Apple unveils iPad 2 in San Francisco, reminds us of the stories we should tell every day

iPad 2 with Covers

It happened. As was widely rumored and feverishly anticipated by technology pundits around the world, iconic Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2 at a media event yesterday in San Francisco. It's all really very exciting and whatnot, and the device is fascinating, useful, super-duper, etc. But the launch yesterday represents a much more interesting undercurrent in the market place for post-PC devices. The biggest question from yesterday's event?

What is wrong with every single competitor in this space?

Apple introduced the iPad 1 last year, around the same time. In the year since, Samsung has come out with a tablet running the Android operating system. Blackberry maker RIM has repeatedly announced that their tablet will be fantastic. If you have a Blackberry. And it's on, and in your pocket. They've been talking about their tablet for months with no sure sign that it's ever going to launch apart from a few happy demos at a recent technology trade event. The press seems to be aflutter with the new Motorola Xoom tablet, though Motorola can't seem to manufacture the darned things in a way that they can come anywhere close to Apple on price--the Xoom starts at $800, almost twice as much as the starting price of the iPad.

This is simply starting to look embarrassing. But there's a story here, and it's buried in this quote from Carolina Milanesi from Gartner:

Competitors are making the same mistake that mobile vendors made with their response to iPhone: they are making the battle about hardware, and with tablets this is even less the case than it was for smartphones. What you are empowered to do with your tablet makes the difference.

Apple's story has always been one of nuance, not muscle. It's about how these devices are beautiful, and at the same time invisible, allowing users to do what they want more fluidly than ever before. For Apple, these devices are a means to delivering service to users; whether that's delivering the latest books, movies, and music in a best-in-class experience, or providing a platform for developers to write great apps to do the same for their own users. This is how Apple changes the world every day, by building the tools and technologies that so elegantly convince users that they can do the same.

That's also why it's much more fun to talk about Apple than so many of their competitors. Because at the end of the day, we should all be able to look back at the activity in our own service centers and claim that we were able to deliver the same best-in-class service to our customers that Apple delivers to theirs. In higher ed, can you say that about financial aid? Administration? Facilities? Contrary to what we often trick ourselves into believing, all the towers of pomp and circumstance exist to support one core mission: to create a best-in-class environment for our students such that they may go forth and change the world themselves.

Develop grit, get things done, and achieve results for yourself and your team

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently - Heidi Grant Halvorson

Heidi Grant Halvorson has a good post this morning on traits of successful people -- specifically, what successful people do to achieve the goals they set for themselves. From Halvorson:

Grit is a willingness to commit to long-term goals, and to persist in the face of difficulty. Studies show that gritty people obtain more education in their lifetime, and earn higher college GPAs. Grit predicts which cadets will stick out their first grueling year at West Point. In fact, grit even predicts which round contestants will make it to at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.


The good news is, if you aren't particularly gritty now, there is something you can do about it. People who lack grit more often than not believe that they just don't have the innate abilities successful people have. If that describes your own thinking .... well, there's no way to put this nicely: you are wrong.

What's more? The same can be said of ineffective teams. Just as people have individual personalities and behaviors, so do teams and departments. Any group of people working together to achieve an objective can be changed, modeled, and driven in such a way that they develop grit -- they create in themselves a more single-minded passion for achieving results.

Halvorson's post is a great read this Friday -- a terrific reminder on how top performers achieve results as individuals, and as teams.


Professor Michael Roberto's Blog: Can You Identify Star Employees Early On?

Professor Michael Roberto's Blog: Can You Identify Star Employees Early On?

The good professor Roberto offers an interesting find today. He's discussing how organizational leaders find high potential future leaders among entry-level ranks:

They must think about the skills and capabilities required to succeed in future leadership positions and look for signs of potential in those areas, rather than simply looking at task performance in the entry level job. After all, good technical skills often make you stand out in an entry-level job, but those capabilities don't mean you have great leadership potential. In addition, companies need to watch for the late bloomers, who perhaps take awhile to find their footing.

This is absolutely one of the top areas for improvement: promotion expertise across institutions. The great assumption -- that current performance is the primary key indicator for success as a future manager -- is rendered false with one quick swipe of the sword of leadership truth: performing a task is a different role than managing others who are performing that task.

Different jobs.

Different sports.

Not even in the same ballpark.

Too often, we see directors promote top-performing employees to team managers based on performance in the role. The logic is sound on the surface:

  1. the employee is a top performer therefore they have a deep understanding of the role and what it takes to be successful
  2. they have a track record of success which will help them build a relationship of trust with their new employees
  3. they understand the metrics by which their performance is being measured, and so on, and so on.

All these things are true.

But the challenges that come from management are so often unrelated to functional performance of the team. Managing people requires a unique skillset, one many are not prepared to learn, understand, and deliver if all they've done is the entry-level functional role. And don't forget: these promotions tend to leave a bigger hole in the team than anticipated -- promoting a top performer to middle management creates a vacuum of lost productivity in the seat they once filled.