Cutting the crap

If the key to wisdom is "knowing what to overlook," as the philosopher William James said, the corollary in professional work, particularly creative professional work, is knowing that most of your work sucks.

Photographer A.J. Kessler:

If your goal is to produce outstanding work, in any field, recognize that most of what you produce is going to suck.  To get from 'suck' to 'awesome' takes a huge amount of effort and skill.  If you’re a landscape/wedding/street/bird/extreme-sports photographer, you’re chances of producing great work in any one of these areas is pretty slim, and the odds of producing great work in all five is almost nil. If you’re a software company that’s trying to cram in every last feature possible, maybe you would be better served by making a few key features outstanding.

Having grown from a fading also-ran in its own industry to the world's second most valuable company, Apple has executed an incredible turnaround on the strength of one category-busting device after another. Yet when he came back to the company, Steve Jobs pared the product line from 350 to just 10.

Not everyone is a Jobs when it comes to an eye for industrial design. And in any case, chances are that that person isn't the CEO. But here's the problem. While one will encounter very few that will argue against the value of creativity, Adam Hartung at Forbes cites studies drawn from business that show a gap between knowing and doing in the business world.

While 1,500 CEOs say that creativity is the single most important quality for success today – and studies bear out the greater success of creative, innovative leaders – the study found that when it came to hiring and promoting practices businesses consistently marked down the creative managers and bypassed them, selecting less creative types!

So forget the accomplishments and recent history for a moment. Could Steve Jobs find a job today?

In the photo by Geoff Oliver Bugbee above, Steve Wozniak displays a first generation iPhone at the 2007 IdeaFestival. The phone was not hurt in the wrestling match that ensued.