Dynamic tension and team success

Posted by Mark Schenk - May 22, 2013
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling, Leadership

Earlier this week Shawn sent me an email. “You must see Steve Jobs: The Lost interview. It’s available on iTunes” (its the movie, not the radio show).

So, naturally I downloaded it and am halfway through it. It’s riveting. Jobs answers nearly every question with a story. When the interviewer talks about developing the first Macintosh, he asks “what is the secret of building a great product?”, Steve tells him that the secret of a great product is understanding that having a great idea is only 10% of the battle. The other 90% is getting a great team together who focus on content rather than process and understand that it never turns out the way you planned: it constantly changes and evolves and you need to make tremendous trade-offs. He tells this story:

When I was a young kid, there was a widowed man who lived up the street. He was in his 80s and a little scary looking and I got to know him a little bit, he might have paid me to cut his lawn or something like that. One day he said “come into my garage, I want to show you something.” He pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler. It had a motor and a coffee can and a little band between them. We went out into the backyard and collected some rocks; just some regular old, ugly rocks. We put them into the can with a little bit of liquid and little bit of grit powder. We closed the lid up and turned it on and he said “come back tomorrow”. The can was making a racket as the stones were tumbling around. I came back the next day and we opened the can and we took out these amazingly beautiful, polished rocks. Those common stones that had gone in, through rubbing up against each other (Steve starts slapping his hands, emulating the stones hitting each other), creating a bit of friction, a bit of noise, had produced these beautiful, polished rocks. And that’s always, in my mind, been my metaphor for a team that is working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people, bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes. Making some noise. And, working together, they polish each other and they polish the ideas and what comes out are really beautiful stones.

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