One of the most important biographers in America, Walter Isaacson, sat down with me for this week’s episode of the Pickens Podcast. Walter is the head of The Aspen Institute, and presides over the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is currently underway in Aspen. The Aspen Institute has a great deal of influence over the thinking and direction of some of our best business people, politicians, and academics.
When I asked him what is the biggest change he’s seen over the past 20 years, Walter went directly to the vast number of choices that individual consumers of news have available. “There were three or four weekly magazines; a similar number of national newspapers and three networks.” As Walter Cronkite said at the end of every newscast: “That’s the way it is.” There’s no one who can say that anymore.
Now, he said, a constant stream of information is available to support whatever you thought in the first place. “If you think the President was born in Kenya, there will be a site that will tell you ‘that’s true.’”
Add cable news and talk radio and “we have less of a common bond of shared information,” Isaacson told me. “We can all have our different opinions, but we should all share the same facts.”
Walter has written best-selling biographies of Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Henry Kissinger, and, of course, Steve Jobs. He told me that the most successful people – the men and women who have changed the course of history – were those who could “stand at the intersection of art and technology.” Leonardo Da Vinci, for instance, is known as a great artist, but thought of himself as an engineer.
He told me something he learned from Steve Jobs that surprised him – but didn’t surprise me. When Isaacson asked Jobs what he considered to be his most important invention, Jobs didn’t say the iPhone or Mac. He said it was learning to put together teams that could go on inventing great products.
I’ve said many times, “You win with a team. And, I’m a good team builder.”