Leaders: How strong is your system for growth? Will it change the world?

steve-jobs-quoteLast week we talked about helping others grow so they can achieve their maximum potential.  What happens when you are no longer there to offer your help – will the growth continue? Will you have changed the world?

It’s not automatic you know. Long before I arrived the Earth was spinning, the sun was shining, and the seasons came and went. I am very sure that these systems will continue long after I am gone.

Robert Frost once said, “In three words I can sum up all I’ve learned about life; it goes on.”  That is all that is guaranteed.

Apple founder Steve Jobs said he “Wanted to make a small dent in the universe.” Did he?

The world has been changed for sure by the products that came from his ideas and his companies:  The iPhone and iPad from Apple have revolutionized the personal computer industry.  Almost everything has become a touch screen now.  The Animated Film Industry has risen to a level of respect right alongside live action movies thanks to Pixar.  Are these the small dents that he was talking about?

Jobs gave a memorable commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 that told three short stories about his life and his accomplishments.  He ended his speech with these words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” I think that phrase is the dent that Steve Jobs made in the universe.  It isn’t the tools themselves that he created, but the passion for innovation.

In an interview in Business Week Jobs talked about his system for growth: “The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about…innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem… it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much… it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

How can you tell if your system for growth will work when you are not there – before you’re not there?

Do members of your team come up with new ideas that follow your basic principles but you can’t imagine ever thinking of yourself?

Do the processes and plans you put in place work even better now when someone on your team takes over responsibility for them?

Do you call meetings to discuss your new strategic vision and everyone gets it within the first five minutes?

Do you find out about completed projects after they are long complete and wish you knew earlier?  Not because you would have changed it, but because you would have liked to talked to the project owners and learned a thing or two.

Will what you built stand on its own? Will it change the world? How strong is your system for growth?