Six ways to think like Steve Jobs

Does anyone else wonder what will happen to Apple now that Steve-The-Genius Jobs has passed on? If there is ever to be a test of his leadership, it’s now; what survives when the leader doesn’t? We may not know for a few years yet.

Here’s what has survived – the example he set in his fierce and fearless approach to design and business, and how you can think like the mega-man too.

1. When things get tough, innovate. What did most businesses do during the onset of the Global Financial Crisis? They cut back: jobs, marketing budgets, expenses. Apple increased its innovation and design budget. When things get tough, that’s when you need to invest even more in innovation – according to Jobs.

“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” As quoted in Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company (2004) by Owen W. Linzmayer

2. People need to be cheered up. So do the unpopular thing. When the terrorists struck the Twin Towers in 2001, many businesses stopped in their tracks, afraid. The iPod however was announced just a few weeks later, on October 23rd. People thought Jobs was crazy to continue with the release of the iPod. If ever there was a time that people needed good news this was it. Jobs knew this:

“It will go down in history as a turning point for the music industry. This is landmark stuff. I can’t overestimate it!” – On the iPod and the iTunes Music Store, as quoted in Fortune magazine (12 May 2003)

So while the world mourned, Jobs brought them hope and the belief in the human spirit and its potential.

3. Think about the people. Jobs had an unerring respect and consideration for his customer. He knew they wanted simplicity and elegance. And all the Apple products delivered on this.

“Look at the design of a lot of consumer products — they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.” On the design of the iPod, as quoted in Newsweek (14 October 2006)

4. Be radically creative. And know when to say ‘no’. You can be disciplined about creativity. And you can also encourage wild and bold runaway thoughts that lead to breakthroughs as much as they do dead-ends. The trick is to know which is which.

“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient. But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea. And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – As quoted in “The Seed of Apple’s Innovation” in BusinessWeek (12 October 2004)

Know what’s important to you and your business, and let this be your compass bearing.

5. Invite others’ opinions. Trust your own. Being a leader is knowing that to consult others is essential, and to be open to changing your opinions as a result. It’s also knowing when to stand firm in your vision of what’s possible.

“Because I’m the CEO, and I think it can be done.’ – On why he chose to override engineers who thought the iMac wasn’t feasible, as quoted in TIME magazine (24 October 2005)

6. Know why you do what you do. Leaving the planet with a 7 billion net worth seems like a worthy achievement. But Jobs’s financial success was just a bi-product of his real intention.

“I was worth about over a million dollars when I was twenty-three and over ten million dollars when I was twenty-four, and over a hundred million dollars when I was twenty-five and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.” – Interview in the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires (1996)

And in his own words, about when it’s all over…

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – On the success of Bill Gates and Microsoft, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Summer 1993)

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