RSS!    Full Post
Share One of the Best Steve Jobs Stories -- Gorilla Glass
This excerpt from Jonathan Koomey's new book "Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs" courtesy of


Inventing the Future: The Steve Jobs Example

There are many examples of the power of this technique, but one of my favorites is in the recently released biography of the late Steve Jobs.

In the 1960s, Corning Glass had developed a very durable type of glass they called "gorilla glass", because it was so tough. They had stopped making it, but in 2005 the CEO of Corning (Wendell Weeks) explained the material to Jobs, who immediately wanted to use gorilla glass for the first iPhone.

"[Jobs] said he wanted as much gorilla glass as Corning could make within six months.'We don't have the capacity,' Weeks replied. 'None of our plants make the glass now.'

'Don't be afraid,' Jobs replied. This stunned Weeks, who was good-humored and confident but not used to Jobs' reality distortion field. He tried to explain that a false sense of confidence would not overcome engineering challenges, but that was a premise that Jobs had repeatedly shown he didn't accept. He stared at Weeks unblinking. 'Yes, you can do it,' he said. 'Get your mind around it. You can do it."

As Weeks retold this story, he shook his head in astonishment. 'We did it in under six months,' he said. 'We produced a glass that had never been made.' Corning's facility in Harrisburg, Kentucky, which had been making LCD displays, was converted almost overnight to make gorilla glass full-time. 'We put our best scientists and engineers on it, and we just made it work.' In his airy office, Weeks has just one framed memento on display. It's a message Jobs sent the day the iPhone came out: 'We couldn't have done it without you.'"

Weeks is a brilliant businessman who knows how to make glass, but his initial inclination was "it can't be done". It was only by confronting Jobs' challenge (and I mean really confronting it) that he and his company were able to make it happen (to his own surprise). Of course, we can't just ignore real physical constraints, but most of the time constraints are self-imposed and say more about us than they say about actual limitations on our actions.