Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Phenomenon that is Steve Jobs: Secrets to Apple's Success

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. Those were Steve Jobs borrowed words with which he admonished the graduates of Stanford University in 2005. In that speech, Jobs related his life story, the seemingly incongruent events in his life that had armed him with the experiences that he would later use to bring success to the companies that he founded: Apple Computers and Pixar.

Steve Jobs addresses the 2005 graduates of Stanford University

In the last 3 weeks, I've been able to read 3 books that analyzed the genius that was Steve Jobs. These books are:

Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs
Inside Steve's Brain
The Macintosh Way

If one were curious about Steve Jobs and especially as to how he was able to make Apple one of the greatest tech companies of all time, these are the books to read (among several). They tell of the kind of man he is: very temperamental, a perfectionist, and an obssessive. But even if these characteristics seem like flaws, they are perhaps part of what allowed him to make happen his unique vision for every product that he and Apple churned out. Surely those characteristics are the very antidote to mediocrity and no-can-do atttitude that Steve Jobs has been known to despise.

7 Secrets to Steve Jobs' Success:

1. Simplicity
In every product that they designed, Apple and Steve Jobs was always after simplicity. Simplicity may sound too easy, but there is actually complexity in simplicity as Jobs and his team found out. It is harder to keep things simple, than to make them complex. Because he had taken pains to make things simple, the world noticed it and they are rewarded for it. Just think of the very first Ipod: elegant, simple, and a true winner.

2. Customer Experience
Apple does not do any user studies or focused group discussions to see what kind of products they should come up with or to determine how well their products will be embraced by the market. Steve Jobs is his own focused group, and if he doesn't like something, it doesn't get made. What Steve Jobs always keeps in mind is the customer experience. He treats himself like a customer, and he ensures that the customer will have the best experience with their products.

3. Design
Design was key to Apple's success - from the Mac to the Ipod, then Iphone and Ipad. The design had to be simple, sleek yet state of the art. It had to be out of the box, it had to be unique, it had to stand out. It is for this reason that Steve Jobs kept with him talented designers who helped him realize his vision for his Apple products. Design wasn't just about aesthetics; it was every bit tied with designing for simplicity and superb customer experiences.

Steve Jobs and his Apple toys
4. Marketing
Steve Jobs believes in marketing. He makes every effort to get the best marketing people and to conduct excellent marketing events - like the Mac World where he launches his latest products. He knows full well that a good product is no good if it does not sell that's why he does not neglect this aspect. He is every bit demanding in both the product development as well as in getting those products to their desired consumers.

5. Teamwork
Even while Steve Jobs is notorious for his temper, he was able to maintain around him excellent people working as a team. The concensus is that while many fear getting Jobs' ire, they also deeply respect and admire the man for his brilliance. People try to get out of Steve Jobs way, and on the other hand, they want to make sure he is made happy with their work output. Steve Jobs has an eye for talent, and he assembles a team of great people to help him realize his vision. He knows that and has applied it both in his twin jewels: Apple and Pixar.

6. Passion
Steve Jobs is very passionate about his beliefs. When he has in his mind an idea for a product, he becomes resolute in making it happen. His passion could be said to show up in his temper, his attention to detail, his perfectionism, his commitment to excellence. His life had always been about pursuing is passion, and the work that he does at Apple is definitely one of his. He values passion in both himself and the people around him. One of the reasons he was persuaded to invest in Pixar was that he saw the passion of the people there, esp. of Ed Catmull whose vision was to make the first full-length computer-animated movie. Jobs was sold to both Catmull's vision and passion.

7. Innovation
The reason Apple has carved a name for itself and has set itself apart from Microsoft and all other technology companies is that they innovate. They do not create better versions of what someone else has already made; they create new things that no one has done before; or they do things exceptionally well that they jump light-years ahead of their competitors. It is through innovation that Apple was able to conquer the music industry: from being the #1 music player (Ipod) to the #1 music retailer (via iTunes) to the #1 technology store (the iStore). He redefines industries and creates whole new products entirely.

When you come to think of it, these 7 Secrets to Steve Jobs' Success are things we have already heard of before. You'll probably find it prescribed in any good business/self-help book. There is little surprise there.
What is important to remember though is that while none of these is new, it is the faithful application that Steve Jobs made of these principles that really separated him and Apple (and Pixar) from the rest. That IS what's new - the commitment to excellence no matter what, whatever it takes. 
Like his 'Think Different' campaign, Steve Jobs is indeed the 'crazy one' who dared think he could change the world - and as we can know now, he definitely did.

Apple's "Think Different" Campaign: Steve Jobs' brainchild.
It speaks as much about him as his very own aspirations for Apple.

Book Recommendations:
Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs
Inside Steve's Brain
The Macintosh Way


  1. is that you Guy K.? lol
    seriously though i agree with you 100%. The world is a better place because of Apple Inc. I always try to gauge the performance of other products and companies based on the Apple " standard ". If a product or company is able to emulate the characteristics of Apple - that company is gonna be successful. guaranteed. ; )

  2. Great read, I've always been a fan of Steve Jobs and Wozniak.