Yesterday afternoon I turned the last digital page of my Kindle Fire’s book dubbed, Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson. It was a long biography approximately 600 pages long. But each one of those pages was worth reading. Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
Steve Jobs has been one of my favorite American icons since I started following Apple computers in the early eighties. Even though I never bought a second Apple computer, I read everything I could lay my paws on about this one-of-a-kind visionary and his roller-coaster life at Apple Computers. The book was easy to digest, since I was very familiar with the names of the characters mentioned by Isaacson and the evolution of Apple since the late seventies. Of course I was well aware of the Apple I and II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod, Shuffle, Nano, iTunes, Apple Stores, Apple Apps, Apple Retail Stores, iPhone, and last but certainly not least, the iPad. However, knowing what was happening inside the well-guarded walls of Apple was indeed an informative experience.
I was deeply touched by the narration of Apple’s marketing campaign identified as Think Different. It’s an eloquent piece of poetry, vision and determination. This is what Hollywood actor Richard Dreyfuss said in the TV ad.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. As they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About 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 people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”—Apple’s Think Different brand image campaign designed by TBWA\Chiat\Day.
From computers to smartphones, Apple products are known for being stylish, powerful and pleasing to use. They are edited products that cut through complexity, by consciously leaving things out — not cramming every feature that came into an engineer’s head, an affliction known as “featuritis” that burdens so many technology products.
Great products, according to Mr. Jobs, are triumphs of “taste.” And taste, he explains, is a byproduct of study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then bring those things into what you are doing.”
His is not a product-design philosophy steered by committee or determined by market research. The Jobs formula, say colleagues, relies heavily on tenacity, patience, belief and instinct. He gets deeply involved in hardware and software design choices, which await his personal nod or veto.
Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.
He was passionate about the quality of Apple’s products, and Apple as a lasting company of excellence. This is what Steve Jobs said drove him to search perfection in everything he did in an area known as the interception of technology and humanities in Apple, NeXT and Pixar:
“What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us. I didn’t invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food, none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how—because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.”
Steve Jobs, of course, was one member of a large team at Apple, even if he was the ultimate leader. Indeed, he has often described his role as a team leader. In choosing key members of his team, he looks for the multiplier factor of excellence.
Truly outstanding designers, engineers and managers, he says, are not just 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent better than merely very good ones, but 10 times better. Their contributions, he adds, are the raw material of “aha” products, which make users rethink their notions of, say, a music player or cellphone.
“Real innovation in technology involves a leap ahead, anticipating needs that no one really knew they had and then delivering capabilities that redefine product categories,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “That’s what Steve Jobs has done.”
Mr. Jobs is undeniably a gifted marketer and showman, but he is also a skilled listener to the technology. He calls this “tracking vectors in technology over time,” to judge when an intriguing innovation is ready for the marketplace. Technical progress, affordable pricing and consumer demand all must sell to produce a blockbuster product.
I will certainly read this book again. It should also be read by college students around the world so they can understand the meaning of innovation, creativity and business administration. There’s so much to learn from this man from Cupertino. As the Off switch was activated by the One Above, Steve Jobs ascended to the stars where he will shine forever. He made his dent in this planet while he was here. Good bye Steve, you are being missed already.
My next book is Moby Dick; or, the White Whale by Herman Melville. Good Day.