Think of all the brands you know and use daily? Do you even know who their CEO’s are? Coke? Adidas? Levi’s? Sony? BMW? Nike even?(No, it’s not Phil Knight.) Most company CEO’s do not have anything even close to the allure that Jobs had. He wasn’t a movie star, yet he’s more famous than most celluloid celebrities. In reality, he was barely in the public eye, except for a few interviews and the annual Apple product launches. Despite his privacy, most educated people around the world knew him by name.
So why did he make such a big impact?
Most likely, the thing we’ll remember most about Steve Jobs is that he disrupted four entire industries, flipping them completely on their heads. Computing. Telecommunications. Music. Movies. These were all altered forever by Jobs’ unique vision.
However, I’d like to focus on what entrepreneurs can learn from him; the lessons we can extract from the life of such an individual?
Lesson 1: Be Creative
One of the best-loved talks on TED’s website is Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation on Creativity. In many schools, we’re taught to scoff at artistic endeavours in favour of more academic pursuits like maths like science; yet business today is showing us the value of right brain thinking. Steve Jobs embodied the power of creativity in business. This was best illustrated by the release of the phenomenally successful fruit-coloured iMacs upon Jobs’ return to Apple in the ’90’s, flying in the face of the bland models espoused by Apple’s competitors. In this day and age, when the world is becoming increasingly noisy, it’s critical to think creatively in order to stand out from the crowd.
Lesson 2: Usability Uber Alles
Jobs was tyrannical when it came to user-experience. UX was one of the reasons why he insisted on Apple’s software being created in-house. That way he had full control over the usability. He knew that most software was developed by function-focused engineers, and as a result, was clunky and difficult to navigate. Apple’s software, in contrast, was simple, straightforward and easy to use. The original iPod, with its click-wheel, will stand as an all-time design classic, representing a remarkable breakthrough in product design.
Lesson 3: Create Suspense
Even major-release film production studios will find it hard to replicate the breathless anticipation whipped up by the release of a new Apple product. He did this by being patient and disciplined with his communication. He held back on the nature of the latest Apple products, teasing the media with hints and clues, but never letting the suspense subside.
Lesson 4: Be Curious
Steve Jobs was fanatical about detail. In Jobs’ presentation to Stanford graduates in 2003, he told a story about a course in calligraphy. This was anathema to anything else he’d studied, and something he was not sure that he’d ever find useful. Yet, 10 years later, he was using all his knowledge in calligraphy to good use in designing the groundbreaking graphic user interface in the first Macintosh computer.
Lesson 5: Focus
It is well known that Apple are as proud of what they have said ‘no’ to during Jobs’ tenure as they are about the products that have been released. This is a bigger point than one might imagine. Can you imagine the possibilities within a company with Apple’s engineering prowess, tactical nous, operational clout and immense cash reserves? Yet Apple has only a handful of products – all of them runaway bestsellers. I know from running a digital marketing agency how hard it is to stay focused, despite the relative small size of my company. Ideas are cheap, yet focus is one of the greatest skills for an entrepreneur to learn on the road to success. Jobs had it in spades.