Steve Jobs, founder of Apple AAPL +0.28% and Pixar was an iconic leader who invented the Macintosh computer, a PC for the masses. He went on to create the music players and mobile phones that everyone loved, and his tiny cellphones were packed with so much processing power, they operated like miniature Macs. With a foray into computer animations with Pixar, he developed Toy Story, such a high quality movie that industry-leader Disney snapped up the company. Jobs' final innovation was the iPad, tablet computer to displace the PC. Jobs wanted a tool to expand the brain's processing power with all the world's information available on a small screen. He wasn't afraid to cannibalize his own products.
His inventions were disruptive to the retail and media industries, which lost to the Apple ecosystem as commerce moved to the web. Consumers thundered for Apple products, and the company's financials reflected leadership in the public markets. Under the watch of Steve Jobs, Apple was one of the most successful companies in history.
Jobs won over an entire planet with stunning designs, technically complex and yet simple to use. The devices were remarkable yet elegant, each with an endearing touch of humor. To keep the lead in innovation, Jobs pushed suppliers for new benchmarks then adopted the first breakthrough. He led a small band of talented engineers inside the company to come up with new applications once they ratcheted up performance.
Job's Eastern beliefs set him apart from Western leaders and allowed him to focus on a vision rather than reality. Spirituality combined with intensity allowed him to "Think Different," or imagine a new order of things that others could not see. Rave reviews for his new products led wishful buyers to line up around the block to buy them. The phenomenal demand was unmatched by the competitors.
The 10 Lessons of Steve Jobs are excerpts from Walter Isaacson's, "The Real Lessons of Steve Jobs," published in the Harvard Business Review, April 2012 (hbr.org/2012/04/the-real-leadership-lessons-of-steve-jobs/ar/1). Isaacson gives 14 lessons.
Jobs' aspirations for Zen simplicity shined through when he eliminated the on/off button on the iPod. The music player gradually powered down and turned off, and then it flashed on again with just a swipe. Jobs had to write complex software and push the limits of processing power to handle all the instructions that made the user interface seem simple.
Jobs excelled at designing minimalist devices that broke barriers in computer speeds. His systems could stand alone or work together in an interconnected ecosystem—like an iPod connected to a Mac connected to an iTunes store. Apple could manage vast amounts of information through division of labor among the systems. For example, the Mac controlled system administration while iTunes fetched content from cloud storage, freeing the device to concentrate on playing the music.
Later, Jobs set his sights on redesigning the mobile phone. He would grab a competitor's phone and rant the functions were incomprehensible and the address book was indecipherable. His iPhone set a new standard for smartphones, making them into miniaturized computers. The iPhone's small touch screen was the test case for the iPad, Apple's tablet computer, and proved there was a big market for teeny mobile computers. At the end of his career, Jobs rethought TVs with a new navigation system to access any video content on the web. He dreamed up ways to make television more personal.
2. Control the Experience
Apple took full responsibility for the product from end-to-end. Every aspect of the hardware was analyzed carefully, from each component to the overall look. Likewise, he considered the user experience in every line of code and each salesperson in the Apple stores. Jobs' obsession with "the whole widget" reflected his passion for perfection. He used his powerful magnetic personality to motivate thousands. Apple's model of a closed and proprietary system was consistent with his controlling personality and set Apple apart from open-source competitors.
Innovators change the game rules to reinvent industries. Jobs noticed people were burning CDs on their personal computers from content on-line. The Mac could manage videos and photos but it could not record CDs. Jobs thought he had missed an opportunity in on-line entertainment. But, he rethought the concept and developed an ecosystem that transformed the entertainment industry with iTunes software and the iTunes Store. He made it simple to buy and manage music from one website and store it on an iPod or computer. After the success of the iPod, Jobs made more breakthroughs in operating systems, processing and memory and then figured out how to add wireless voice to create the iPhone.
4. Ignore Reality
Jobs' ability to push the impossible was called his Reality Distortion Field, after an episode of Star Trek in which aliens create an alternative reality through sheer will. An early example was when Jobs was on the night shift at Atari and pushed Steve Wozniak to create a game called Breakout. Woz said it would take months, but Jobs stared at him and insisted he could do it in four days. Woz ended up doing it.
5. Have Confidence
When he took the iPhone on a trial run, Jobs found the plastic display scratched easily, so he decided the front needed to be glass. Corning GLW +0.97% had developed a chemical process in the 1960s called Gorilla glass that was highly resistant to scratches. So, Jobs called Corning's CEO Wendell Weeks and ordered a huge shipment of Gorilla glass for delivery in six months. Corning had stopped making the glass years before and transitioned the factory to LCD displays, so Weeks told Jobs it would be impossible to make the glass in volume. "You can deliver, don't be afraid," Jobs insisted. A stunned Weeks unfamiliar with the Reality Distortion Field tried to explain a false sense of confidence would not trump the product's engineering challenges. Yet, Jobs was unmoved. He stared unblinking at Weeks and said, "Yes, you can do it. Get your mind around it. You can do it." An astonished Weeks called the managers of Corning's Kentucky facility making the LCD displays and told them to convert to Gorilla glass immediately. "We delivered in under six months," Weeks said.
6. Rethink Designs
The iPhone went through several phases before the team came up with a design that was both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The initial iPhone had an aluminum case that took up most of front of the phone, leaving only a small area for the display and blocking radio waves from getting to the signal processors. After several tense sessions with electrical engineers at the company, designers developed new versions where the front of the phone was mainly glass, which improved the signal quality. Likewise, the packaging for the phone went though several iterations. Jobs personally worked on designing the intricate boxes for the iPhone and he is even listed on the patents. He believed that unpacking the product in stages added to surprise and delight.
7. Team With Winners
Jobs could be so direct, it bordered on rude. But his high aspirations spilled over onto Apple employees who believed they too could accomplish anything. In a way, his rough treatment screened for the highly driven, preventing "the Bozo explosion," or a mediocrity that snuffs out innovation. Jobs said, "Maybe there's a better way—a gentlemen's club where we all wear ties and speak in this Brahmin language and velvet code words—but I don't know that way, as I'm just middle-class."
Jobs believed creativity comes from spontaneous meetings. "You run into someone and ask what they're doing. Then you realize the connections and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas." The Pixar building's atrium set a backdrop for unplanned encounters. Buildings have to encourage interaction for sparks to fly and promote magical serendipity.
9. Vision + Details
Jobs' passion was applied to issues both large and small. Some CEOs are great visionaries while others know that God is in the details. In 2000, he came up with a grand vision that the personal computer should become a hub for managing user content. With the hub in mind, he developed different kinds of nodes, launching personal devices. In 2010 he came up with the successor strategy—the hub would move into the cloud—and Apple built huge server farms to upload and sync content.
Jobs remained a believer in the counterculture long after the hippie days of his youth. When he returned to Apple as iCEO, Jobs helped write the "Think Different" ads: "Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes..." Consciously or not, he was describing himself. The last lines were self-reflecting: "While some 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." In his commencement address for the senior class at Stanford University, he admonished students to follow their own dreams and not to get caught up in living someone else's life.