Walter Isaacson, his biographer, looked at what he thought were the keys to Jobs’ success.
He once asked Jobs what he thought was his most important creation, expecting him to answer the iPad or iPhone. Yet Jobs said that it was Apple, the company. He said making a great company was both harder and more important than making a great product.
Here are some of Isaacson’s thoughts on Jobs’ keys to success.
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 they were producing many computers and peripherals.
He took a marker and a whiteboard and drew four squares. He told his team they needed to focus only on four products, one in each quadrant – Consumer and Pro and Desktop and Portable.
That focus allowed him to save the company. He said that deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ declared Apple’s first marketing brochure.
Jobs first learned simplicity when he was working nightshift at Atari and the only instructions for its Star Trek game were ‘1. Insert quarter. 2. Avoid Klingons’.
He aimed for the simplicity that came from conquering complexity rather than ignoring it. He said that in order to truly conquer complexity you had to have a deep understanding of the function and the role that everything played.
Take Responsibility End to End
Jobs’ compulsion led him to the belief that Apple needed to control everything from the hardware to the software to the peripheral devices. He could not fathom allowing superior Apple software to be operated on another company’s inferior hardware.
This did not always lead to short-term profits but it led to ‘astonishing products marked by delightful user experiences.’
When Behind, Leapfrog
When Jobs built the original iMac he had focused on photos and videos and had left out music. When he saw other systems allowing users to download and swap music and burn CDs he thought he had missed out completely.
He came back and developed an integrated system transforming the music industry when he developed iTunes, the iTunes Store and the iPod. Not only did he realize the need to come up with new ideas first, but when you are behind, don’t merely catch up, leapfrog over the competition.
Put Products before Profits
His original goal with the Macintosh team was to make it ‘insanely great’.
He spoke about not being concerned about profit but about making a great product.
The original Macintosh did that but cost too much and led to his ouster from the company.
John Sculley who ran Apple after Jobs was a marketing and sales executive from Pepsi and he focused on profits not products. Jobs saw this as the ultimate downfall of the company and saw it repeated at Microsoft when Ballmer took over as he concentrated on profits, not on products.
On Jobs’ return to Apple he refocused everyone on innovative products and that led to the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.
He was motivated to make great products. He said that profits were good because they allowed you to make great products. The products, not the profits were the motivation.
Don’t Be A Slave To Focus Groups
Jobs did not believe in focus groups because he did not believe that consumers knew what they wanted until he had shown them. He often used Henry Ford’s statement “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘A faster horse’”.
Apple’s often-used one person focus group, Jobs himself, relied on intuition developed when he studied in India.
He wanted a simple device to carry a thousand songs in his pocket. The iPod was developed for himself and his friends and the commitment was therefore much greater.
Jobs first demonstrated this when working the night shift at Atari with Steve Wozniak. He pushed Wozniak to build the game Breakout in four days after Wozniak said that it would take months. He knew that it was impossible but he did it anyway.
When the original Macintosh did not boot as quickly as he wanted, Jobs told Larry Kenyon, the engineer working on it, that he needed to reduce the boot time by 10 seconds. Kenyon started explaining why it was impossible. Jobs asked him if he would be able to accomplish it if it would save someone’s life. Of course, Kenyon managed to do it – in fact, reducing the time by 28 seconds.
He did the same things with Wendell Weeks, the CEO of Corning, when he wanted a strong, scratchproof glass for the iPhone. When Weeks said that Corning was not making the glass nor did it have the capacity, Jobs told him that they could to it if they only put their mind to it.
Weeks did not know of Jobs’ strange ways and therefore switched focus into the project and made it work. That glass is still used in each iPhone made.
A remarkable man!