Monday, November 21, 2011

6 Lessons from the life of Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

Here, in the next 10 minutes, there are the 6 lessons you can learn from the life of Steve Jobs, written by Walter Isaacson .

Walter Issacson conducted more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs over two years, as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues. Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the creative Genius .To many people, Steve Jobs was a hero. Whatever you believe about him and his life, one thing is certain: his vision and ability to innovate left a dent on the universe. Leaving a dent on the universe is what he set out to do when he and Steve Wozniak launched Apple Computers from their garage in Los Alto. He was a man of contradictions – upon his return to Apple for his “second term”, he worked for $1 per year, but demanded a corporate jet and millions of stock options.

Here are the six lessons:

Lesson 1: Focus:
When Steve Jobs came back to Apple for his second tenure, he found a company that had lost its way. They had 350 product lines, all of which were floundering in mediocrity. So, he took out his scalpel and started cutting, even to the point where some people would argue that he was cutting into the bone. He cut 340 product lines in total, bringing Apple’s focus down to a core of 10 product lines. This is the type of thinking that spawned the iMac, iPod, iTunes iPhone, and the iPad. Had Apple deployed their resources across 340 other product lines, there is no doubt that this unprecedented string of successes would have been impossible. IPHONE: when the first design of the iPhone was almost ready to go into production, he had an insight that had eluded him until it was almost too late: the screen should be the focus of the iPhone, and everything else was secondary. So, with a design that probably looks a lot like other phones on the market today, Jobs told his team that they needed to start over. A heroic effort allowed them to create and produce the iPhone that millions around the world know and love today. Focus on the most important things, and eliminate everything else .

Lesson 2: Inspiration
Where does one company find the inspiration to produce products that transform entire industries overnight? Many people have asked this question, and seemingly come to the answer that Jobs and his team just seem to have this knack for understanding what people want, before they do. Jobs often quoted the famous Henry Ford line that “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford got the idea for the assembly line while visiting a slaughterhouse in Chicago. Jobs got the idea for the design of the first Macintosh by visiting Macy’s and studying the designs of different appliances, in particular, the Cuisinart. Jobs found his ideas everywhere except for in the computer industry. CURIOSITY. So while other companies in your industry are busy stealing each others ideas, you should get busy stealing your own from anywhere else.

Lesson 3: Product
There’s no question that an Apple product is a well designed product. The fanaticism that Jobs instilled about making the product “perfect” is probably the single biggest thing that Jobs has left as a legacy for the company. To Jobs, the product was everything. It was so important in fact that when he came back to Apple he decided that Jonathan Ives – their lead designer at the time, should report directly to him. In most companies, the design team does not have a seat at the boardroom table. The engineering team tells the design team the specs they want to create, and then they build a nice case around it. At Apple, this relationship gets reversed, the design team tells the engineering team how they need to configure their contribution to the end product. The dominating theme of any Apple product, from the beginning of the company is simplicity. Jobs felt that it was critical that their products are incredibly easy to use, right out of the box.

Lesson 4: Platform Strategy
Near the start of his second round as Apple CEO, Jobs realized that in order to have the success he always envisioned for the company, that they would need to great a platform instead of a bunch of disconnected products. In 2001, when the technology world was imploding and the luster was coming off the personal computer, he announced his grand vision for the future of Apple: the personal computer would become the digital hub that coordinated many (if not all) of the devices in your life. It would manage your music, your pictures, your videos, everything in your digital life would revolve around the personal computer. They of course went on to carry this thinking through to music by creating both iTunes and the iPod and literally transformed that entire industry. By creating a platform that was superior to the competition, sales of the iPod would spur on sales of iMacs and MacBooks as well. Start thinking about what you can do to start creating a platform rather than just a product or a service.

Jobs famously had what most people who knew him called the “reality distortion field”. He had the unique ability to make people believe that anything was possible, even though after they walk away from him they know it to be impossible. He would demand more from his teams than anybody else could reasonably expect, often pushing people over the edge. Ignoring reality is fine when you are attempting to get people to see beyond their limits. However, there is a dark side to the reality distortion field, and Jobs met his match when he was diagnosed with cancer. Originally ignoring it and believing he could treat it with a modified diet, he waited far too long to have an operation that could have saved his life. But one thing is for sure –there are limits that we all place on ourselves that we would be better off ignoring – if we want to do something great with our lives, that is.

Lesson 6: Experience
Owning the entire customer experience is an issue that has gotten Jobs into hot water over the years. They not only controlled things like who got their apps approved in the Apple apps store, they went as far as making making special screws for their devices so that consumers wouldn’t be able to take the machine apart and “hack” it. This ethos led Jobs to take one of the biggest leaps of his career, to build the Apple stores. At the time, everybody thought this was a boneheaded idea, including and especially the press. Jobs argued that they couldn’t let their products be sold in large box stores by employees who didn’t know the myriad of reasons why an Apple product was superior to everything else on the shelf. It turns out that he was right. They built the stores, and aside from being architectural marvels and a delight to shop in, they run the most revenue per square foot of any retailer in the world.


1) How many priorities are you working on right now? start crossing them off until you only have 2 or 3. Are your best people (or all of your effort) on those 2 or 3?

2) List 5 industries besides your own where you could get inspiration from. Now, go looking for what makes people in those other industries successful. How can that apply to your business?

3) Think of all the things that surround your product or service. For example, for Apple the iPod was surrounded by the music industry. How can you take those things that surround your business and extend your offering into a platform?

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