As a follower of tech trends I have long held Steve Jobs’s career and life as an example of successful entrepreneurship and the illusive ‘X-factor’ that drives brilliant innovation. There is certainly a long list of pundits claiming to hold the key to understanding what made him different and so inspiring, but many of his ‘secrets’ are in fact principles that I think we could all adopt and learn from. Certainly, anyone who desires to be a true master of innovation might well pay attention to understanding the secret of his success. As a visionary innovator and entrepreneur his influence on how we think as consumers about computers, films, media and portable devices cannot be overestimated. But his ability to reach out to educate and change people’s lives is also reflected in how his influence has rocked the business world. His inspirational presentations and lessons are one of his greatest legacies, and here is a summary of some of the lessons behind his amazing success.
1. Do what you love.
Steve Jobs firmly believed that your passion can positively bring you to change the world. He once suggested as advice to entrepreneurs that they should simply get out and find a job as a busboy until they had understood what they were really passionate about. His belief in just following his passions met with a faster changing world where consumer tastes moved rapidly from one fad to the next. But he pointed out: You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”. In essence, he suggested we instead learn to be happy about fighting for what we love and focus on that.
2. Put a dent in the universe.
Steve Jobs had a strong vision and advocated strongly for entrepreneurs to look to transform how we think and act. He always considered the big picture, as he told the graduating class of Stanford in 2005: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”. Once in response to John Sculley, the President of Pepsi, Jobs simply asked him whether he would prefer to spend his life selling sugar water or changing the world. His take on life was to remind us think about our impact as part of everything we do.
3. Make connections.
It is no accident that Steve Jobs is responsible for connecting your laptop to your TV and sound system, connectivity for him was a key principle of life. But this was more than being hooked into the web or being available 24/7 on your mobile phone. For Jobs it was the ability to experience a broader set of challenges and perspectives to discover gains in areas where others had not tried to go. He attended calligraphy classes, studied design, hospitality, did meditation and drew inspiration from both the mundane and the arcane. His notion of connectivity was one that brought ideas across boundaries and disciplines to forge new concepts and ways of doing business.
4. Say no to 1,000 things.
Jobs once claimed that what Apple chose not to do was as important to him as what it did. He reduced 350 products at Apple to 10 products in a two-year period in 1997 in order to put the best quality designers on each product. He expressed the need for more creative ways of doing business, by seeing that the status quo was not enough. He encouraged business leaders to say ‘no’, and took inspiration from artistic creation, saying “If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.”
5. Create insanely different experiences.
Jobs also sought innovation in the customer-service experience. His vision went beyond selling something as ‘the moving of boxes’. For him it was about a form of artistry and of changing lives at the same time as becoming a really successful company. As he put it, “real artists ship”. Great design brings change, intentionally enriching our lives. But brands need to deliver, and that part was as much of an art to Steve Jobs – to develop the brand and production to the highest level. Jobs saw potential in diversity, and felt that companies should start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around.
6. Master the message.
Steve Jobs was a storyteller who realised that corporations and businesses need to share ideas, objectives and vision. His presentations inspired, entertained and educated a generation. As CEO of Apple he brought with him a sense that performance should remain a strong part of everything. No matter how small a matter, Jobs saw that excellence and leadership were priceless. He once accepted in 2007 an annual $1 dollar salary, saying he would make 50 cents for showing up and the other 50 cents would be based on his performance.
7. Sell dreams, not products.
For most people design is merely a veneer or a form of interior decorating. But for Jobs, nothing could be further from the truth. Design was the fundamental aim of production, and a high end quality which he felt should express itself in myriad ways through a product or service. Jobs brought together the artist and the businessman, in ways that captured the imagination of millions. He realised that tablet devices needed simplicity and so he created a one-button device that was both incredibly simple and powerful. He claimed once that Apple had made the buttons on the screen look so good you’d want to lick them. He saw that you need to go beyond expectations to win customers over, in order to build their dreams and ambitions through a product. He stressed the power of belief, once saying, “you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”The best advice Jobs has left with us is to trust in your vision and ideals, to continue to seek amazing ideas in the margins and to believe in yourself, both by upholding your own space to be inspired but also by seeking to fulfil your own dreams.