What I Learned From Steve Jobs

I’ve always respected Steve Jobs, although it was hard to admit when I was at Dell. During our holiday break, I read his book and a lot of dots connected for me related to what I knew about him over the years.   The book also made me regret my opportunity to meet him back in 2008.  I helped plan the first meeting of Michael and Steve in Austin for an education conference, but at the last minute, something important came up and I delegated to a colleague.  Rather than spend an afternoon in his world as one of the “planners”, I solved some other problem I can’t even remember…oh well, cie la vie.….

Anyway, here is what I learned.

#1 – Leapfrog opportunities depend on gut instinct – you can’t ask your peers or customers what is next and expect to truly leapfrog.  As Steve said, they don’t know.  My view is that it’s not quite that simple.  The clues are there….we have to be smart enough to find them…hence why our analytics are so critical to our firm and our clients.  If we utilize our analytics skills and our gut feel, we’ll out innovate our peers forever.

#2 – First impressions matter – Steve believed we fall in love when we initially see the packaging or when we first touch a device.  It made me wonder how we can improve our first impression for all we have contact with.  What is it like to reach one of us for the first time?  What is it like when you start working here?  What is it like when we present our first results? Or when you walk in our doors?

#3 – Brands globalize more than people – popular brands or ideas can permeate cultures worldwide, yet people still want to conduct business in local fashion.  Jobs knew this and focused on building a great brand, knowing that local sales would take care of itself later on. This is the exact trend we are seeing in social media, by the way.

#4 – Passion leads to great work – Jobs loved to spend his time with designers and engineers.  He felt it was a waste of time to hang out with execs.  He wanted to figure out what was next.  Nothing was more important than building the best products or services and experience.  Every spare minute he had was focused on innovation.  How do we organize our day?

#5 – Vision can change behavior of a company via its ideas – if Jobs said he was going to improve customer experience, it may not have worked.  Instead, he started the Genius Bar and simply uplifted the level of customer service competence.  He created a vision for higher competence that people had to meet via a public display of what excellence meant. It reminded me of Michael Dell.  He would mention things in press conferences that served as a warning shot to the company of how we would need to change.  Once public, no choice.

#6 – Control the end to end experience – don’t depend on third parties to do your level of quality.  Only partner when they do something you can never do and then treat them like family.

#7 – Details matter – every detail, actually.  Its why Jobs made sure the inside of a computer looked perfect, even though you could not open up the system.  His Dad taught him that you don’t cheap out when no one is looking.  You always do your best job.  An important reminder to ourselves when we are exhausted and have one more thing to do. High quality always matters. We’re craftspeople.

#8 – A players respond to A players – his troops were inspired when surrounded by equally smart people.  When not, equally uninspired.

#9 – The status quo is enough incentive to be different – who wants to be the same? This type of thinking creates an eternal fire in the belly.  The worst insult is to become a commodity  and be compared to our competitors.  There is always a better way to do something…it’s our job to figure it out and make it happen.

#10 – Talk through ideas and avoid powerpoint when possible – conversations and debates lead to breakthroughs.  Emails and slides lead to status quo.  This is why I am often not on email consistently. I get so much more out of conversations with all of you.  It’s the best way to learn and improve.  Have conversations and educate, don’t lecture.

#11 –A great team knows how to leverage each other – for example, Jony Ives is the real hidden star of Jobs reign.  He built what we love.  Ives and his team were the soul of the company.  Those who create ideas……they propel the firms they are part of…..

#12 – A powerful brand allows customers to dream of what is possible – when a person’s aspirations can be applied to a brand, you have a winner.  The same goes with our relationships.  When we become the accelerator of what is possible, we create continual value.

My final observation relates to Steve Jobs as a person.  I actually felt sorry for him.  Being abrasive and a jerk to all he met provided zero value.  He got kicked out of Apple the first time.  His relationships often failed.  He was probably never happy.  Yet, he had every reason to be thrilled with life.  None of us should ever make that mistake.

It was a great read.  Will be adding these learning’s to my next book.

All the best, Bob

Bob Pearson
Bob Pearson

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