Lessons from Steve Jobs

Aug 26

 

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.

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15 comments

  1. Nice post. I was sold on his quote of replacing the burden of success with the lightness of learning and have been implementing it for the last 7 years. Yes, Thanks Steve, rightly said.

  2. Prashant Pande /

    Dear Appa,

    You really have put it in right words & spirit.
    Very good post.
    Prashant

  3. Prashant Pande /

    You have really put it in right words & the spirit.
    Prashant

  4. Sanchit Mendiratta /

    +1 to what all you wrote above!

    Adding few more of my fav quotes from Sir Steve Jobs (‘m sure he’d be knighted pretty soon) ..

    “The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!”
    - BusinessWeek, 1997 / On Apple products; and then he revived Apple and its products, and that too in a big way.

    “Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.”

    “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”
    — PBS Documentary, Triumph of the Nerds, 1996

    “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.”
    — BusinessWeek, 1998

    I remember reading an article in late 2009 – when the romours of some sort of tablet from Apple was doing rounds; it said that all the likes of samsung and toshiba are waiting to see, waiting to see what Apple and Jobs come out with – and then they will follow the same lines. Its better to let Apple lead the way, define the industry and define the market and then the likes of “others” will follow… 11 years and still the above quote from him stayed valid.

    And when it comes to defining newer markets, we all know he does – my technology retarded parents call every music player and iPod, every tablet PC as iPad and every touch phone as an iPhone – I don’t know from where they came to know these 3 names, but somehow they do and they identify markets with those 3 names and this bears a testimony to the fact that Apple does define markets :-)

    iPhone defined a new age of a cheap iPhones (read as Android devices) and touch screen phones and man, the touch on the touch screen phone is itself sluggish.. How can a “device” kill an iPhone if it does not respond to touch and not to mention, they all get snail slow after few months of use :D Apple products are way ahead, as well, as always… !!!

    Tablets have changed the market in a big way.. schools are using it, old age homes are using it.. android tablets are today defining inexpensive education and sharing of information and knowledge across the world,

    And Sir, we had this very same discussion 1 year back in my SPJCM interview – we talked about education, Steve Jobs, iTunes, Tablets and Android :-) and almost everything has happened the way we talked..

    • admin /

      Sanchit: Thanks for the detailed ans well thought out comment. A knighthood for Steve will be a small honor to him. Of course I remember the discussion when we discussed the impact of tablets and Android on the industry. I am glad that you still remember that. It makes my day :)

  5. KFoong /

    Steve Jobs — A true visionary,… probably one of the best, if not THE best! Has tremendous conviction to pursue his dreams and instincts.

    But one thing: We forget the supporting cast. We glorify the cult of the hero/leader and put the hero on the pedestal. But let us not forget: every commander-in-chief, every leader needs a team to realize his dreams and ambitions.

    His genius is also in getting others to BELIEVE.

  6. Melvin Sterne /

    Once again, your observations are insightful, poignant, and well-written. I also took away a quote from Job’s resignation speech.

    “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

    I take three things from this. One, Jobs subtly acknowledges the rumors that he is dying. Two, the wisdom (as you pointed out) of not looking “backwards.” In Buddhist terms, one might say to accept that change is inevitable—in business and in life. And, three, the single greatest quality of his leadership was to BE HIMSELF, even in the face of opposition. Steve Jobs is a living example of what it means to live your own life.

    Melvin

  7. Melvin Sterne /

    Once again, your observations are insightful, poignant, and well-written. I also took away a quote from Job’s resignation speech.

    “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

    I take three things from this. One, Jobs subtly acknowledges the rumors that he is dying. Two, the wisdom (as you pointed out) of not looking “backwards.” In Buddhist terms, one might say to accept that change is inevitable—in business and in life. And, three, the single greatest quality of his leadership was to BE HIMSELF, even in the face of opposition. Steve Jobs is a living example of what it means to live your own life.

    Melvin

  8. Wow, this is such a great post.

    Have you tried to “kill your own children”?

    iPhone does not kill iPod and iPad does not kill the MacBook. Each product is used for different purpose. Please think carefully before you post something like this on your blog.

  9. Ajith /

    Upon Steve’s passing, I received this SMS which contains perhaps the most personal “lesson” or “teaching” from Steve Jobs:

    Feeling Successful ?
    Quote: “Replace the burden of success with the lightness of learning”.

    Let me share.

  10. Steve Job will be remebered for a lon long time and subba had distilled learning from his expereince. Very nice blog on a great man.

  11. Ram Lakshmanan /

    Subba- Another well written piece from you, and thanks for the hyperlinks. I always learn something new when I read your blog – it’s cool! And Steve Jobs was a vegetarian and loved Hinduism – it’s way too cool!

  12. Abhishek Sharma /

    fantastic article.. a true tribute :)

    Rest in Peace, Steve

  13. Nice Post1
    All of the points made here are just awesome.
    Let me thanks @Sanchit Mendiratta for adding more to the collection.

  14. Leena /

    Great article Professor. What will be truly interesting to see is Apple’s future without Steve Jobs. Not the near term of course. The strong sales of iPhones, Macs and iPads will ensure Apple remains one of the most valued companies in the world. This is not to say that Apple will fail, thanks to the plethora of talented engineers, product managers and of course,Jonathan Ive. The only thing we can anticipate is: things will be different. And if we go by what Steve Jobs said, different has the capacity to be much better.

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