Channeling Your Inner Steve Jobs Oct30

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Channeling Your Inner Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

It was odd for me to be only 10 miles from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino when I received news of Steve Jobs death, and though one could anticipate the day could soon arrive, there was certainly no hint that it was upon us.  I had read among the rumors about the October 4th Apple iPhone event that Jobs might even make an appearance.

It was later revealed that Apple had notified the Palo Alto police that Jobs was near death in case an effort was needed to control crowds should they gather at his home there.  The crowds never gathered and just like that the transition into the post-Jobs era at Apple had begun.

As I walked into our offices in Santa Clara, many of my colleagues were faintly  interested in my reaction to the news as the resident Pro-Apple executive on our staff (or in the company).  I, myself, was even interested in my own reaction.

One thing I felt for certain was we needed a little more Steve Jobs in our company.  What that means to me is the ability to balance the strictly corporate inclination with a more passionate emotional imperative.  I think an analysis of what it means to channel your inner Steve Jobs might more than adequately convey what the man meant to me.  So, as a tribute to Steve, here is my take on the lessons we need to learn from his example.

One of Apple’s great successes has been not simply reacting to the consumer but getting out in front of the consumer – spotting the trend and not only predicting the future of consumer desire, but getting to the point of being able to lead the consumer.  They did this because Jobs had a vision, a vista of the big picture.  For some companies that’s enough.  For Apple, it wasn’t.

The other hallmark of Jobs leadership was an emphasis on mastering the details.  Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Senior VP of Industrial Design, eulogized Jobs at a special event in Cupertino last Wednesday by extolling Jobs recognition of the importance of the details.  ”He constantly questioned, ‘Is this good enough, is this right?’” he said.

Apple Senior VP Jonathan Ive at memorial event on Apple campus in Cupertino, California October 19, 2011

According to Ive, Jobs recognized the importance and fragility of new ideas from bold and crazy to “simple ones, quiet, which in their subtlety and their detail, were utterly profound,” Ives said. “Ideas,” he went on, “ultimately can be so powerful, yet they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts – so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily squished.”

Jobs recognized that ideas that could change the world were complex in their simplicity.  And to me those ideas were never about chasing the consumer, they were more about if the world were a better place, what could I do?  That intuition resides in all of our most inspired moments.  It does is we believe in the same sense of excellence and passion that Jobs showed.  Ive said he and Jobs would be giddy with excitement working for months and months on the inner function of a new product that no one would ever see with their eyes.

Ive again:

“He believed there was a gravity, almost of sense of civic responsibility to care WAY beyond a functional imperative.”

That’s the DNA that Jobs instilled in Apple.  An eye on the big picture, a reverence for ideas, a make or break recognition of the importance of a certain harmony in the details driven by an almost moral or ethical imperative that those details be more than just functional, but right.

At the Apple memorial event for Jobs, new Apple CEO Tim Cook played a unreleased take of an early Apple commercial that in finished form was read by Richard Dreyfuss, but this outtake was narrated by Jobs himself and it celebrated those who think differently – because, as the ad concluded, “Some see them as the crazy ones, but we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”