You've Got to Tell Me What You Want!

After looking at the first commercials for the iPad, [Steve Jobs] tracked down the copywriter, James Vincent, and told him, “Your commercials suck.”

“Well, what do you want?” Vincent shot back. “You’ve not been able to tell me what you want.”

“I don’t know,” Jobs said. “You have to bring me something new. Nothing you’ve shown me is even close.”

Vincent argued back and suddenly Jobs went ballistic. “He just started screaming at me,” Vincent recalled. Vincent could be volatile himself, and the volleys escalated.

When Vincent shouted, “You’ve got to tell me what you want,” Jobs shot back, “You’ve got to show me some stuff, and I’ll know it when I see it.”


I’d be furious too, hearing “nothing you’ve shown me is even close” from someone who has nothing constructive.

But, people who can’t make music can have definite musical tastes waiting to be fit with that perfectly arousing key. And they’d never get anything surprisingly good if they gave specific artistic direction to the composer.

I wonder if people are under-creative when following orders by default, and can really benefit from this sort of badgering. I don’t believe the cliche “soft bigotry of low expectations” is generally the right explanation for underachievement, but maybe when it comes to satisfying the boss’s aesthetic, artistic courage typically earns insulting little rejections-by-tweak.