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30 minutes with Woz

Takeaways from a tech giant

It was a pleasure to host Steve “Woz” Wozniak as part of our Vocus Inspire series.

The American engineer, philanthropist, and tech entrepreneur who co-founded Apple Inc, joined Andrew Wildblood, our Chief Executive, Enterprise and Government, in a conversation exploring innovation, entrepreneurship, and the early days of one of the world’s most successful tech companies.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the territory we covered with Steve and some insights he shared.

Reflecting on the early days of Apple: When quizzed about his original motivation for designing the Apple I and Apple II personal computers, Steve shared that he was driven by his love of engineering and building, and also his desire to extend access to personal computing to as many people as possible.

He reflected that when he and Steve Jobs established Apple, what they lacked in business experience and financial support, they made up for with great ideas and a high level of motivation. He said in the early days, they played complementary roles in the company, with Jobs focused on building the business and company profile, whilst Steve remained behind the scenes as engineer and product builder.

Crucial to the company’s early success was that they were in tune with the emerging needs of consumers, accurately predicting that personal computers for education, work, and gaming would be important. This helped to put them well in front of other major players in the industry.

Creating an innovative culture within organisations: Steve pointed out that driving an entrepreneurial mindset and culture of creativity becomes more difficult in larger organisations. He said innovation often comes from lower levels in the hierarchy and, as a result, it can be stifled from top-down protocols and management structures.

To drive innovation, Steve said organisations need to have a Chief Disruption Officer (CDO), someone whose job it is to say ahead of trends and assess future possibilities—and they should not be located in the same city as the CEO.

He said the role should report to the board, not the CEO, as the CEO’s job is to focus on the day-to-day running of the organisation and how it maintains its financial health, while the CDO’s job should be to look at new opportunities for the business.

Tech trends over the next 5-10 years: Steve said he hopes to see outcomes from quantum computing technology, as it has been talked about for a long time. He said he expects artificial intelligence (AI) to be a driving force, but that it has been incorrectly named. He said AI’s value is in fast computing and using algorithms to solve problems, but it’s often missing the innate intelligence found in humans.

Challenges for the tech industry: Wrapping up, Steve identified some challenges for the tech industry. He said rather than have technology designed to replace humans, we needed technology to be more human-like in order to increase its effectiveness. He cited examples of how we frequently still need humans to help us when we encounter a problem or need to solve a complex issue.

Steve said more could be done to increase trust between brands and consumers. He gave the example of models that enable people to subscribe to ad-free experiences when online, in order to avoid spam.

Additionally, he said not enough focus was given to creating local back-up systems for technology to keep devices operational if or when cloud platforms went down or connectivity was not available.

We were grateful to have Steve join us for another quality event in our Vocus Inspire series. Keep an eye out for future Vocus Inspire events by following Vocus on LinkedIn.