacking. There's a big difference to how strongly people feel this, but most people respond at some level.
Here's what Steve Jobs had to say about Microsoft's products back in The Lost Interview:
Their products have no spirit to them. Their products have no spirit of enlightenment about them. They are very pedestrian. And the sad part is that most customers don't have a lot of that spirit either. But the way we're going to rachet it up, our species, is to take the best and to spread it around to everybody so that everybody grows up with better things, and starts to understand the subtlety of these better things. And Microsoft's just ... you know, it's McDonald's. That's what saddens me. Not that Microsoft has won, but that Microsoft's products don't display more insight and more creativity.
One of the things Apple has done is create products that do have a spirit of enlightenment about them, and thanks to Tim Cook, managed to spread them around widely. And it turns out that people actually do respond very favorably to products that have a spirit of enlightenment about them.
This isn't some superficial nice-if-you-can-afford-it thing you spread on top of a pedestrian product. It's the essence of the product. And it's becoming more and more important. The more we get used to it, the more we crave it. We want that spirit of enlightenment, because we've been starved for it for so long.
This aspect of a company is worth paying very close attention to as an employee, as a customer, and as an investor.
And it's something that Apple understands better than any other big company out there. And they will tell you this, time and time again - listen to what Jony Ive and Steve Jobs have said in interviews. But knowing it isn't enough. Doing it is what's challenging. Trust me, I know, it's something I'm still struggling with. But I can clearly see and feel the effects and the direction things are moving in.