Lessons from Steve Jobs

Steve Job's Lessons

Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple and became Chairman – a move that was perhaps in the offing due to his illness. In his characteristic simple manner, he said ““I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s C.E.O., I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”

Steve gave the world amazing products – the Mac, iPod, iPhone and the iPad. All of them were blockbusters. Yet he will be remembered for the way he shaped the future of industries like music, computing, movies and the cell phone to name a few.  Currently Apple is neck to neck with Exxon Mobil for the title of the world’s most valuable company. This has to be seen against the fact that about 10 years ago, Apple faced the risk of going under.

Much has been written about Steve’s genius as a designer, visionary, marketer, charm and personality. The last attribute needs elaboration. In my view Steve can be compared only to Leonardo da Vinci – the engineer, the artist, the scientist capable of absorbing from various disciplines and synthesizing them with his own sharp instinct. In this area – none of the other industry legends including Bill Gates, Andy Grove or Larry Ellison came close. Steve Jobs passion for perfection is well recounted by Vic Gandotra of Google here.

Here are some  lessons that I learnt from him:

Make products functional and the heart sing:

Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.

Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices…that need to be even easier to use than a PC, that need to be even more intuitive than a PC; and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC.

We think we are on the right track with this. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon but in the organization to build these kinds of products.” – Steve Jobs during the launch of iPad

Say No to a thousand things:

“In a 2004 BusinessWeek interview Jobs said “And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Stay loyal to the suppliers:

Apple  stayed loyal to Foxconn through multiple releases of iPods, iPhones and iPads in spite of sweatshop accusations, employee suicides and factory explosions in its Chinese facilities. Most companies like to diversify between company owned and outsourced plants and certainly across geographies.

Innovation not in product or business model, but even use of cash:

In 2005, “Apple reached long term supply agreements with a number of memory supply companies including Hynix, Intel, Micro, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba. Apple will prepay up to $1.25 billion for flash memory over the next three months. The agreements secure a supply of NAND flash memory through 2010.”

Learn to kill your own children:

Apple was happy to see the iPhone kill the iPod and iPad kill the MacBook. He wasn’t there to protect his previous blockbuster. You don’t walk ahead with your eyes looking behind.

When you are right, wait for the world to see it:

Be it in simple product decisions like killing the floppy drive in the iMac or removing the optical drive in the Macbook Air or even refusing to license the Mac OS, If Apple and Steve’s incredible comeback teaches us something, it’s that when you are right and the world doesn’t see it that way, you just have to be patient and wait for the world to change its mind—Om Malik in his tribute to Steve. The rest of Om’s article is a great read.

Be the right kind of benevolent dictator:

Steve has been often referred to as a dictator, but since his comeback, he became a benevolent dictator – a sort of leadership model which is unusual. He embedded himself so deeply within the cultural fabric of Apple that the company no longer needs him. He focused on making sure everyone else at Apple was able to build great products too, not just himself.

I am sure others have their own favorite lessons to learn from this great icon. For people who are keen on reading Steve Jobs’ quotes, the Wall Street Journal has compiled them here. Each one is a gem!

Thanks Steve.

Author: Mr. Subbaraman (Subba) Iyer, Information Technology professor, S P Jain.

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