I find it very interesting to watch well-known successful people confidently state opinions that we now know to be wrong.
Start at 2:01 and watch through 3:13.
In this video, Steve Jobs lays out his vision for NeXT with characteristic flair. He states that NeXT will launch a high powered, low cost computer, marketed to college students, gain significant market traction, and change higher education as we know it. The vision is powerful, well delivered, and easy to understand. Even today, Steve’s dominant presence continues to bring this idea to life. If it weren’t for the parenthetical reminder in the title of the video, one might not even realize that it is nearly 30 years old.
Today we know that NeXT computers were a commercial failure, but look how confident Steve is in his opinion. One of the most successful business leaders of all time has a strong vision that he sells with complete conviction, and he’s wrong.
This short video clip has had me thinking all week.
Foremost, this video means that it’s ok to take a risk. Not even Steve Jobs is right 100% of the time and often if you wait long enough to know you’re right, you’ve already missed the market window.
Further, it’s taught me that no matter which direction you’re heading, it’s important to go all in. Steve didn’t say he was “pretty sure” this idea would work – he said he was going to change the way the world worked. This unwavering confidence motivated his team to create a completely new computer system and release the first NeXT computer in only three years.
But what about failure?
You might point out that Steve was wrong in this video and that he had the wrong vision for the company. However, I’m not sure that’s actually a bad thing.
Sure, the NeXT computer was a failure – but the software created by the NeXT team was ultimately incorporated very successfully into Apple during the 1996 NeXT acquisition. It is very likely that some small part of the computer I am using to write this post owes its origin to the NeXTSTEP operating system.
So what’s the lesson?
It really all goes back to confidence. It seems to me that confident people are wrong just as much as less confident people. Further, there seems to be very little penalty for being confidently wrong. In this case, Steve’s wrong vision helped develop the software that ultimately drove Apple to become the most valuable company in the world.