Jim Duffy: Let’s hear it for unreasonable people ... like me

Steve Jobs succeeded through being unreasonable, a strength of character admired by Jim Duffy

Steve Jobs succeeded through being unreasonable, a strength of character admired by Jim Duffy

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We need more like Steve Jobs, because sticking to the status quo and seeking consensus does not work says Jim Duffy

I think it’s fair to say that we all know the fable of Apple and how this wonderful invention has come about. It’s all painted as a fairytale where Steve Jobs and his merry crew set about changing the world. Everything was rosy in the garden and it all ended happy ever after – albeit Steve Jobs had some terrible luck in the health department. This is a pity because I think he would have had a lot more to do in changing the world or indeed fighting the Irish government tax case imposed by the EU. But, the truth is Apple under his leadership was a tough place to be. Steve Jobs was an unreasonable man... and I think he would have thanked me for categorising him as such. And if Scotland and the UK are to prosper in the next decade, they need more unreasonable people.

I don’t really care for the term “Marmite”, implying you either like someone or you don’t – or you like an idea or you don’t. It kinda sits on a 50:50 basis, where half the people you interact with like you and the cut of your gib, while the other 50 per cent don’t really buy into you or what you have to say. For me, this is politics ... and politics costs us all time and money.

In politics, one side puts forward an argument, for example let’s become an independent nation. A play is made on why we should do it and how we will do it. Those who want independence will be full of enthusiasm for the speaker and advocate, while those who are against it will give reasons as to why it is a bad idea. In between all this, there will be a lot of mumbo jumbo and then emotions kick in. Things get personal, arguments get heated, internet trolls fire up and political strategists kick in. Herein we have a marmite situation. And based on the polls just now, Scotland looks a bit marmite. I’m not looking for marmite to be honest, I’m looking for one hell of a lot more – and it will take an unreasonable politician or proponent of either side to convince me otherwise.

Why? Because I am unreasonable. It’s probably why my best friend (and we’ve been here before) is a Hungarian Vizsla called Belle. We get on so well, but like most dogs out there, she doesn’t read my column, so she still thinks I’m a swell guy. I like being unreasonable and asking really hard questions of people. I’m going to say that I think it’s a quality. A quality some may say – really!? You’re including unreasonableness in the same bracket as qualities such as honesty, integrity, patience or decisiveness, Duffy!? Yes, I am – and if we stopped pussy-footing about and started asking unreasonable questions, we might get to the bottom of things a lot more quickly. Clarity in arguments, agendas and forums would be so much more attainable to allow speedier breakthroughs to be made. Scotland nor the UK will make any real progress as economies unless more accountability is factored into those charged with leading us in business and politics. And right now we are all being far too reasonable.

Steve Jobs started and ran a private company. There was no doubt he was the boss and the man at the helm. He demanded first class, world class and the best from his leadership team and colleagues. They knew that and that’s why many of them worked there. Mediocrity and middle of the road did not feature in his vocabulary and psyche. His unreasonableness ensured Apple became number 1 and disrupted so many other business models and industries. It was his sharp elbows that hustled and sparked Apple to greatness. But, we are happy to whitewash this with the fairytale as quite rightly we focus on the products and services Apple sells. Nevertheless, he made it happen, and we need more like him.

The lesson in all of this is that 
status quo and consensus does not get the job done. Giving political answers does not get the job done. Not answering the question does not get the job done. Spinning the truth for the masses does not get the job done. In politics, Nigel Farage was unreasonable and drove his EU colleagues round the bend, but he created change and one we will all have to live with. My question is: how unreasonable will both sides be on Scottish independence to truly win me over and effect change one way or the other? I don’t want a half- baked argument or a cry of Braveheart. I want a Steve Jobs styled politician who will tell me like it is.

George Bernard Shaw wrote: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

So my questions are: How unreasonable will you be in your organisation to effect change? Can you be the next Steve Jobs?

lAgitator and disrupter Jim Duffy is Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark

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