My Steve Jobs problem

In business, and in life, we’d like to believe that good behavior will be rewarded. Most books on management talk about treating people with respect, or being firm but not harsh, or being generous about sharing credit. What goes around comes around, right? Right.

So what are we to make of Steve Jobs?

Walter Isaacson

I’ve just read Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s riveting biography of the Apple founder and CEO. It’s a terrific book, but an unnerving one–because Jobs was successful despite some sneaky dealings, despite his utter lack of interest in corporate social responsibility, at least as it is conventionally defined, and despite treating people in ways that violate most everything that’s taught at business schools, or, for that matter, in kindergarten.

He could be cold, unpleasant, petulant, arrogant, abusive and self-absorbed. What’s more, this dark side of Jobs seems to be  intertwined with his brilliant and obsessive devotion to making great products at Apple. A “demented genius,” one reviewer called him. Having said that, Jobs could also be sweet, vulnerable, boyish, charming and endearing–when he chose to be.

It’s hard to overstate what Jobs accomplished in his 56 years. No, he didn’t cure cancer or alleviate global poverty but he remade a half dozen industries, all with panache: personal computers, music, animated movies (with Pixar), phones, tablet computing and digital publishing. My life is richer, more fun and more productive because of Jobs. I’m writing this on a MacBook, and I own an iPhone4s, an iPad, and a bunch of iPods. I’ve run hundreds of miles with my Nano, loaded with podcasts or music from iTunes, and  I’ve spent, conservatively, close to $10,000 on Apple products for myself, my wife and daughters. [click to continue…]

Daniel Yergin: Why shale gas is like Walmart

The breakthrough energy innovation of the 21st century is not thin-film solar, sophisticated wind turbines, advanced biofuels or small-scale nukes.

It’s shale gas.

So says Daniel Yergin, the energy guru and author of The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World (Penguin, $35), who was interviewed today (Nov. 8) by Walter Isaacson at the Aspen Institute in Washington. Yergin, the best-selling author, consultant and all-around energy guru, is right: The ability to extract natural gas from shale, using a controversial technique known as fracking, is reshaping America’s energy landscape.

“So far this century, this is the biggest innovation in energy, in terms of scale and impact,” Yergin said. He likened its impact on the energy business to the arrival of a new Walmart in town, which shakes up competitors, big and small.

The impact of cheap, abundant natural gas on energy usage has enormous implications for the climate crisis.

Cleaner-burning gas could replace dirty coal as a fuel to generate electricity. Then again, Yergin said: “It’s does create a more challenging marketplace for wind and solar and everything else.” [click to continue…]