Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Why Apple is the only Business Case Study you will Ever Need.
"We are inventing the future," Jobs told him at the end of a three-hour pitch. "Think about surfing on the front edge of a wave. It's really exhilarating. Now think about dog-paddling at the tail end of that wave. It wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun. Come down here and make a dent in the universe."
People like to rag on millennials. I get it, every generation has done the same thing to their young. It's an age-old tradition. "They think they know everything" is speak for "I feel threatened that they are young and I am old and I am scared about being irrelevant soon because I do not possess all of their energy." "They just want to do things their way but we've been doing it our way for years and it's worked just fine" hides the real meaning, which is "Fuck. They may actually have a better way to do things, which makes me feel stupid because I've been doing this longer and I should know." But my favorite is "I like your idea, but we won't be doing anything differently." Which could be because of reasons mentioned above, or it could be because once a company outgrows it's initial entrepreneurial stage and moves onto big corporate status they become less adept at changing decades long company structures.
This is where running your company with an entrepreneurial spirit comes in handy. You can pivot faster. Easily toss things that don't work while keeping those that do, never missing a beat. Corporations, and 'our elders', on the other hand, by and large, aren't as malleable. And people that don't want to constantly adapt, change, and grow often become obsolete.
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
Steve Jobs persisted partly because of on-going millennial mindsets, the first of which is constantly asking yourself "Well why the fuck not?" As people age, they tend to lose this critical characteristic needed for growth. Entrepreneurs constantly tell themselves that failure is not an option. Typical people, as they age, tally up the failures for decades and become weighed down by them. Those that persist, those with an entrepreneurial mindset, persist BECAUSE of these failures. We have to learn from our mistakes because failure is not an option. At least in our minds.
Being an entrepreneur typically means that the folks that most often surround you have no idea how your brain twists things to make them work. Not many people understand you, therefore you must succeed because otherwise, everybody will just keep calling you crazy. But you know who we don't call crazy? Steve Jobs. Because failure was not an option. Because people called him crazy until he changed the world.
"He knew the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology, so he built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering."
People often talk about Steve Jobs being an asshole; as someone nearly impossible to work for. To the common 80% of people, they cannot understand. They can't understand why he had to be an asshole, and they can't understand why anyone would want to work under him. Steve Jobs was an asshole because he didn't care. Because his attitude and the thought of pleasing people was secondary to his cause. He didn't care to waste time by sugar coating things. Have you ever noticed that you usually get things done faster by being an asshole than by being nice? Being nice takes time, and an entrepreneur on a mission has little of it. Execution is the number one priority, not saving people's feelings. And as to why anyone would want to work under him? Because those that seek greatness don't expect it to come easy, or delivered kindly. We accept, rather, expect masochism as being part of the package. We almost welcome it, because the tougher we become, the farther we get to go.
"I've learned over the years that when you have really good people you don't have to baby them," Jobs later explained. "By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. The original Mac team taught me that A-plus players like to work together, and they don't like it if you tolerate B work."
You also start to realize that every brick you put in the path, a path you may not know the end game to, is a stepping stone to greatness. You may not know where you are headed, but you know it's going to lead to somewhere you are meant to go. You know this because everything you do is intentional, with reason (to you), and you know that every step is a learning process preparing you for the tenth step, even if you currently reside on only the first or second.
"Once you built a couple of radios, you'd see a TV in the catalog and say, "I can build that as well,' even if you didn't. I was very lucky, because when I was a kid both my dad and the Heathkits made me believe I could build anything."
Apple's branding was remarkable in its beauty and its reach. Because the best entrepreneurs have something to prove, which pushes their messaging further and further in an attempt to say "Fuck you haters!" and "I'M THE GENIUS CRAZY, NOT THE CRAZY CRAZY" with more and more gusto as your empire, and self-esteem escalates, or the more they hate on you. Hating us only pushes us to do better, because the competition at our level is scarce so you must compete with yourself, and then for market share.
To do that, you must stand out. You must be memorable both in product and in branding. What springs to your mind when you think of Microsoft? Apple? Does one stand out? Why is that? What do you want your product and branding to say about you?
Apple. It's a smart choice. The word instantly signaled friendliness and simplicity. It managed to be both slightly off-beat and as normal as a slice of pie.
"It doesn't quite make sense," Mike Markkula, who soon thereafter became the first chairman of the new company. "So it forces your brain to dwell on it. Apple and computers, that doesn't go together! So it helped us grow brand awareness."
For the rest of his career, Jobs would understand the needs and desires of customers better than any other business leader, he would focus on a handful of core products, and he could care, sometimes obsessively, about marketing and image and event he details of the packaging. "When you open the box of an iPhone or iPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product."
Jobs kept a tight rein on the hiring process. The goal was to get people who were creative, wickedly smart, and slightly rebellious.
You can create a culture among creatives and engineers - if you hire only A team players everyone has a common goal for greatness, so they are FORCED to get along and work together. In most cases, the need for greatness will outweigh one's pride and ego.
Unlike other product developers, Jobs did not believe the customer was always right; if they wanted to resist using a mouse they were wrong.
The Pepsi generation didn't sell a product, it sold an outlook - and now we have the Apple generation. Why? Because Steve Jobs never compromised. The Journey was the reward. He believed that customers don't know what they want until you show them. He believed you could combine a passion and a purpose: and he changed the world by changing how people use computers. He did this because he believed computers were potential tools for personal empowerment. He knew you had to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. He was decisive. He knew that the best and most innovative products don't always win, but the ones that eventually do have culture in their product. He didn't believe in market research. Because he favored being respected over being liked.
In the annals of innovation, new ideas are only part of the equation. Execution is just as important.