This past weekend, I watched one of the Steve Jobs movies. It wasn’t the one that glamorized his rise to fame but one that showed some of his more human flaws. In this movie, he was a tyrant, but nonetheless a very driven and successful man. The one overarching theme in the movie was his refusal to compromise and his refusal to listen to what his customers were telling Apple they wanted. In Steve Jobs’ world, that often meant the next great thing was something people didn’t even know they desired.
I remember an interview on NPR back when the iPad was first released. The tech guy that was being interview spent the entire time trashing the iPad, saying it lacked this and didn’t do that. He claimed it was just a sleek new package for the same old thing. Then…he said he couldn’t wait to get his hands on one.
The rest—so they say—is history.
Seriously though, the message that has been resonating with me is Steve Jobs’ relentless belief that consumers don’t know what they want. At first I thought, “that’s garbage”. But maybe the bigger picture is that while we may know what we want, we have no idea how to get there.
Here in Woodstock, we are desperately short of service workers—housekeepers, landscapers, waitstaff, retail workers, etc. Here in Woodstock, we are talking about affordable housing so workers can live in town.
So here’s one idea. Some larger companies in Vermont bring in foreign workers on H-2B visas. They can pay them less but they have to provide housing and they have to pay for their visas and bring them over to Vermont. The H-2B, visa program is a life saver for many area businesses. Most of us aren’t big businesses.
When we look into affordable housing how about some new housing built on an old model— workers’ housing. Not low-income housing, not elderly housing but housing for people who work in our town— essential housing. By nature, it’s affordable because it goes with the job. I realize there can be downsides to company-owned property but, I’m not talking about company owned property. I’m talking about a new version of an old model community-owned property: for people who work in our towns. Strong, sturdy houses, similar to the house where I live in Woodstock that was built over 70 years ago for middle mill managers and their families who worked at the Bridgewater Mill.
Steve Jobs made billions of dollars telling consumers that what we wanted was a bright blue computer. We could decide that what we want is to offer housing for all people who work in our community.
“I want to put a ding in the universe.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”