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IOVINE SHOWS OFF HIS
STREET SMARTS

Jimmy Iovine recently submitted to an interview for Esquire with Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton “specializing in how people can find motivation and meaning and lead more generous and creative lives.” He asked Iovine about what drives him and what he's learned about collaboration.

We strongly suspect that Esquire set up the interview—timed to precede HBO’s July premiere of the Iovine-Dr. Dre documentary The Defiant Ones—intending to edit it down for the mag’s long-running What I’ve Learned series presenting succinct pearls of wisdom from luminaries in the arts and other fields. If that’s the case, the transcript persuaded them to go long, because Jimmy turned out to have a big set of pearls, so to speak.   

Early in the published Q&A, he says John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith were “my three professors. The minute I met those people, I said, This is how I'm going to learn. I learned my work ethic from Springsteen. I was a guy who would say, Five o'clock, I'm out of here. Springsteen worked all the time. We were in a room with no window—no one ever knew what time it was.”

On how he stays humble: “I don't have a rearview mirror. I'm interested in listening to the people who walk in the door. If your ego and your accomplishments stop you from listening, then they've taught you nothing. There are geniuses, savants; I'm not one of them. I work hard, I see where popular culture's going to move, but I've gotta keep having information pumped into me. I look under every rock.

On partnerships: “You've gotta really understand what the other person does. If the other person is not contributing, you've gotta be honest: It's time to move on. If you really respect what the other person brings to it, then you keep your relationship together.”

On differences of opinion: “I play mental games with myself. David Geffen and I disagree a lot. I bet on his answers a little more than my own. I say, This guy's really smart. I think he's completely wrong, but I'm going to try it anyway. He's right often enough that I've been friends with him for 40 years.

“Sometimes that feeling is wrong. I'm willing to try things that other people want to try. If I'm with the right team, we're going to win anyway. Even at Apple right now, Eddy [Cue] has a lot of different ways of looking at things than I do, but I really respect him and I just try it. He bets on me and I bet on him.

“If I believe in you, I will listen to you. I don't care if we sink. I can feel who wants it more in the room. And then I go with that.”

Read the Q&A here.

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