The Mad Scientist, the Businessman, the Salesman and the Geek – Part 2

This week, we have selected four of our favourite visionaries to show how different character traits can help someone succeed in the world of science and technology. On Wednesday, we looked at Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Now, we move into the present as we look at two of the most controversial innovators of our time: Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg. We’ve trawled through websites reading some of the most fascinating blogs, interviews and biographies that we could find, and based on what we’ve read, here’s our take on the men behind the inventions.

The Salesperson 

Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, is often regarded as the most successful entrepreneur, visionary and inventor of our time. There is a lot that can be said about Jobs – good and bad – with many stating that he almost singlehandedly shaped the past few decades and paved the way for a more technology-advanced future. It is almost impossible to capture everything about this man in such a small piece, but there are few characteristics that really stand out.

Jobs made design his number one focus. For him, there was no compromise and he had an obsessive quest for perfection. He was a good manager too – he had the ability to get the best out of his team, pushing them to the limit but without going too far. Jobs was the ultimate salesperson with an unbelievable imagination and charisma: he knew how to work a crowd, believing that he could build a company whose products and services would change the world.

Jobs was driven by his passions in all aspects of his life, typically dropping out of college to be an apple selling hippie and a Buddhist. With a strong will to succeed, he worked himself to the bone and, although he had some well documented failures in his life, he never gave up and always found a way to keep going. There is no doubting that Steve had the odd enemy, but this was mostly due to his idiosyncratic behaviour. No-one can deny that he became a true legend of innovative and interactive design.

The Geek 

It is crazy to think that the World’s most popular social networking website was created by someone who has been said to have little or no people skills. Mark Zuckerburg, the creator of Facebook along with his then friends, identified the need for a people directory online. So, although it wasn’t a revolutionary concept with the likes of MySpace around already, it was evolutionary and they were clever enough to identify that there was a strong demand. Zuckerburg went to Harvard and he had a reputation for being a programming whizz. Despite there being a long legal battle into how Facebook was founded, it is a fact that Mark himself created the technical platform for what Facebook became.

Many of you will have seen the film The Social Network and, if you have, you will probably agree that Mark Zuckerburg’s personality didn’t come out of it all that well. He is portrayed as an avid user of Facebook but keeps his private life firmly out of the media spotlight. You can control what you make public on Facebook and that, along with his passion for openness and connecting people, created what we have today. Awkward, shy, yet still a little arrogant, he has a very modest attitude to money and lives a humble existence in comparison to the life he could have.

However, Zuckerburg still shows some of the usual traits of a successful entrepreneur with his drive and persistence giving him the edge over his peers. He knew what he wanted from the outset and his relentless coding enabled him to launch early and catch competitors off guard. He used his university as a testing platform and let the website do the rest. He certainly had an understanding of taking something to market and giving people what they want, combining his talent and his passion to create something great and make him another hugely successful entrepreneur.

So, what have we learnt from Tesla, Edison, Jobs and Zuckerburg? Well, you can take many a salutary lesson from the lives of these innovators but the one that stands out to us is that the idea in itself is simply not enough.

To achieve success, it’s essential that the idea is backed up with all the business skills and resources that will see it achieve its potential. Of course, it needs to be something that people want, but you, the entrepreneur, also have to have the drive and perseverance to make it succeed. Every geek/mad scientist/inventor/visionary needs to either learn the necessary skills or employ them – or you risk losing out to someone with a less brilliant idea but oodles of business savvy.

The Catalyst Centre was created to help turn great ideas into great businesses. Over the coming weeks, we will introduce you to the people and concepts that could help you to turn your idea into a successful enterprise. All you need to do is apply to be considered for the Catalyst Centre by 31st May at www.usspcatalystcentre.org.uk