Saturday, January 30, 2010

Napoleon Hill on the iPad

Am I the only editor in all of publishing who has not printed something, anything at all, over the past month about Apple's iPad, which was finally unveiled this week? Maybe so. My media compatriots certainly got feverish in their coverage about the "coming down from the mount" of Steve Jobs's new tablet computer.

Well, this editor doesn't want be thought of as a total nihilist about new technology, so let us go ahead and put our "Boards At Their Best" two cents in. To wit: What would Napoleon Hill have to say about the iPad?

Napoleon Hill is the renowned author of the mega-inspirational (and mega-selling) Think and Grow Rich (pictured here in 1937 holding his famous book). A close reading of his life shows that he is a big idea kind of guy.

Is the iPad really the big idea that it has been made out to be in the breathless coverage? In a book published last year, Napoleon Hill's Golden Rules: The Lost Writings (John Wiley & Sons), Hill rendered his verdict on what makes a big idea:

"One big idea is all that any person really needs or can make use of in this life. Too many of us go through life with plenty of little ideas clinging to us, but with no really big idea.

"When you find your big idea, more likely than not you will find it in some sort of service that will be of constructive help to your fellowmen. It may be the idea of lowering the cost to the consumer of some necessity of life; or, it may be the idea of helping men and women to be more cheerful and happy in their work by creating some plan for improving their working environment. If it doesn't promise some of these results, you may be reasonably sure that it is not a big idea."

One analyst seems to be smack dab in Hill's camp when he told the Wall Street Journal that for the iPad to be successful "it has to fit into the user's daily life." Silicon Valley Insider, one of my favorite blogs about technology, seems to think this is exactly what will happen when you read this conclusion.

And yet . . . along with the praise has come a fair amount of scorn by product analysts. No need to go into the pros and cons of the iPad's capabilities. All we'll conclude here in our little corner of blogdom on leadership insights is this: a close reading of Napoleon Hill's specs for a big idea makes one skeptical that he would regard the iPad as meeting that designation.