A number of years ago my Dad found himself in a conversation at a family event with a distant relative he had never met. The man he was speaking with was late in life and had amassed a fortune after a lifetime of building his interests in various manufacturing businesses. He was one of those guys who had definite views on most things, and expected his listeners to basically listen and agree.
During the conversation he conveyed to my Dad his profound annoyance that one of his children – a daughter I believe – was going to major in English in college. He told my Dad “As far as I’m concerned, anyone who doesn’t major in engineering is completely wasting their time”. He evidently went on for some time that an education that doesn’t prepare you to build things isn’t an education at all, etc.
I remember telling my Dad that if I had been there, I would have said, “I disagree with everything you just said”.
Of course, that’s what I would like to think I would have said. Perhaps I would have been less direct (although I don’t think so). Here’s what I told my Dad I would have said:
Because he was curious.
Do you know what class most peaked his interest?
Do you know what it was about calligraphy that caused him to sit in the classes even though he could have been anywhere else?
Because he thought it was beautiful.
Apple – the most highly valued company on the planet for God’s sake – is the product of an alchemy between engineering and beauty. Take either of those away and Apple would be a company you’ve never heard of.
I thought of that conversation this past weekend when I was watching Fareed Zakaria on his weekly CNN Program, Global Public Square. Fareed spoke about the importance of the liberal arts at a graduation address he recently delivered at Sarah Lawrence College. You can watch it here.
On the heels of that, I ran across this article from Harvard Business Review (you can read the beginning of it without a subscription). A large brewer in the EU had an underperforming brand, and ended up hiring some social anthropologists to work the bars and study the interactions between the patrons and the brand, which the anthropologists did “as if they were studying an unfamiliar tribe in Borneo”.
That sounds like a good gig for a social anthropologist, and according to the article it appears it was a good gig for the brewer as well.
An interest in calligraphy leads to fonts….
New fonts support word processing innovations…..
Word processing creates personal computing habits….
Personal computing at the desktop morphs to mobile…..
Apps are created…..
Tablets outsell PCs…..
What’s next? I don’t know for sure, but I’m sure about this:
It will be beautiful.
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