Just before the Mac is born, a strange request from Steve Jobs

He asked some industrial designers to come up with something that was “Bob Dylan songs”. His cryptic demands have been described as ‘intentionally unreasonable’. But maybe that’s why they worked.

The Mac might have never been. The Apple Lisa, its predecessor, may have been too far ahead of its time and was an unaffordable flop. The Mac was regarded as a ‘cut-down, affordable Lisa’. The untold story of Jobs’ surreal briefing of Frog Design, beginning in 1982, years before the Mac launch, crops up unexpectedly in the middle of this recent talk about disruptive innovation.

If that brief excursion into the back story of Steve Jobs and his role in the history of design innovation has whetted your appetite as far as the early days of Mac design are concerned, you’ll definitely want to watch the video below, which includes discussions with those directly involved in Steve Jobs’ Bob Dylan songs episode :

The other area of interest for me in the first video was the ideas of Paul Romer about innovation. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

“Ideas are the recipes we use to rearrange things to create new value and wealth” Frog Design Fellow Luke Williams reading of Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Romer

“Economic growth occurs whenever people take resources and rearrange them in ways that are more valuable.

A useful metaphor for production in an economy comes from the kitchen.

To create valuable final products, we mix inexpensive ingredients together according to a recipe.

The cooking one can do is limited by the supply of ingredients, and most cooking in the economy produces undesirable side effects.

If economic growth could be achieved only by doing more and more of the same kind of cooking, we would eventually run out of raw materials and suffer from unacceptable levels of pollution and nuisance.

History teaches us, however, that economic growth springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking.

New recipes generally produce fewer unpleasant side effects and generate more economic value per unit of raw material.

Every generation has perceived the limits to growth that finite resources and undesirable side effects would pose if no new recipes or ideas were discovered.

And every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas.

We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered. Possibilities do not add up. They multiply

The talk in the first video was given by Frog Design Fellow Luke Williams on August the 20th 2011 Luke has written a book on disruptive innovation called: Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business The talk in the second video included noted industrial designer and IDEO co-founder Bill Moggridge moderating a panel including Jerry Manock, designer of the Apple II, Apple III and the original Mac and Robert Brunner, head of Apple’s newly-formed Industrial Design Group (IDg) in 1990 that produced the PowerBook, Color Classic, and LC 520. The talk was given on June the 4th, 2007.