Like many others around the world, the life of Apple CEO Steve Job’s fascinated me, and after his untimely death I found myself eagerly reading his biography. Much of his story was known to me, the early days in his father’s garage with Steve Wozniak, the intense pressures of managing Apple’s growing business, his wilderness years and the heroic return to Apple that led to the creation of earth shattering innovations like the iPod, the iPhone and beyond.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Steve was very much a product of his generation, and therefore had experiences similar to my own. It was when I read about his trips abroad that I began to see the foundations of his true genius. One passage in particular caught my eye; it was when Steve was tramping around India contemplating the world and all that was changing it. He thought to himself (and I paraphrase) that the intersection of Eastern and Western thought (and North and South for that matter) was going to break the existing paradigm and crate something new, a global culture that was entirely apart from the present. He saw, momentarily, a brand new world and set his mind (and eventually Apple as an organization) to occupy that space – to be a part of that world, to make the ‘new’ happen.
Little did he know how profound that insight was; for that is exactly what he did, he and Apple changed the world. What frustrated so many conventional business partners, financial analysts, and others were Steve’s unorthodox style and his intense determination. He knew that Apple’s business was not represented in the ‘numbers’ and, more importantly, incremental change was not going to create the new. For that he needed to take risks, make quantum leaps. Fueled by his vision he designed products that helped create that new and better future. The fact that Apple is now the world’s most successful company is testament to his vision and his will. In many ways he challenges the rest of us to follow his lead to think different, to be different. For certainly now is the critical moment of truth, we either act boldly now to bring the ‘new’ to life or retreat in panic and confusion.
Things to Think About
1. Your business is a network of human relationships not a set of numbers on your financial statements. Learn the ‘guts’ of your business and like Steve Jobs have the strength of character to think different.
2. Incremental change in a transitioning world buys you time but will not put you on top. RIM is a classic example of a successful company that had a technological lead and then became satisfied with minor improvements. It may have cost them their market share and business.