Posted on : 08-10-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Inspirational, Leadership
Over the past few days we have been hearing many words to describe Steve Jobs, such as visionary, genius, maverick, friend, etc. To me he was a hero, and that will continue throughout my lifetime. As I look back on his life I do not get the sense that he was motivated by money or fame. Steve was an extraordinarily passionate about ‘changing the world.’ He lived that passion in everything he did. Steve seemed to live by certain ideals and concentrated on those. I love that about him and hope I too can live up to my passions with such unyielding power.
Many leaders look at Apple, and Steve in particular as an innovator. I believe it is due to the work of the Apple team that innovation has become such an overused word in business. The funny thing is I have not seen any company innovate in the way Apple has, but I think they could learn from Steve regarding that. Steve did not focus on the Customer or even metrics. In fact Steve was frustrated by the whims of Wall Street. Although he was Customer focused, he instead encouraged the team to focus on their dreams and desires in creating great products. Through innovations, including the Macintosh, iMac, iPhone, iPad, and although not as much a commercial success, the Apple TV (I have 3 and love them), Steve did change the world, and I am willing to bet the biggest changes are yet to come from Steve. The Apple success story after his return will be studied by management courses for years to come and I am willing to bet that we will someday see similar leaders driven to do something like ‘changing the world.’
Most days I read a variety of news stories, usually starting with either Google News or Yahoo News. Thursday was no different. Late that night I came across a few well-done pieces on the Christian Science Monitor. The first, called ‘The Apple Effect: How Steve Jobs and Co. Won Over the World,’ was written prior to his passing and featured in their August issue. The second is really what started me rethinking this blog post. The article, “America Could Use Another Steve Jobs,’ was an interesting look at the late seventies, early eighties, and compared the times to now. It then highlighted how a group of entrepreneurs, including Steve and Bill Gates, helped America regain confidence. At the time many were worried about the economic power of Japan, similar to the way today many are worried about China. The seventies also included a ten-year period with many economic and political challenges. At the time, these ‘kids’ helped bring America to the top again, especially regarding technology.
Steve, like all of us, was a product of his history. He grew up in the changing times of the sixties and seventies. This most likely brought him the power to question status quo. At the time when Apple started, he and Steve Wozniak were artists, bringing the Apple to life. Steve and Woz could see how the computer could, and would change the lives for all of us. As time went on Apple saw a few failures, but then came the Macintosh. Apple must have felt like a dream to him! Then then some tough challenges leading to his departure from the company he loved. He then gained other interesting experiences that could continue to help shape him, including the development and eventual sale of NeXT to Apple. He also invested in Pixar, which eventually came out with some movies many of us love to this day. Pixar sold to Disney, making Steve Jobs its largest shareholder. These experiences guided his artistic passion and vision. He learned what he liked within different corporate cultures and what did not work for him or the companies he was involved with. He then returned to a damaged Apple. Many thought Apple would soon be extinct, but Steve and the Apple team proved them wrong. It was a rebellion. His experiences all came together to create the Apple we know today. Steve made tough choices, some of which alienated Apple from others. He was tough regarding software that would be on the Apple computers, and even stopped allowing others to create Apple clones. When he did not like the way companies sold his products, he simply changed the model, which eventually led to the Apple store being born. Steve, based on his own likes and dislikes (not focus groups) would guide product design. He had an instinct to what the masses would like. He did not strive to meet everyone’s needs, just everyday people. At times this frustrated people, especially when they felt Apple was controlling it. The best example was the Apple App store, which limited what apps would be available for the iPhone and iTouch. Steve was really controlling the user experience. I will admit I was even frustrated by this once or twice, but after using similar devices, I can understand the importance of having a good experience with a device.
Anyway, as I look through Steve’s amazing career, I see a human being who was shaped by experiences. Steve was an amazingly passionate person with a mission to ‘change the world.’ We may want to hold him up on a pedestal, but Steve simply embodied what is in many of us, but we choose to hold back. Every one of us has a passion and, many times a mission. As I read through the article about ‘America Could Use Another Steve Jobs,’ I have two thoughts. First Steve was unique as all of us are. My second thought is more in the lines of a song from the Lion King, the Musical. The song is ‘He lives in You.’ The fact is many of Steve’s attributes, such as passion and mission is within all of us, it is just more a question of our own drive to live up to our passion. You may not want to change the world, but you can create a very strong mission. My personal mission is to change the Customer Service world. In honor of Steve, I am going to make sure I have a much stronger focus on that. I know I can change a small part of the world, as Steve has proven that one person can and has ‘changed the world’