Saturday, October 08, 2011

Steve Jobs : What He Leaves Us

Steve Jobs is gone. He has left us with a lot of toys and indispensable gadgets to remember him by. A technically excellent person, an innovator, a free-wheeling genius who challenged convention, tore down boiler-plated wisdom, created a workplace where inspiration for excellence was the word. 

From some of the memorable quotes ascribed to this great man one can catch a glimpse his beliefs on relationships, his regard of competition (Microsoft, the Japanese), his unique management style, approach to marketing, his lifestyle and philosophical musings.

Truly an iconoclast, he debunks some of the more established principles in marketing such as consumer orientation. He believes that consumers don’t know what they want and it is up to the marketer to show the consumer the product that they will want. This is contrary to what established marketers of consumer products inculcate to all their marketing cadets upon their entry. He doesn’t trust the consumer to know what they want. The only time they would know is when you show it to them.

He thinks that market research is tedious and slow; before the marketer can decide what to sell the consumer has already changed its mind and wants something else. Having been a market researcher, I couldn’t help but consider seriously his not so flattering view of my erstwhile profession.  The best retort I could have is to say that it is arguable and may not apply to most fast moving consumer goods. However, it provoked me to summon up and review the raison d’etres of market research momentarily.

A marvellous rugged individualist he frowned upon copycats and those without a pioneering spirit he remarked; “Why join the navy when you can be a pirate.” A frivolous thought and yet so intriguing...beckoning to explore treasure islands of new notions and challenges.  He also expressed a long time plaint by the parents of talented young graduates in business schools, who couldn’t understand, how with all the investment they made on their children and the time spent on cultivating business acumen, end up selling soap or in his quote, selling sugared water.  This further reinforces the disdain he had about formal and regimented education and lauds those who dare to be different unfettered with the self imposed limits that convention insists on. In his youth he delved into eastern mysticism, even learned calligraphy and experimented with LSD.
His philosophical musings about mortality is inspirational. The transitoriness of our existence should make us set aside vanity, pride and the fear of being embarrassed and of being a failure; all these fall by the wayside at death. Then, shouldn’t we follow our heart and our intuition? he asked...everything else is secondary. 

What struck me as gold leafed wisdom are his thoughts on man management. After going through a thorough recruitment intensive interviews,  he vested trust on those he has selected and gave them as much space as possible where they can let loose their imagination and talent in a carefully nurtured environment conducive to extracting the best out of people. He demands excellence on his chosen few. He said that his job is not to be easy on people but to make them better.  What is remarkable about Steve Jobs is his concern about the team that he built and would not allow the retrenchment of people from his company which is really contrary to any hardnosed businessman’s logical and instinctive response to a crisis. He is responsible for a multibillion dollar business and yet runs it like a Mom and Pop store where loyalty, trust and confidence are given premium over the bottom line. It probably was the reason why he was ousted from a company that he founded because Apple became a public company and the professional management guys taken in to help manage the business where not comfortable with how he chose to run the business. 

To Steve Jobs the product is everything. He sets aside the conventional procedure of learning first what the consumer wants and desires then produce a product to match that need. His approach is to select an idea which has been winnowed from a thousand others generated by his enormous brain trust of more than a hundred of wildly imaginative crazed bunch, all in search of “insanely great products” and with high focus harness and apply every available resource to come up with a marvellous creation, a god’s handiwork . 

He once remarked that he was as proud of what they didn’t do as he is of what they actually do. The thousands of ideas churned out by his brilliant product development team is the result of long hours of diligent hard work. Most of the ideas are brilliancies by themselves, but, are all set aside once the brightest gem of an idea is recognized. The last words uttered as imprimatur of the completion of a new product is “Click. Boom. Amazing!”
Steve Jobs did not have kind words to his main competitor, Bill Gates. He thinks that Bill is not capable of original ideas and that Microsoft is a company without class and taste and does not bring much culture to their products.  The Japanese are even less regarded as he considers them as wasted fish washed ashore.

I guess what sums up his core conviction is the urgency by which one should live our evanescent life and living it with quality minutes, to use a basketball game phrase, since...“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”
Just now the Internet is replete with Steve Jobs items. Reprints of earlier articles on Steve, pictures of him, anecdotes and quotations that are beginning to grow at dizzying rate. 

Here are a few quotes culled from the early posts in the internet.

On Work Attitude
They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else. (this actually reiterates my oft-repeated mantra of “ubiquitous evangelism” in companies)”
 “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
On Facing Mortality
“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.”
Life is brief, and then you die, you know?"
“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.”
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
On Accomplishment
“I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building.”
 “I want to put a ding in the universe.”
“I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”
On Competiton
“The Japanese have hit the shores like dead fish. They’re just like dead fish washing up on the shores.”
“Unfortunately, people are not rebelling against Microsoft. They don’t know any better.”
“Bill Gates‘d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”
“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.”
On Putting Together A Team
“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”
“Recruiting is hard. It’s just finding the needles in the haystack. You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview.
So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they’re challenged? I ask everybody that: ‘Why are you here?’ The answers themselves are not what you’re looking for. It’s the meta-data.”
“My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”
“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.”
“We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place – the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.”
I mean, some people say, ‘Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.’ And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple.
My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.”
“When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself.

On Research
“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.”
“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.”
Product Development
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
“We’ve gone through the operating system and looked at everything and asked how can we simplify this and make it more powerful at the same time.”
“The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!”
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
“Insanely Great!” (referring to his products)
“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.”
“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”
 “You know, I’ve got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can’t say any more than that it’s the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me.”
“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
 “We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”
“Click. Boom. Amazing!”
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
 “It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do.
We just want to make great products. (I think he means “insanely great products!”
“So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know – just explore things.”
On Excellence
“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life.
And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”
On Being Differrent
“Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
“It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing.”
“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.”
Early Rebuffs
“I feel like somebody just punched me in the stomach and knocked all my wind out. I’m only 30 years old and I want to have a chance to continue creating things. I know I’ve got at least one more great computer in me. And Apple is not going to give me a chance to do that.”
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
 “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.”
On Business Principles
 “I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.”
 “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
 “If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth — and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.”
 “Apple has some tremendous assets, but I believe without some attention, the company could, could, could — I’m searching for the right word — could, could die.”
“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”
“That happens more than you think, because this is not just engineering and science. There is art, too. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of one of these crises, you’re not sure you’re going to make it to the other end. But we’ve always made it, and so we have a certain degree of confidence, although sometimes you wonder."
“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simple.”     
"I think the key thing is that we’re not all terrified at the same time. I mean, we do put our heart and soul into these things.”

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
“But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”
(quotes gathered by Federico Viticci)

No comments: