What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Debate in the Workplace  


What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Debate in the Workplace – NBC News



Steve Jobs once told the story of going over to a neighbor’s house as a kid. The neighbor asked him to collect rocks in the yard. Steve collected a few and handed them over to the neighbor, who threw them into a tin can with some liquid and sandy grit, shut the lid, and turned on a motor which rotated the can. Over a terrible racket, the neighbor asked Steve to come back the next day. When he returned, the neighbor turned off the rock tumbler and pulled out the stones. Steve was astounded to see how beautiful they had become, polished and shiny.

Years later, he likened debate on a team to that rock tumbler. There’s a lot of noise, a lot of friction, but out of that process, sometimes painful, come these beautiful polished stones. Both the work and the people who do the work get polished.

How do you create a culture of debate without creating a “mean” culture or destroying team relationships? After all, you don’t want to leave the rock tumbler on so long that there is nothing left but dust…

Here are some debating lessons I learned while working at Apple.

1. Take the ego out:

The purpose of a debate is to help each other get to the best answer together. There should never be a person who “wins” or “loses” a debate. Debates should in no way shape or form resemble political debates, which have devolved into counterproductive “likeability” contests. I saw leaders at Apple do two really smart things to keep ego out of debates.


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