Over the past five days, the AI world has been rocked by the dismissal of OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman. OpenAI’s board ousted him, citing serious communication problems. But it now appears that this had more to do with Altman’s speed of releasing new ChatGPT AI functions without fully informing the Board, and that the Board was concerned that these new releases would be appropriately reviewed in light of their potential impact. Was not checked.
Within a day of Altman’s firing, rumors spread that talks were underway to bring him back, as the OpenAI board found itself in the news and received mainly negative feedback about what he had done.
By late Saturday night, comparisons to Altman’s dismissal of Steve Jobs by Apple were gaining momentum. The pro-Altman crowd was hoping for a similar solution and wanted to see Altman return to the company and lead it to greater glory, just as Steve Jobs had done for Apple.
But by Monday morning that dream had died. OpenAI brought in Twitch co-founder Emmett Shearer as interim CEO. Altman and former OpenAI president Greg Brockman joined Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team at the company.
I’m sure OpenAI will have more details about this earth-shattering development, and more news related to this situation in the coming weeks.
However, it is important to note and understand that there is no comparison between Steve Jobs’s dismissal in 1984 and Altman’s dismissal from OpenAI last week.
Although Jobs was the visionary and spiritual leader of Apple, he was extremely immature as a leader in the early days of Apple. His charisma and vision helped Apple grow rapidly with the introduction of the Apple 1 and 2 personal computers, and it looked as if the Mac could be another big hit for the company.
However, Apple’s board felt that Jobs’ ability to lead the company in the future and his often erratic leadership style would hinder Apple’s growth, so they decided to reduce his leadership role. Jobs did not accept this decision and instead left the company entirely.
In Altman’s case, he’s nothing like the Steve Jobs of 1984. Altman displayed excellent leadership skills and a great vision for the company and understood how to move the company forward. Although his communication with the board may have been an issue, it should have been resolved internally without the drastic step of sacking him. The firing of Altman will go down as one of the biggest blunders in modern business.
Ironically, this was the sentiment about Apple’s board when they fired Jobs. However, I had several meetings with Jobs before 1984 and saw firsthand how he yelled at and treated some of his key employees. Although he was a great motivator, many of his employees acted more out of fear than his visionary inspiration.
After leaving Apple, Jobs started a company called NeXT Computer, which achieved modest success. He was still immature as a leader, and I watched him chew out a top executive in front of a large crowd of employees at Next. At the time, it seemed clear that he still had not learned to lead, which affected Next’s ultimate success.
However, the next experience, or what I call the experience of wandering in the wilderness, made him mature; When he returned to Apple in 1997, he was a different person. I met him the day after he came back to lead Apple, and after that meeting, I remember saying to myself that this is not the same person I had worked with in his early days at Apple. has worked. He seemed more humble, focused, and ready to lead a company that at the time was losing $1 billion and was close to bankruptcy.
Altman’s dismissal from OpenAI cannot be compared to Jobs’s dismissal in 1984. Altman has leadership skills that can help the company move forward. Could he ever return to OpenAI? This may be possible, although Microsoft would be better off creating new AI products for it.
But remember, when Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it was because Apple was in dire straits and in serious trouble. If Altman does return to OpenAI, let’s hope he has not yet reached such a level of failure that he needs a Jobsian-like miracle to save the company.