General Magic is a documentary telling the story of Marc Porat, a man who decided to create the future he saw in his crystal ball in the early 80s – the smartphone that would eventually become ubiquitous.
But General Magic is more than just the story of a man with an idea. It’s the story of success and failure.
The team Porat brought together had almost everything we look for at Six when we’re helping to build a strong internal culture: expertise, experience, specialism, passion – and, perhaps most importantly, a common vision.
“When people are self-managing, they don’t need to be managed. What they need is a common vision. Once they know what to do, they’ll figure out how to do it.” – Steve Jobs
The energy coming out of Porat’s team and the level of creative thinking is so powerful that you wish you’d been there to be part of that journey. They speak about passion, describing it as “the thing that breaks through logic and makes you try to get every part right. Not because of some science but because of your feeling, pride and desire to do something great”. For them, anything was possible, because nobody could prove to them it wasn’t.
Unfortunately, what General Magic lacked was a strategy and purposeful leadership. They were relying on their innovation to reinvent boundaries, on their inventions to create the demand. For a while, everything was wonderful. They made enormous leaps and bounds.
But costs started to mount. Pressures bubbled. Without clear leadership or a management structure to keep projects and minds focused and cost-effective, the organisation began to crumble. Their passion, without that vital roadmap, became a handicap.
Ultimately, they had to surrender passion and listen to reason. They were forced to release a product – but it was too late. Former friend and now competitor Apple got there first. The smartphone Porat dreamed of took over the world, but General Magic didn’t survive to see it happen.
The documentary left me with one big question: What could they have done differently?
I think the answer is something we know so well at Six – you need a set of strategic objectives and robust plan in place if you want to run a successful business. Whether we’re planning a small email campaign or a major rebrand, everything needs a strategic backbone, as well as a way of measuring the success of the plan. It has to, or you risk it all falling apart.
And to bring the plan to fruition, you need leaders with a clear sense of purpose. Purpose is the tool that makes dreams a reality. But it can be a tricky thing to pin down – which is why we’ve created a leadership toolkit to help anybody find their own purpose.
The world Marc Porat envisioned really did appear. It just wasn’t him who made it happen. It was the people with real strategies. The visionaries who led with purpose.