As expected the movie about Steve Jobs the founder of Apple Computers had lots of golden nuggets about what made him a great business leader. I am always looking for lessons from people and organizations that have made a difference. Steve Jobs and Apple Computers fall into that category.
In the movie, Ashton Kutcher takes on the role of Mr. Jobs masterfully, proving he is more than just a comedic actor. The movie takes us on Steve Jobs journey from college dropout to industry giant. It shows how his laser like focus on his desired outcome produced unprecedented results. We also learn the impact that level of commitment has on those around him.
Quotes from the movie provide valuable insight into the way Mr. Jobs thought and approached business. It’s time to start learning the underlying lessons in order of appearance in the movie.
While introducing the iPod to the Apple employee’s Jobs said “what it represents is as important as what it is.” “It’s a tool for the heart, and when you can touch someone’s heart that’s limitless.” In marketing a product or service, we should always remember how touching someone’s heart will make what you’re selling more personal. We need to tie the features, advantages and benefits together so the message of how it touches them is clear.
To take that thought a step further, think about what iPods meant to the people who were seeing it for the first time. If Mr. Jobs and Apple only said it was a compact music player (Feature), people would wonder why they needed it when they already had a Sony Walkman or similar product. The iPod lets you choose songs from multiple albums without having the physical copy with them (Advantage), while the Walkman only let you play the tape or CD that was in it. Touching ones heart takes it one step further, in the case of the iPod, its letting the people know that this device in their pocket can store their entire music library (Benefit) letting them access any song they want to hear from their past or present. It’s amazing how a song can take you back to a place and time in your life. The iPod let people choose where they wanted their heart at any moment.
While at college he is listening to a monk who said “It is not who you were at birth that matters, but what you do with the time you are given. The moment of your death is fixed. Life is but a journey through serenity to its completion.” While another voice says “Be as simple as you can be, you will be astonished to see how simple and uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” Simplicity has been a key driver to the success of many of Apples products.
At Atari you can see the start of Steve’s leadership ability. He was a programmer who demanded more from his co-workers than the managers did. “People want color” “So, let’s do something better” “You refuse to do anything that vaguely escapes your comfort zone.” “I’m just trying to do it right.” This scene showed that you can manage from anywhere within an organization. The manager knew Steve was an incredible programmer but finally had him work overnight so he would not have to interact with his co-workers. Though his co-workers did not appreciate his vigor, it shows anyone in any position can take a leadership role and demand more from everyone around them. The scene also gave us the first glimpse at his drive for perfection, which is a reoccurring message throughout.
When his manager at Atari was talking with him about the way he interacts with his co-workers, Steve asks for more responsibility. “Give me my own project, I’ll do it on my own and I will make the best damn game you have ever seen.” The manager gives him a game that no one has been able to get working properly. Steve completes the project in only a couple days, by getting help from a non Atari employee. This is where we are introduced to Steve Wozniak “Woz” future co-founder of Apple Computers. In any organization, management wants to see people ask for more responsibility.
When Steve Jobs goes to Woz’s house to pay him for his help in fixing the game, Steve sees something Woz had put together. Woz had built a personal computer for himself. Up to this point computers were all large and only owned by corporations’ or governments. Steve instantly saw the opportunity of making and marketing personal computers to the masses. This moment was the spark that started Apple. When Woz said no one would want one Steve replied “How does someone even know what they want if they’ve never even seen it.” Steve had vision, he could see the product and the impact it would have on the world.
Steve had very little patience for people who did not share his vision or work ethic. When speaking with a friend he grew up with and employed from the very start you can see his straight to the point attitude. “What happened to you? You used to be motivated, show me, I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself.”
Steve fired the lead programmer for a new operating system because he did not think adding additional fonts to the system were important. “Everything is a pressing issue, if we want to make the vision a reality we got to put in the hours and make something creative.” “If you don’t share our enthusiasm, and care for the vision of this company, get out. He sent a powerful message to the entire Apple team by never settling. He wanted everything to be just right in both form and functionality.
Here is Steve’s vision for the Macintosh, “This thing is for the everyman, right, that is our end user, it’s the school teacher, it’s the garbage man, it’s the kid, it’s some grandma out in Nebraska, right, so we have to make this thing simple, it has to work like an appliance.” That thought process is one of the driving factors for Apples success. Far too many companies over engineer products making them hard to use, think about how the DVR has all but replaced VCR’s and DVD recorders, it’s because it is simple to use and integrated into the current cable or satellite system. Most people never figured out how to pre-schedule a recording on the older devices.
Mr. Jobs was not welcomed by all when joining the Macintosh team. The project leader told Steve that he was not a fit for the project, because it was supposed to be an entry level price point driven computer. Steve had different ideas. “Ok Jeff, let’s get a couple of things straight, we don’t do fine, we don’t except things the way that they are and we don’t stop innovating.” “You can either get on board or get the **** out.” This is was another example of Mr. Jobs understanding of the importance of brining new products and features to the consumer. Steve always focused on the providing consumers a better experience, something we should all pay close attention too.
When talking with his team, he shared his thoughts on how one stays motivated enough to finish what they have started. “You’ve got to have a problem you want to solve, a wrong you want to right; it’s got to be something you are passionate about. Otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.” We should all look for those opportunities in our work settings to help drive positive change.
He also told his team, “We can’t look at the competition and say we are going to do it better, we have to look at the competition and say we are going to do it differently.” Mr. Jobs always wanted to be innovating, finding better and easier ways for people to use his products. We all need to look at what we do differently that our competition and build it into our value propositions.
John Sculley delivered a powerful speech when taking over as Apple’s CEO. “You can make a great product, but you have to convince people what your selling is greater. Were not selling computers, were selling what they can do with a computer. A tool for the mind and that ladies and gentlemen is limitless. Because people will never stop believing that they can get more out of something, whether it be their jobs, their marriage, their money, their lives, that’s what you have to do with the Mac. It’s the belief in the limitless, the impossible, that no matter what you dream, you can do it. A Mac will help you get there.” But as that phase of Apples history plays out, you can see that Mr. Sculley’s actions were not congruent with this message. He lost sight of what made Apple, Apple. Mr. Sculley eventually worked it out that Steve Jobs was little more than a figure head and eventually exiled Steve from the Company.
After Apple went completely away from Steve Jobs vision, the stock and the company both were on the rocks and close to complete failure, a small group of people in management decided to see if they could get Steve to come back. Here is Steve message when asking the board for control of Apple again.
“My vision of the future of Apple. We are not Microsoft or Dell, so we need to stop trying to be that. We need to go back to who we are, and what we do best and throw away everything else. Here is how we are going to do it. We are going to build a new line of computers for the home and office. We’re going to build a new operating system on the backbone of NEXT. We’re going to kill every other project, everything. This company will not make S*** anymore. We’re also going to double down on the advertising budget. Just like back in the old days. We are going to make Apple cool again.” This is an example of what many business learn the hard way, they lose focus on what they do best and try to become everything to everybody. Focus on your key strengths and how anything new fits into your company vision.
Steve’s thoughts as we see his re-emergence at Apple.
“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way that it is. Your life is to try to live inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, but that is a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Shake off this erroneous notion that life is just there, you’re gonna live it. Embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark on it. Once you learn that you will never be the same again.”
At the end of the movie, Steve is recording his new message to the consumer. It was geared to be cool, hip and talking to the youth and young at heart. “
“Here is to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the trouble makers, the round pegs in the square holes the ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quoi. You can quote them disagree with them, fortify and vilify them. The only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see dreams, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
We should all challenge ourselves to dream a little and think about the what if’s of challenging the norms. We should all try to develop strategic thinking skills and not let ourselves fall into strictly a tactical mindset. If we do, we can make our own places in the world a little better.
Though the movie is only a dramatization of the real events, I would recommend anyone interested in business, leadership and innovation see this movie. I look forward to hearing feedback about this movie as well as the Steve Jobs story.
David Domos developed WhyBuyFromYou.com to provide content to help small businesses develop their branding, marketing and sales systems. In the past he held key leadership positions for a fortune 500 company. That company led the market in both sales and brand awareness and David was a significant contributor to its growth. David has been on the Amazon.com best seller list in their Direct Marketing, Communications and Entrepreneurship categories. He is a student of sales, marketing, branding & small business growth, continually focusing on the reasons people buy. Follow him on Twitter @WhyBuyFromYou or visit www.whybuyfromyou.com.