Raising the bar: Steve Jobs style

There’s a wonderful example of how Steve Jobs caused the initial Apple iPod’s development team, to raise the bar. The story may or may not be true, but it’s said that the iPod development team presented Jobs with the first build of the new device, which they had worked on, around the clock, for months.

Jobs took one look at it and said; “It’s too big!”

The team leader said; “It’s as small as possible.”

Legend has it that Steve Jobs then dropped it into a fish tank. The design team gasped in horror.

Jobs then said to the team; “You see those bubbles coming out? That’s air. Make it smaller!”

The team responded by making another version, which was significantly smaller, even though they had originally believed the previous version was as small as possible, until Steve Jobs caused them to raise the bar on what was possible. Without the external influence of Jobs, the development team would have shipped a chunkier, less attractive iPod and the resurgence of Apple may have been very different.


Jim has stories such as this in his blog:http://jimsmarketingblog.com/


Add A Dash Of Inefficiency

This was a store that besides selling provisions in standard-weight packages, also sold grains in the loose. And customers were always backing up at the counter selling loose grains. It caught the eye of the efficiency expert from the head-office in one of his periodic visits. He decided to work on this one.

He observed the man at the counter, graying in his fifties, taking a long time to measure out grains on the scale. He was always short on his first attempt and getting it right on the third attempt, often on the fourth, adding a little at a time. This was always the pattern.

It was a little strange since the scoops were precisely sized. For instance, to weigh out one kilogram of wheat, the scoop in a fill would draw a kilogram and a little more for fine adjustment. Obviously he was not scooping a full fill on the first attempt and so goes back for the second, the third and the fourth. The expert decided to have a little lunch-time chat with the man:

‘I’m sure the line-up at your counter must be causing you concern as much as it does to us?’

‘Yes,’ turning a little coy, ‘they want to buy when I’m around.’

‘Me thinks it may not be what you think.’

‘You can check it up, if you wish.’

‘It could be that you taking longer to service a customer.’ The expert continued: ’You’re not filling the scoop to the full as enjoined in your training. If you did there would be fewer tries.’

‘I recall that bit in the training, but learnt something different on the floor.’

‘And what would that be?’

‘When I do what I do, folks thinks I’m being careful about what they’re getting. Going short and adding grains goes much better with them than going in excess and removing grains thereafter. When I add grains, I’m for them and when I remove, I’m the store.’

On that day, a piece of inefficient practice was written into the instruction manual for the men in the store.


The Tree, The Birds, The Squirrels And The Wind

A short story for children:

Part 1

The massive Tree, its girth rivaling a banyan and the branches reaching out at least a hundred feet, stood at the edge of the village beyond the water tank, set back from the high-road to the town. A host to many generations of birds and small animals – the unassuming Sparrows safely nested in the lush branches of the Tree while the Parrots in brilliant green and the Squirrels in their brown-grey fur made home in the numerous holes in the vast trunk. It was never by mistake a Parrot entered the abode of a Squirrel or the other way round!

All day long, the air was filled with the muted chatter of the Sparrows, punctuated by the occasional exuberance of the Parrots and the bouts of noisy drumming by a pair of black-plumed Woodpeckers that kept the Tree free of wood-boring insects.

The Tree ensured its lodgers had access to a generous year-round supply of juicy fruits.

I had almost forgotten all about him and how could I? There was a wise old Owl that kept the night-watch from the high branches of the Tree.

That wasn’t all. The Tree had visitors too. From the village came bathers to sit down and chat away under the Tree before and after their bath in the tank. On some days, there was even a traveler or two from the high-road pausing to rest under its shade.

But the Wind was a regular. It all started long ago when the Tree was young and growing:

‘You’re very fortunate – you get to see so many places. Here I’m standing rooted to this place.’

‘You’re the lucky one getting to stay put. Do you see there is no rest for me at all? All the time I have got to be on the move, or I’m dead.’

‘Well, I’ll lend you the fragrance of my flowers and fruits – you may carry them with you wherever you go.’

‘I’ll clean up all the grime off the leaves, remove the dead ones, and give a good massage to your tired limbs.’

And the Tree and the Wind became thick friends ever since.

It was an idyllic world until one morning…

The Wind brought the news. The heartless village Chief had, in a meeting, proposed to auction the Tree for its wood. It was expected to fetch a good price, enough to build a community center and more. And the auction was scheduled in a couple of days.

The Tree froze speechless. How could they come up with a thought like this? When the news reached them, the birds and the animals sinking their beaks and teeth into the juicy pulp of the fruits with customary gusto, drew back like from hot coal. Everyone was horrified pale. Life without the Tree was unthinkable.

But what could be done now? They felt quite powerless before the juggernaut – man’s self-interest in disregard of his eco-mates. Hours of deliberations yielded no solution. The Tree, in utter despair and mindful of its lodgers, advised them to move out to a safer place and leave it to face its fate.

They were not the one to give up. While chewing on the crisis, finally someone suggested they wake up the wise old Owl and consult him.

So they did. And they saw, for the first time, a glimmer of hope.

Part 2

It was the day of the auction. The Bidders from the village and the neighboring had gathered under the Tree. There was a quick inspection poking the Tree here and there, asking a question or two.

The birds went very quiet.

As the Bidders were waiting for the Chief to come in, from nowhere a strong gust of wind blew in knocking the turbans off the heads of a couple while others barely managed to hold onto theirs. Not an auspicious beginning, it was felt.

The Chief arrived with his ‘records’ man. After a short preamble the bidding commenced.

‘A 1000 rupees.’

‘2000, here’

‘They are low-balling it. The wood is teak like and my guess is it will easily fill up three cart-loads,’ the Chief muttered inaudibly into the ears of his assistant.

Before the next bid was shouted out, suddenly, as if on a cue, there was a minor commotion from the Squirrels gathering at the base of the Tree, purposefully drawing the attention of a Bidder standing closest. As his eyes came to rest on what he saw, for a moment he was speechless. When he regained his tongue, he cried excitedly: ‘Look here, look here, I know for sure – it wasn’t there before.’

Another Bidder, also drawn to it, exclaimed: ‘This is a miracle!’

A third Bidder joined: ‘A clear sign of disapproval from the Gods.’

In a short while they all had seen it. They hurriedly conferred among themselves and turned to the Chief resolutely: ‘Drop it, Chief. We are mercifully saved just in time from committing a grave sin.’

As a vexed Chief walked up to see what made the proceedings go awry, advice came from the eldest among the Bidders: ‘Chief, let us bring offerings, light a lamp and get the priest to do the pooja and build a decent shrine here.’

The Chief too was awe-struck when he saw a panel of a clear likeness to Hanuman freshly carved in relief on the bark at the base of the Tree. There were even flowers and fruits strewn about in the front as offerings.

As the Bidders dispersed, the Tree let out a sigh of relief and thanked, from the bottom of its heart, the Woodpeckers, the wise Owl, the Parrots and the Sparrows, and the Squirrels and not forgetting the Wind that embraced them all in cool comfort.


Hanuman is the son of Vayu, the Wind God.

http://nagpurbirds.org/ has these beautiful photographs and a whole lot more of our feathered friends sighted in and around Nagpur.

Lessons from the Lizards Tail

The black-and-white cat was paying rapt attention to something in front of the fireplace.

Crouching house cat, hidden lizard

He had that ears-cupped-and-tilted-forward look, and was holding absolutely still, eyes wide open. He does this only when there is something of great interest to him, and that is almost always something that is about to become part of his toy repertoire.

I got up, and looked at the spot on the tile. It looked like a stick. Suddenly, almost all of the stick shot across the room, leaving a wiggling piece behind. Nature works really well. The thing was a lizard, and it had dropped its tail, which wriggled appealingly, allowing my cat to focus on it, while the rest of the lizard scrambled to safety away from the cat.

Picking up the now-tailless lizard with a paper towel, I stepped out the door and shook the paper towel out gently, close to the ground by the fig tree. The little lizard body tumbled out.”Must have picked it up too hard,” I thought, feeling guilty. I thought I’d killed it, after the cat had missed it. Just as guilt waved over me, the lizard pulled out of its frozen position, and shot, tailless, up the fig tree to safety.

Some lizards drop their tails to save their lives, leaving their prey interested in the wiggly, but not vital to life part. I’d never seen it work so well. The cat was perfectly happy to let the business part of the prey escape if he got to keep the funny, wiggly part.

It seems like such a good idea to be able to drop a non-vital body part to save the important working parts. We don’t come equipped with convenient tails, but we do drag around burdensome “tales”–the stories we drag around as baggage. The sad story of how our parents didn’t give us what we needed. The mean roommate in college who was so thoughtless. The boss who wasn’t a mentor we’d hoped for, but gave us all the drudge jobs.

All those stories pile up and slow us down. They make us prey for anger, stress, decisions based on revenge and stored-up resentment. We can drop our “tales” of hurt and pity, leave them wiggling for someone else to become fascinated with. Because they aren’t helping us. No doubt, it’s hard to give up the story we live, the perspective we have on them, how we make choices based on past hurts and injustice. And those stories of injustice get us a lot of attention as our friends condemn those who hurt us. That’s what friends do. They think it’s helpful, although often attention simply encourages clinging to behavior.

Recasting our past is hard work and not appealing. The work of letting go of the past means admitting that our perspective isn’t working and deliberately looking for a new perspective, one that allows us to live a less-burdened, less blame-riddled life. It won’t be done in a single day, but the small steps and work is certainly worthwhile…

We can’t change how our story began, but we can change how it continues and build for a happen ending.


This inspiring piece comes from Quinn McDonald, a creativity coach and author of the book ‘Raw Art Journaling’, helping people choose the story they want to live. Visit her blog at http://quinncreative.wordpress.com to read more. Thanks, Quinn, for your kind consent to reproduce it here.

Amazing Presence Of Mind Or A Prayer Answered?

Wet Pants

with me to a third grade classroom…… There
is a nine-year-old kid sitting at his desk and
all of a sudden, there is a puddle between his
feet and the front of his pants are wet. He
thinks his heart is going to stop because he
cannot possibly imagine how this has
happened. It’s never happened before, and
he knows that when the boys find out he will
never hear the end of it.. When the girls find
out, they’ll never speak to him again as long as
he lives…

The boy
believes his heart is going to stop; he puts his
head down and prays this prayer, ‘Dear God, this
is an emergency! I need help now! Five minutes
from now I’m dead

He looks
up from his prayer and here comes the teacher
with a look in her eyes that says he has been

As the
teacher is walking toward him, a classmate named
Susie is carrying a goldfish bowl that is filled
with water.. Susie trips in front of the teacher
and inexplicably dumps the bowl of water in the
boy’s lap.

The boy
pretends to be angry, but all the while is
saying to himself, ‘Thank you, Lord! Thank you,

Now all
of a sudden, instead of being the object of
ridicule, the boy is the object of sympathy.. The
teacher rushes him downstairs and gives him gym
shorts to put on while his pants dry out. All
the other children are on their hands and knees
cleaning up around his desk. The sympathy is
wonderful . But as life would have it, the
ridicule that should have been his has been
transferred to someone else –

tries to help, but they tell her to get out.
You’ve done enough, you

at the end of the day, as they are waiting for
the bus, the boy walks over to Susie and
whispers, ‘You did that on purpose, didn’t you?’


Received on the Internet without identifying the source (thanks, Gul, for the forward).  


Thinking Out of the Box

Many hundreds of years ago in a small Italian town, a merchant had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant’s beautiful daughter so he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the merchant’s debt if he could marry the merchant’s daughter. Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. The cunning moneylender suggested that they let providence decide the matter.

The moneylender told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. The girl would then have to pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become the moneylender’s wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the merchant’s garden. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick her pebble from the bag.

Now, imagine you were standing in the merchant’s garden. What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her? Careful analysis would produce three possibilities:

1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble – not really a choice for it would send her father to the jail.

2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat – the moneylender was powerful and wily, there would be certainly an exagerated show of hurt and indignation at the head-on allegation and there was no telling how he would turn the tables on her.

3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment – a choice of desparation.

The consequences are not pleasant whichever logical answer she chooses.

The girl’s dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical thinking.

What would you recommend the girl do?

Well, this is what she did:

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

“Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”

Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.


I couldn’t resist including it when I came across a version of it at: ezines@arcamax.com. Here it is, with a little bit of editing.

Sluething with ‘Why? Why?……and Why?’

Here’s an interesting story (slightly edited) of figuring out a simple solution to a bothersome problem, from the site: http://www.idea champions.com/weblogs/archives/2011/05/some_years_ago.shtml:

…Some years ago, there was a big problem at one of America’s most treasured monuments — the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

Simply put, birds — in huge numbers — were pooping all over it, which made visiting the place a very unpleasant experience.

Attempts to remedy the situation caused even bigger problems, since the harsh cleaning detergents being used were damaging the memorial. And the National Parks workers, though not necessarily attracted to the bird poop, were attracted to getting paid — so they spent a lot of their time (and taxpayer money) cleaning the Memorial.

Prima-facie, possible fixes were:

1. Hire more workers to clean the Memorial
2. Ask existing workers to work overtime
3. Experiment with different kinds of cleaning materials
4. Put bird poison all around the memorial
5. Hire hunters to shoot the birds
6. Encase the entire Jefferson Memorial in Plexiglas
7. Move the Memorial to another part of Washington
8. Close the site to the general public

Technically speaking, each of the above “solutions” was a possible approach — but at great cost, inconvenience, and with questionable results.

Fortunately, some of the National Parks managers assigned to the case began asking WHY — as in “Why was the Jefferson Memorial so much more of a target for birds than any of the other memorials?”

A little bit of investigation revealed the following:

The birds were attracted to the Jefferson Memorial because of the abundance of spiders — a gourmet treat for birds.

The spiders were attracted to the Memorial because of the abundance of midges (insects) that were nesting there.

And the midges were attracted to the Memorial because of the light.

Midges, it turns out, like to procreate in places where the light is just so — and because the lights were turned on, at the Jefferson Memorial, one hour before dark, it created the kind of mood lighting that midges went crazy for.

So there you have it: The midges were attracted to the light. The spiders were attracted to the midges. The birds were attracted to the spiders.

How did they resolve the situation? Very simply:

After reviewing the curious chain of events that led up to the problem, the decision was made to wait until dark before turning the lights on at the Jefferson Memorial.

That one-hour delay was enough to ruin the mood lighting for the midges, who then decided to have midge sex somewhere else.

No midges, no spiders. No spiders, no birds. No birds, no poop. No poop, no need to clean the Jefferson Memorial so often. Case closed.

Solved simply by asking WHY…. and then WHY again… and then WHY again!!…

Do we have similar local examples from public or personal experiences?