Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What If...Steve Jobs Ran the Public Sector?

Steve Jobs - the man who founded and runs Apple - is a hard man to please.

He is the ultimate hard-driven entrepreneur - a narcissistic over-achiever with the kind of personality that believes he can, literally, change the world by force of his own will.

He is known at Apple for asking the impossible - then getting it. The company's phenomenal innovation - which puts the rest of the industry to shame - is widely credited to this man's drive and the ridiculously high standards he sets.

For example, not only does he insists that all Apple devices look beautiful on the outside but also on the inside too. Even the sealed units the buyer never sees.

Jobs however is no tech-guy. He doesn't understand circuits or programming particularly. He is the ultimate user and his genius seems to be in getting people to produce the kind of gadgets that make us all gasp with awe.

So, onto my main point.

Jobs has made Apple into a company that achieves far, far more than should be possible. He works by a mixture of terror, exhortation and the inculcation of the very highest standards.

Is Apple a one-off, or could Jobs transform public services for the better?

The parallells, on first impression, feel ludicrious. Ipods and bin-emptying are not the same thing.

But over-achievement? Customer delight? Genius in design?

Public services could use a bit of this.

Jobs would, of course, have his work cut out. I suspect that the culture of consensus that dominates most public sector bodies would come under massive attack from day one.

He would also struggle, I think, to inculcate the notion of excellence into organisations for whom excellence was something limited to corporate literature sent out with the Council Tax bill.

But it would be an interesting experiment. One the world would, I am sure, learn something from.

And until we receive the public sector equivalent of the I-phone, it is something I will call for, however silly it makes me look.

3 comments:

Rob 'Arris said...

That is an interesting blog Craig; i know the Danes chew some funny stuff, did you bring some back with you??!
Joking apart i like the optimism of your vision for the public sector; i believe the big difference to be 3-fold. Firstly, Steve Jobs would have a mighty job changing the culture and infrastructure of a sector that is about as adept to change as an oil tanker is to turning quickly. Secondly, in his business of innovation he has come up with new stuff that changes market perception (as you say collecting rubbish is still gonna be collecting rubbish) - he has a customer base that appreciates his company and his product - i am not sure this level of anticipation and appreciation of public services exists amongst the UK population that dominate the use of such services. Finally, Steve has commercial success that brings financial rewards and a relative freedom to make quick and sometimes radical decisions (i know we have talked about the speed of decision making in private business opposed to public sector business) - Steve would hit a brick wall on day 1 and i am sure his parting words would be something like this "dont act like you want to change when in fact you are not prepared to".
Lovely idea but i prefer to see this man in the private sector where he can truly flourish, pushing technology forward and generating jobs and paying high taxes into the public purse.
Is this a pessimistic view or am i more interested in protecting Steve Jobs from a task that would restrict the use of his abilities? The latter.

Andrew said...

Well said.."dont act like you want to change when in fact you are not prepared to".

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Andrew
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Mark Griffiths 'ideally speaking...' said...

We currently have the exploding i-Phone and the imploding Post Office.