'The Woz' Shares His Stories

On Monday at 8:30 a.m. I will be on CBC Radio's 'The Current' for the third time in as many weeks - this time to explore Canada's Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's brand and positioning on the electoral landscape. Hope you can tune in: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/

On Wednesday, Laura and I, along with several hundred others attended an OCRI luncheon event featuring Steve 'the Woz" Wozniak, who, along with Steve Jobs, founded Apple. A technology guru who is much admired, shared with the audience his vision and his creative history.

What is immediate apparent is his ability to tell stories as a vehicle to convey his vision and values and to connect with the audience.

"Be Honest With the World"

His big theme is "be honest with the world.' It's important to him to have authentic relationships with people he meets. He began by recounting his recent experience with the reality series,'Dancing with the Stars'. At first this seemed like an outlandishly out-of-character move for someone of his credibility. But as he told his story, it became clear that his appearance on the show was part of his approach to life.

On the series, he worked incredibly hard and did his best. To him, that was what it was all about. To do something that was outside his comfort zone to the best of his abilities. Afterward, he said he hand-wrote 27 one-or-two-page notes to each of his fellow contestants, host and producers (which he believes has far greater meaning than emailing them!)

He described himself as a shy child, and mused that his pursuit of disruptive technologies was perhaps a way to some some attention in the world.

Wozniak's 'What If' Key to Innovation

What I found revealing was his use of the "what if?" technique to develop the solutions and innovations that led to Apple and other creative products. One of his first inventions was 'Dial a Joke'. As a student in San Francisco, he spent more on renting the answering machine than his apartment rent. He recalled how the demand was so high that he found himself pretending at times that it was a taped joke, when actually he did some of them live! He said it helped him come out of his shell.

The Power of 'Lucky Accidents'

He also created a pong-like game for a home television (he described as a 'lucky accident' that he'd first seen Pong in a bowling alley).

Before Apple, even though he had no university degree, HP hired him to design a scientific calculator - which he did.

In case anyone might think he would be jealous of his former partner, Steve Jobs, he seemed to be very proud of his abilities and his relationship with his better known Apple co-founder. He mentioned that Jobs always goes to the top level people. He related how Jobs got Atari to go in on the pong game.

Another time, early on, Jobs gave him a 'must-hit' deadline of 4 days to come up with a game. And doing without sleep, he did it.

Woz went on to describe his creation of Apple II as a "Eureka moment".

He told a great anecdote of Apple being invited to an early technology conference in Las Vegas. Only Jobs and two others were going, but Wozniak was dying to go. so he said, what if I can create a floppy-disk drive to go with the Apple? He took on the challenge and created it in two weeks! And as he finished it the day before, he got to go to Vegas. He said, "it's surprising what can motivate engineers!"

The Magic of 'Disruptive Technologies'

Now Chief Scientist of Fusion-io,[http://www.fusionio.com] he is attracted by the disruptive technology involved in Fusion i.o's plug-in hardware memory with 10 times the storage capacity of existing solutions, while consuming far less energy.

What can you say about a guy who gives up five years of his career(post-Apple) to finish university and teach grade five? Incidentally, he believes that his real role as an educator is not to learn the material before the students - necessarily - but to get the kids excited about learning in the first place! [I wish a number of the educators I have met actually shared that belief!]

Finally, Steve Wozniak as a public speaker has learned the power of story to reach an audience and to motivate them.

Here it is here:

It's been a bad year for CBS News Legends...R.I.P. Don Hewitt

The creator of 60 Minutes, Don Hewitt has passed away from pancreatic cancer. He had long described his work as being a 'story-teller' which I think is very apt, given our theme in this post.

Until next time....

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