If You Don’t Speak, He Can’t Listen

On July 18, 2002, in Opinion, by Mark A Collins

By the time you read this, MacWorld Expo will have come and gone. New announcements will be unveiled. Either Steve Jobs will rock the Mac community, or he will disappoint them. Either is fine with me. Steve Jobs has a real balancing act on his hand. On the one hand, you have Mac rumor and regular news sites whose appetite for new Mac gear exceeds the laws of physics, business profitability, and any one person’s imagination. On the other hand, Steve must manage to excite Mac users with Apple’s new gear if it wants to continue to make a profit. This leads to MacWorld Post Depression Syndrome. The realization that Apple can’t make phasers, quantum torpedoes, or warp drive for your new iMac.

Progress comes, but often times it comes slowly. The economics of production and market support limit how much coolness Apple can release at a time. There is also the limiting factor of a “strategy”, which channels the direction of Apple’s R&D efforts. Sorry kids, no phasers anytime soon.

All of this can make a Mac user tend to feel helpless in the face of the revolving state of the industry. After all, what can a single person do to affect the outcome of the industry? There is an ancient Incan Shaman saying about that. You can shape the future of the world if you don’t mind not getting the credit for it.

Now, this can’t include product designs, specifications, or anything that is copyrightable or patentable. But they can include basic ideas. Ideas for upgrades on existing products. Ideas for new products, as long as they are vague, and completely non-technical.

When I worked for Apple, I made many mistakes. Most of them were because I was burned out. Not from my job at Apple, but from taking care of my mother who was dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I was bored in my job there, and had no creative outlet. I had no obvious paths for advancement within the organization. And all my time outside of work was spent taking care of my mother. She was the most wonderful person you could ever hope to meet. I cherish all of the time that I spent with her. However, it took a while before I grew up enough as a person to be able to handle the challenges the situation presented in stride.

And as a result, I did some very stupid things. But, I made a difference. While working for Apple, I emailed Steve with some ideas of mine. Most of them have manifested in product features of some sort, while others have not. After being fired from Apple, I continued to email Steve Jobs. Despite the fact that I was canned for being a bad boy, he still responded and listened. Several more of my ideas made it into reality in the form of their products.

Now, I’m not saying that I was the cause of these ideas coming to fruition. Steve or his teams may have already been thinking along the same lines. But in either case, my input made a difference because it cemented the fact that this was a viable path to follow. I will refrain from publicly listing my suggestions, after all, who’s to say Apple didn’t already have those product half completed by the time I suggested it… we may have just been thinking along the same lines.

But for the shear number of ideas I submitted, 90% are either a reality now, or have been speculated as being announced soon. I would say that this indicates one thing: Steve actually listens.

But, when you go off to email Steve Jobs directly, please keep the following things in mind. 1) Don’t waste his time. Make sure your ideas are both marketable, economic for Apple to produce and make a profit off of, and technologically feasible. 2) Be specific in terms of form, but not technical. Anything that could possibly be patented or copyrighted will be refused outright. Just make suggestions. And 3) Be patient. Nothing happens overnight.

I know that there are critics out there that will refute this article because I refuse to publicly list my submitted ideas. And that’s fine with me. This is not about me getting credit for anything. The sole purpose of this article is to empower you, the creative mind, with the inspiration to change the future more towards your liking. Email Steve and give him your well thought out ideas. Don’t expect a response. When you do get a response, receive it graciously, even if he calls you a freaking idiot. ;-) But the point is don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop trying. The future is just an email away.


Mark A. Collins

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