This piece about Steve Jobs’ admiration for Edwin Lands, the founder of Polaroid, had a bunch of interesting bits to pull out.
At Polaroid, Land used to hire Smith Collegeâ€™s smartest art-history majors and send them off for a few science classes, in order to create chemists who could keep up when his conversation turned from Maxwellâ€™s equations to Renoirâ€™s brush strokes.
Most of all, Land believed in the power of the scientific demonstration. Starting in the 60s, he began to turn Polaroidâ€™s shareholdersâ€™ 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 Landâ€™s World. By the end of the afternoon, you probably wanted to stay there.
The two men met at least twice. John Sculley, the Apple C.E.O. who eventually clashed with Jobs, was there for one meeting, when Jobs made a pilgrimage to Landâ€™s labs in Cambridge, Mass., and wrote in his autobiography that both men described a singular experience: â€œDr. Land was saying: â€˜I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me, before I had ever built one.â€™ And Steve said: â€˜Yeah, thatâ€™s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.â€™ He said, If I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like, they couldnâ€™t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it, so I had to go and create it and then show it to people and say, â€˜Now what do you think?â€™â€
The worldview he was describing perfectly echoed Landâ€™s: â€œMarket research is what you do when your product isnâ€™t any good.â€ And his sense of innovation: â€œEvery significant invention,â€ Land once said, â€œmust be startling, unexpected, and must come into a world that is not prepared for it. If the world were prepared for it, it would not be much of an invention.â€ Thirty years later, when a reporter asked Jobs how much market research Apple had done before introducing the iPad, he responded, â€œNone. It isnâ€™t the consumersâ€™ job to know what they want.â€
Chris drew the quotation from the title of this post.