The Christian Science Monitor

black.polly

Steve Jobs: what can we learn from how he lived: How do we grow more “mad thinkers” like Steve Jobs? This is where many in higher-education circles have paid close attention, says Polly Black, director of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. Wake Forest’s entrepreneurship program, she says, flows from Jobs’s extreme and passionate focus on “making meaning, not money.”

The program is a minor, housed inside the liberal-arts curriculum, “for a reason,” Ms. Black says. “We want people to see the larger connections between ideas and disciplines.”

She is quick to add that the wedding of the practical and the visionary is inextricably tied to lessons from Jobs’s life. “Jobs remained remarkably aligned with consumers, insisting their point of view came first,” she says, adding that his focus on consumer needs helped him create products that slid into the right place, just before consumers realized they needed that product.

Jobs surrounded himself with savvy people, says Black. “Jobs had the vision but needed a team to help build it out,” she says, noting that he believed strongly in the team function at Apple and considered everyone an integral part of the company’s success. His final email, she says, started out: “Team …”

The Wake Forest program encourages students to work in teams made up of people whose strengths differ from one another, Black says. The university seeds start-ups on campus, she notes, which gives students an opportunity to safely experience another important life lesson from the Jobs narrative – how to learn from failure.

“Jobs was fired from his own company,” Black says with a laugh, yet he never lost his focus or his passion and came back bigger than ever.

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