Leadership and Steve Jobs

Today, Steve Jobs died.

I can recall as a young student going to the Computer Science Lab at Varsity typing up an assignment on the new and exciting Macintosh computers.  They’d be called Mac Classics today.

In each of the industries that he has touched, he and his team have transformed them.  The iPod and iTunes made consuming digital music and books a completely different experience.  The Apple IIe brought desktop computing into the home.  The Macintosh computer made desktop computing easy for another generation of adopters.  The iPhone made mobile computing usable for everyone.

With his passing its worth considering the business philosophies that guided him to success and how he crafted the Apple organisation:

  1. Uncompromising commitment to excellence:Be a yardstick of quality Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

    We have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re gonna leave it out. Some people are gonna not like that, they’re gonna call us names, it’s not gonna be in certain companies’ vested interests that we do that but we’re gonna take the heat because we want to make the best product in the world for customers. And we’re gonna instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think they’re gonna be the right technologies for customers and—you know what?—they’re paying us to make those choices. That’s what a lot of customers pay us to do, is to try to make the best products we can. And if we succeed, they’ll buy ’em, and if we don’t, they won’t. And it’ll all work itself out.

  2. Nurturing innovation not hamstrung by conventional market research:Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

    You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

    To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.

    It took us three years to build the NeXT computer. If we’d given customers what they said they wanted, we’d have built a computer they’d have been happy with a year after we spoke to them – not something they’d want now.

    It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

  3. What to do in a weak environment:A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.
  4. What is the right attitude to risk:Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
  5. What to do with Conformity:Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

    Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Goodbye Mr Jobs.  Thanks for the lessons.

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