I finished listening to the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson over the past week… all 28 hours of it! It is a great insight into someone who I found to be a tortured genius but it was difficult at times to reconcile on one side, the awful way that he treated people, the utterly obnoxious behaviour and his attitude towards his children and family with the other, the ability to drive himself and those around him in an unrelenting manner towards perfection, his vision in seeing design in terms of the ideal user experience and his own peculiar ability to inspire people.
I am not sure that I did reconcile these two sides because I will never be convinced that the ‘end justifies the means’! Whilst some of his approaches to running a business such as understanding and living the ‘Why?’, the laser-like focus on the customer experience, the building of ‘insanely great’ products, the ‘no compromise’ attitude towards the quality versus cost dilemma, the belief that people will always pay for quality, as well as the elimination of departmental boundaries in order to foster collaborative thinking, are elements that EVERY business should take note of and adopt, I won’t be rushing to buy books such as: Steve Jobs ‘The How to Treat Staff Well Bible’ or the ‘iBook on HR Techniques’!
I know that I probably wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes working for him and it is because of that, and my recollections of having encountered organisations run by somewhat tyrannical CEO’s, that I was mostly left admiring those that had ‘put up with him’ over the course of many years and whose own genius had contributed to the amazing products that Apple and Pixar produced.
I must admit that I was not an Apple ‘follower’ prior to reading this book (I had seen the previous messianic fervour and enthusiasm of those who loved the Apple range of PCs and Software in terms which approached cultish) however I have paid a lot more attention to the two products, the iPhone 4 and an iPod which I own, since reading it and have found myself examining their finish and detail in a way that I previously didn’t appreciate. On top of that I actually visited an Apple retailer and took a bit of time looking over just exactly what all of the fuss was about and really started to ‘get it’, studying every fine detail in manner not unlike Gollum of Lord of the Rings with ‘the pwecious’ …. It probably explains why the security people were heading in my direction at one point most likely intent on asking me to leave!
Overall on finishing the book, I couldn’t help but be left with admiration for what he achieved and for what his businesses, Apple and Pixar, produced. On a personal level, it is also pretty clear that his illness was a product of his demons, his issues with abandonment which he repeated with his own first daughter, and who knows if he would still be around if he hadn’t taken such a strange position on the initial diagnosis of his cancer and indeed his subsequent ignoring of the advice on improving his eating habits and regimes.
It will interesting to see if his legacy remains, not just in the form of Apple the company but also in his particular philosophy towards product excellence, customer focus and ‘no compromise’, or will the all too common ‘shareholder value’ element come into the equation and tarnish his beloved Apple for the future. Time will tell. He was however a unique individual, a one in a million genius!n finishing the book, I couldn’t help but be left with admiration for what he achieved and for what his businesses, Apple and Pixar, produced. On a personal level, it is also pretty clear that his illness was a product of his demons, his issues with abandonment which he repeated with his own first daughter, and who knows if he would still be around if he hadn’t taken such a strange position on the initial diagnosis of his cancer and indeed his subsequent ignoring of the advice on improving his eating habits and regimes.
For me I have already written my Santa List for this Christmas in which I have asked for an iMac, a Mac Book and an iPad! No harm in asking!!
As for you, I suggest, if you are mildly curious about Apple and how they got to where they are and why their products are so great, then put this book on your Santa List!