Posts Tagged ‘Jony Ive’

I believe that you can learn a lot about people through the things they fill their heads with. Over time the mechanisms for this process have grown in number and availability. Once people would travel great distances seeking out teachers. Of course if you were powerful enough you could have them come to you. Once we managed to get the teaching down in permanent (well mostly) form, you didn’t actually need to bother with the whole physical presence thing. Still the needing the scribe thing made this practical only for the silly rich. By the time we get to the 20th century the super clever public library idea meant that you could recommend a book to someone without running the risk that their dog would eat the only copy for a thousand miles. The mid 20th century added audio and by the end video to the menu. With the advent of the internet, we could not only find materials to borrow from libraries with ridiculous ease, but could reserve it and get an email when it was ready for pickup. Then came the Kindle, Zinio, Netflix and the iTunes store. Now if someone is ingesting some bit of knowledge, in all likelihood, you can too (and within minutes).

So, what’s with the Burke-ian prologue?

Well, I was reading The New Yorker‘s article The Shape of Things to Come, about Jony Ive and the future of Apple. Among the bits of past, present and impact; was a fascinating bit. Ive was watching Moon Machines [iTunes Store]. Not expected that.

I’ve always been a bit of a space wonk, so I was interested just on the face of it. What I found fascinating was that a person born in 1967 England best know for early 21st century industrial design saw something of interest in a series dedicated to the United States’ Apollo program.

Having now watched the series, there are things that jump out at me. As with every time I take in something that’s been recommended (if person with the time constraints of a SVP at Apple mentions that they see value the spending time, that’s a hint one would be ill advised not to take advantage of), I strive to understand how it relates to the person, their work and goals. Ive’s comment speaks volumes.

… like the Apollo program, the creation of Apple products required “invention after invention after invention that you would never be conscious of, but that was necessary to do something that was new.”

The Apollo program was a tech start-up writ large. The goal was abstract; the time tables unyielding; the cost astronomical (literally); the toll on people and their relationships severe. In the end, the successes were ascendant and the failures devastating. The six episodes take on major aspects which had to work together in order to assure the success of the program.

The lessons of Apollo are applicable to endeavors in science, business, politics and design. Issues of control, quality, planning, communication and contingency are laid bare. As are their failures. Of particular distinction are the moments of crisis. Unlike anything before or since, we have documentation of and visibility into the people who stepped up to lead their teams and the processes through which they overcame them.

In an era of ever-increasing abstraction and the misplaced belief that you don’t actually need to understand how things work in order to produce something of quality, Moon Machines provides timely lessons. The quality of the end product begins with the confluence of domain and technology, not the application of one to the other. The speed and manner of disposing problems during a crisis depends greatly on the depth of understanding extant in the team of the two questions: What do I have? and What do I need? As well as the understanding of how to get to the latter using the former.

In the end, I have a greater admiration of those involved in Apollo thanks to a comment by Jony Ive.

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