Steve Jobs offers us this definition of terrific design: “You know a design is good when you want to lick it.” (From Design: Intelligence Made Visible, Stephen Bayley & Terence Conran)

My “lick-worthy” candidate: my Western Digital 160 gigabyte external hard drive. It is sleek and black and austere—and though I haven’t licked it, I have indeed fondled it.

(And hats off to Mr Jobs and company for stupendous earnings reported the day before yesterday. The company has been loved for “cool” and excoriated for not doing as well financially as Microsoft, a direct result of Steve’s often unpleasant “I want it my way” mantra. Now Microsoft and Dell have a bushel of problems—and no obvious solutions since innovative leaps have not been their forte. Apple has stuck to their absurdly high new-product standard for decades, except in Jobs’ absence, and, despite barbs and arrows and bad spells, it has paid off. Moreover, if innovation is your forte, when trouble arises your “fallback” is your forte.)

(Is my tribute to Jobs-innovation contrary to my tribute to Coach Schembechler-execution? Sure. So what? Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Bob Waterman found that one, and we used it as a chapter epigraph in In Search of Excellence. In Thriving on Chaos, I claimed that the #1 trait of a successful leader is “managing paradox.”)

Tom Peters posted this on October 24, 2007, in Design.
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