Sunday, October 9, 2011

The College Drop Out that was Steve Jobs' Role Model

By Henry Blodget

Christopher Bonanos writes an essay for the New York Times about another man who blended art and science to produce extraordinary products: Edwin Land of Polaroid.

Steve Jobs idolized Edwin Land, and it's clear he learned a lot from him.

Like Jobs, Land dropped out of college. Like Jobs, Land obsessed about function and form. Like Jobs, Land scoffed at the idea of "market research." (Both men believed that consumers don't know what they want until they see it.)

Like Jobs, Land built a beloved company that was (for a while) the toast of Wall Street and Main Street alike. Like Jobs, Land rolled out his products in gigantic presentations:

Starting in the 60s, he began to turn Polaroid’s shareholders’ meetings into dramatic showcases for whatever line the company was about to introduce. In a perfectly art-directed setting, sometimes with live music between segments, he would take the stage, slides projected behind him, the new product in hand, and instead of deploying snake-oil salesmanship would draw you into Land’s World. By the end of the afternoon, you probably wanted to stay there.

Like Jobs, Land created products that were "coveted luxury objects."

Also like Jobs, Land was tossed out of his company, which then fell on hard times. But unlike Jobs, Land died before he could be brought back to save it.

Steve Jobs knew Edwin Land and thought the world of him:

“The man is a national treasure. I don’t understand why people like that can’t be held up as models: This is the most incredible thing to be — not an astronaut, not a football player — but this.

”Land blew it before leaving Polaroid, spending billions developing an instant movie product called "Polavision," which Sony's Betamax destroyed. At least in his second act at Apple, Jobs made no such mistakes.

Read the rest here.

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