September 12, 2011

Of Men And Magicians

"There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark." - Mark Kac
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece called Advertising And The Future Of Apple. It received a lot of attention.

One of the points I made in the piece was  that I did not agree with the pundits who were asserting that Apple would be an equally innovative enterprise with Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO.

I want to talk a little more about this.

Steve Jobs is a magician. To paraphrase Mr. Kac (pronounced Kahts), even after we see what he has done, we don't understand how he did it.

I'm a half-assed amateur musician who likes to write music. I'm pretty lousy at it. Actually, I'm very lousy at it. When I listen to music written by Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan, I can understand how they did it. I can see the underlying structure. I can imagine, if I were just a thousand times better than I am, I could have written that music.

But when I listen to music by George Gershwin or Duke Ellington, I am lost. I have no idea how they did it. I could sit at a piano for all eternity and not be able to do it.

I am sure there are brilliant people all over the Apple organization. But there is a special kind of creative brilliance that is unique. It cannot be replaced or replicated by "ordinary geniuses."

This does not mean that Apple won't continue to be a great company. It doesn't mean that it won't continue to be extraordinarily successful. It just means that over time, the creative leaps are likely to become less astounding and less frequent.

Perhaps Jobs will continue to be the true leader of Apple from his position as non-executive chairman.

If not, the idea that Apple will be as imaginative without him leading just does not seem believable to me.

Magicians are hard to find.

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