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What your work says about you

By BS Strategist Team
March 25, 2008 13:12 IST
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When we first went looking for men and women who are alive at work, we went to visit SAS institute, the most successful privately held software firm in the world.

In addition to some of the most sophisticated business intelligence software in the world, SAS is known for its country club-like campus and how well it takes care of its employees.

We talked to two software engineers, and we asked about the perks at SAS - on-site day care, 36,000 square-foot fitness facility, eight full-time trainers, gourmet dining rooms, thirty-five-hour work week, and a fifty-five-staff member medical clinic - they said the benefits were great, but the really cool thing was getting to create exotic software. What mattered most to them was the work. It was that meaningful to them.

Given that SAS invests 25 percent of its top line in research and development, this should come as no surprise. Every day these guys go to work, they are absolutely convinced that the software they build enables companies all over the globe to do things they simply were not capable of doing before SAS came along.

To know that our work counts is to know that we count. The projects you are working on today are statements about who you are, what you think, and how you feel. This begs the obvious question: What do your projects say about you?

Further, what do they say about your attitude? About the brand you are building within your organization?

How you answer these questions determines how alive and engaged you are and how meaningful your work is. It has an impact on the levels of passion and commitment you bring to your work and ultimately how fulfilling your life will be.

Tony Campolo described the work of his father, and how it provided meaning to his life. He said, "My dad was a craftsman. He worked for RCA making stereo cabinets, back in the days when the wood cabinets were handcrafted. Inevitably we would visit someone's home who had the model my dad made. I would run to my dad and whisper in his ear, 'Dad, it's one of yours, it's one of yours!' and my dad would smile with satisfaction, because on the back of the the cabinet was hand-etched the signature of the cabinetmaker."

Tony may have come from a poor Italian family, but his father had a sense of pride and dignity about his work - he was engaged in his work because his work mattered.

Meaningful work doesn't just belong to old-world craftsmen, though. Meaningful work happens even in big corporations. And when it does, it makes them even bigger.

In the early 1980s, at a time when the name IBM was synonymous with the words personal computer, Steve Jobs brought a group of people together at Apple who deeply believed in their ability to reimagine the future by creating a computer that would be understood intuitively and that could make personal computing user-friendly and fun. Jobs and his team became catalysts to an event of historical proportion - the creation of Macintosh.

Lift the casing off the first Macs and you will find etched inside the signatures of the project team - so passionate about their product that they changed the world! Think we are exaggerating?

In the last twenty years, Jobs and the company have brought the world three "game changers" - the Apple IIe, which created personal computing; the Macintosh, which brought personal computing to everyday users; and the iPod, along with its cohort iTunes, which transformed the way we access and listen to music. Each of these products set an industry standard. Each rewrote the rules by which others would have to play the game.

As we write, Jobs and company just introduced the iPhone, a revolutionary new mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet communications device all in one product. The fanatics at Apple are working on really cool stuff, stuff that makes a difference in people's lives, stuff that matters.

Walk into any Apple store and you can feel the buzz. You quickly get the sense that these Mac fanatics love what they do. Their contagious enthusiasm spills out onto the customers and turns them into fanatics as well. During our work on this book, the power supply on Kevin's Macintosh burned up, destroying the processor along with it.

At 4:00 on a Friday afternoon, Kevin took it into the Genius Bar at our local Apple store and explained how mission critical his computer was to our project. The technican indicated that it could take three to four days to fix the problem. The same day, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Kevin got a call from Mac genius John Nunes, indicating that his Mac was fixed and could be picked up first thing in the morning.

When Kevin questioned what John was still doing at the store late on a Friday night, the reply was, "We knew you needed it right away; besides, we love this stuff; we're always here late."

Why are Apple customers so loyal? Steve Jobs would tell you it's the passion behind the product. He said: It's because when you buy our products, and three months later you get stuck on something, you quickly figure out [how to get past it]. And you think, "Wow, someone over there at Apple actually thought of this!" And then three months later you try to do something you hadn't tried before, and it works, and you think, "Hey, they thought of that, too."

And then six months later it happens again. There's almost no product in the world that you have that experience with, but you have it with a Mac. And you have it with an iPod. (The Seed of Apple's Innovation," BusinessWeek, October 12, 2004)

Apparently, now you can have it with the iPhone too. Apple just dropped the word Computer from its name. Now, it is known more simply as Apple, Inc., to better reflect its steady but relentless passion to change the world of consumer electronics.

BOOM, with a portfolio now spanning software, retail, the online distribution of electronic media, home entertainment, digital audio players, cell phones, and computers, Apple is serious about expanding its repertoire of work that matters.


Authors: Kevin and Jackie Freiberg
Publisher: Westland Books
Pages: 286
Price: Rs 395

Reproduced with permission

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