Leadership Lessons from Visionaries, Part Two: Steve Jobs

January 1, 2020.

It was the beginning of a new year, and most would say, a new decade.

Many people, and certainly most leaders, look at the beginning of a new year to look ahead to what might be – to dream.

Since it was a new year, many of those dreams might even be worded as “resolutions” – or goals – for 2020.

Of course, looking back to January 2020 from the vantage point of early 2021, no one on earth could have predicted what the year was going to turn out like.

In spite of that, no, even BECAUSE of the way the year went, the team at Auxano would like you to focus instead on clarity.

Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.

To help you understand clarity from a different perspective, this issue of SUMS Remix departs from our usual format of a common problem statement, with solutions from three books and accompanying action steps.

Instead, we invite you to take a brief look into the lives of two of the most brilliant, creative, and clarity-practicing geniuses: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

Though born in different generations, and living vastly different lives, Disney and Jobs have influenced millions of people through the respective outputs of the companies they founded, the Walt Disney Company and Apple.

The first installment was a look at Walt Disney. The second installment of the four-part series is a brief excerpt from a select biography of Steve Jobs, giving you background on his excellent of use of “vision” and “communication.” The third and fourth installments will give you a brief excerpt from other books that illustrate these two concepts, each with action steps to help you do the same.

As you look at some specific events of their lives through the lens of “vision” and “communication,” it is my hope that you will be inspired to live and lead 2021 with clarity.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years – as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues – Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.  

Although Jobs cooperated with the publication of Steve Jobs, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.


VISION COMMUNICATION ILLUSTRATION

While Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is remembered in many ways for the successful innovations he led Apple to accomplish, undoubtedly his most memorable public moments were the product introductions he unveiled over the years.

An Apple product unveiling by Steve Jobs was not a dry, technical recitation. Instead, Jobs electrified his audiences with his incomparable style and showmanship. He didn’t just convey information in his presentations; he told stories, painted pictures in the listener’s minds, and above all, shared a vision of what could be.

A presentation by Steve Jobs was a transformative experience that his audience found unique, inspiring, and unforgettable.

Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. Today we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.              

Steve Jobs

The Apple II Launch Event – April 1977

It is important to “impute” your greatness by making a memorable impression on people, especially when launching a new product. That was reflected in the care that Jobs took with Apple’s display area. Other exhibitors had card tables and poster board signs. Apple had a counter draped in black velvet and a large pane of backlit Plexiglas with Apple’s new logo. They put on display the only three Apple IIs that had been finished, but empty boxes were piled up to give the impression that there were many more on hand.

The Macintosh Launch Event – January 1984

The lights dimmed as Jobs reappeared onstage and launched into a dramatic version of the battle cry he had delivered earlier during the Macintosh’s development.

“It is 1958. IBM passes up a chance to buy a young fledgling company that has invented a new technology called xerography. Two years later, Xerox was born, and IBM has been kicking themselves ever since.”

“It is now 1984. It appears that IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, after initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and –controlled future and are turning back to Apple as the only force who can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all, and is aiming its guns at its last obstacle to industry control, Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”

As he built to the climax, the audience went from murmuring to applauding to a frenzy of cheering and chanting. But before they could answer the Orwell question, the auditorium went black and the “1984” commercial appeared on the screen. When it was over, the entire audience was on its feet cheering.

With a flair for the dramatic, Jobs walked across the dark stage to a small table with a cloth bag on it. “Now I’d like to show you Macintosh in person,” he said. He took out the computer, keyboard, and mouse, hooked them together deftly, then pulled one of the new 3½-inch floppies from his shirt pocket.

The theme from Chariots of Fire began to play, the word “MACINTOSH” scrolled horizontally onscreen, then underneath it the words “Insanely great” appeared in script, as if being slowly written by hand. Not used to such beautiful graphic displays, the audience quieted for a moment. Wild cheering and shrieks erupted from the audience, followed by a five-minute standing ovation.

The iPod – October 2001

When it came time to reveal the product, after he had described its technical capabilities, Jobs did not do his usual trick of walking over to a table and pulling off a velvet cloth. Instead he said, “I happen to have one right here in my pocket.” He reached into his jeans and pulled out the gleaming white device. “This amazing little device holds a thousand songs, and it goes right into my pocket.” He slipped it back in and ambled offstage to applause.

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs

A NEXT STEP

Set aside some time to view these launch events, and take notes on how you might adapt Jobs’ techniques to upcoming events in your organization.

Watch videos of Steve Jobs and select product launches by clicking on the links below:

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 135-3, released January 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

It’s Better to be a Pirate than Join the Navy

With all the hullabaloo about the sales numbers for Apple’s iPhone 6 over the weekend (10 million phones!), here’s a reminder of what’s behind Apple’s success:

Leading Apple with Steve Jobs details the management principles Jay Elliot learned from Jobs – and what every manager can learn about motivating people to do the best work of their lives.

Elliot was personally hired by Jobs just in time to accompany him on the last of his historic visits to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center – visits that changed the course of computing (the graphic user interface and the mouse, among others). Elliot was Senior VP of Apple, overseeing all company procedures and strategic planning, as well as software development and HR.

First, an image:

Recognize it? This is the flag designed by a couple of the original Macintosh team and flown over the building that housed the small but outspoken crew that was responsible for bringing Jobs’ vision of the personal computer to the masses. It reflected a phrase that Jobs used at a team retreat:

It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy

Those with a cursory knowledge of the Apple story might think that this is a reference to Apple against the rest of the computer world – which it has been for all of its existence. But the real origin of this phrase and the accompanying image comes from Jobs’ insistence of creating a visionary team within Apple – a team that would band together and fight against the corporate bureaucracy that Apple had become in just a few short years.

To protect innovation, Jobs created a company within a company, gave them their own identity, and turned them loose. He didn’t want the Macintosh group to be dragged into the same mess (Jobs used a more earthy term) and lose their entrepreneurial focus – the ability to see and be motivated by an inspiring vision of the future. Jobs’ achieved this by

…building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision.

The rest is history…

Application for ChurchWorld:

Churches don’t have a product like Apple, but then again Apple has always been more than just a product. It’s about creativity and innovation and experience and passion and people – terms which certainly have application to the church – or should. One thing that the church (no matter what its size) has in common with Apple or any large business is a tendency to gravitate toward institutionalism and bureaucracy. Leaders need to resist this, and one way to do this is to create a “pirate” crew that has the qualities of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and an absolute passion and commitment to the vision of the church.

Choose your crew wisely, and they will challenge your thinking, fuel your ideas, pump up your momentum, sharpen your creative edge, and accomplish great things.

One Button: The Official Symbol of Simplicity

…a single iconic image can be the most powerful form of communication.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity.

The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. Led by Steve Jobs’ uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

Like this:

Or even this:

Apple branded itself using iconic images and two words that perfectly described the spirit of the company. Every Apple produce sold contributed to the brand image; every product became a manifestation of the brand.

There’s one more example:

One is the simplest number ever invented. It’s so simple, a child can understand it. The further you get away from one, the more complicated things get.

That’s why Steve Jobs insisted on iPhone having only one button, rejecting many models before arriving at the final version. You don’t even have to use an iPhone to get that it’s simple. In fact, one could say that the single button has become an icon of Apple’s devotion to Simplicity.

Simplicity requires little effort.

If Apple had it’s way, all of its products would feature a single button. Now that the iPhone has Siri, the voice-controlled assistant, you might want to prepare yourself for Apple products with zero buttons.

After all, zero is the only number that’s simpler than one.

I’ve really enjoyed reading Insanely Simple and its true insider’s perspective on Apple’s obsession with Simplicity. Ken Segall has really brought the concepts of Simplicity home.

As a leader, are you practicing Simplicity?

An Apple a Day

While doing some research recently, I came across a back issue of “Fast Company” magazine and a great article on Apple entitled “Apple Nation.” It’s one observer’s version of what “the Apple playbook” might look like. It may be dated, but it’s fascinating – and it has some implications for your organization.

  • Go into your cave – Apple is fanatic about secrecy when it comes to their development process. Behind it’s often closed doors, Apple can ignore the clamor of the world and create its own unique brand of “magic.”
  • It’s okay to be king – Apple’s engineers spend 100% of their time making products planned by a small club of senior managers – and while he was CEO, sometimes entirely by the late Steve Jobs himself. It may seem dictatorial, but it works. The hyper focus lets everyone know exactly what is needed.
  • Transcend orthodoxy – despite all the noise about Apple’s closed ideology, the company adopts positions based on whether they make for good products and good business. Results are the driving philosophy.
  • Just say no – CEO Steve Job’s primary role at Apple was to turn things down. “I’m as proud of the products that we have not done as the ones we have done,” Jobs once told an interviewer.
  • Serve your customer. No, really – however great your product or service, something will go wrong – and only then will the customer/client take the true measure of your organization.
  • Everything is marketing – Apple understands the lasting power of sensory cues, and goes out its way to infuse everything it make with memorable ideas that scream its brand.
  • Kill the past – no other company re imagines the fundamental parts of its business as frequently, and with as much gusto, as Apple does. Nothing holds it back, so it can always stay on the edge of what’s technologically possible.
  • Turn feedback into inspiration – Apple doesn’t exactly ignore the many customer requests for improvements in its products. They simply use their ideas as inspiration, not direction; as a means, not an end.
  • Don’t invent, reinvent – revolutionary is one of Jobs’ favorite words. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own.
  • Play by your own clock – Apple doesn’t get caught up in the competitive frenzy of the industry; it plays by its own clock. Apple’s product release schedule is designed around its own strategy and its own determination of what products will advance the company’s long-term goals.

Everyone wants to be like Steve Jobs and the powerhouse company he created and led. It’s not easy. But the lessons of Apple above may just help move your own organization forward.

 

Have you had your “Apple” today?

 

Simplicity Never Stands Still

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

– Leonard Bernstein

Former ad agency creative director Ken Segall’s new book Insanely Simple is written from a unique perspective: developing marketing campaigns for technology giants like IBM, Dell, Intel, – and Apple. It was the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity – and inspired him to help others benefit from it.

In the chapter entitled “Think Motion,” Segall refers to Apple’s practices of fast-tracking project and marketing development.  Apple has grown to point where it does a tremendous number of things at once, and in doing so has built one of the world’s greatest juggling acts. Apple:

  • lives in constant motion
  • never stops thrilling its audience
  • never lets things get old

The best illustration of this comes from an example of Segall’s work with both Dell and Apple on similar ventures – developing a new branding campaign.

Apple set out to create a brand campaign in 1997.

   Dell set out to create a brand campaign in 2008.

Apple wanted to start its campaign immediately.

   Dell pondered a schedule that would take months.

Apple’s brand team was led by its CEO.

   Dell’s brand team was led by a committee.

Apple trusted a small group of smart people.

   Dell trusted a small group of incompatible people.

Apple knew exactly who it was.

   Dell need to figure out who it was.

Steve Jobs was an active participant.

   Michael Dell would look in when the project was complete.

Apple’s brand team required only the CEO’s approval.

   Dell’s brand team required each division’s approval.

Apple took a month to conceive and create a campaign.

   Dell required a month just to talk about strategies.

Apple ended up with the Think Different campaign.

   Dell ended up with a stack of presentation boards stored neatly in a dark closet.

Simplicity – represented in the above example by Apple’s actions – is a fundamental requirement when you’re trying to achieve lofty goals. As Dell discovered, a fractured, leaderless group without an urgent mandate is Simplicity-proof.

Will you walk the straight path of Simplicity or choose the dark, winding road of Complexity?

Small is the Ultimate Efficiency

When process is king, ideas will never be. It takes only Common Sense to recognize that the more layers you add to a process, the more watered down the final work will become.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made him appreciate the power of Simplicity. Segall recently released a book about these lessons – Insanely Simple. More than just another repetition of Apple lore, it chronicles an outsider’s long relationship with Apple and Steve Jobs that will provide leaders in any organization with the powerful tools of Simplicity.

Simplicity’s Best Friend: Small Groups of Smart People

While working with Apple, Segall often experienced the strict enforcement of one of Simplicity’s most important rules: Start with small groups of smart people – and keep them small. Every time the body count in a meeting or working on a project goes higher, you’re simply inviting Complexity to take a seat at the table.

This small-group principle is a key to Apple’s ongoing success and key to any organization that wants to nurture quality thinking. The idea is pretty basic: Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. Segall distilled years of observing and practicing this idea down into two “Laws of Small.”

The quality of work resulting from a project is inversely proportional to the number of people involved in the project.

The quality of work resulting from a project increases in direct proportion to the degree of involvement by the ultimate decision maker.

To even speak of putting process before creativity did not happen in an environment like Apple’s. A better idea is a better idea – no matter where it fell in the process. The high value placed on ideas is one of the things that Steve Jobs burned into the Apple culture and it will likely continue to guide the company into the future.

How would small groups of smart people work in your organization?

Blunt is Simplicity. Meandering is Complexity.

Clarity propels an organization. Not occasional clarity but pervasive, twenty-four-hour, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners clarity.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall is a former ad agency creative director who worked for Apple during Steve Jobs’ return to the helm of the iconic tech company. He also worked for many of the largest tech companies around: IBM, Dell, and Intel among others. He’s seen both sides of the fence, so to speak, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success is an amazing book detailing Apple’s return to brilliance under Steve Jobs. It’s loaded with personal stories and practical applications that your organization will find both fascinating and useful.

Like the necessity of being brutally honest in your communications.

According to Segall, Steve Jobs told you what was on his mind and he couldn’t care less how you might feel about it. Despite a general perception that Jobs was the nasty tyrant who demanded allegiance, barked commands, and instilled fear in those around him, this was an incomplete portrait. He could also be funny, warm, and even charming.

There is a huge difference between being brutally honest and simply being brutal.

Simplicity at Apple is the name of the game, and it requires that you be honest and never hold back. If you demand the same from those you work with, everyone will know where they stand.

One hundred percent of your group’s time will be focused on forward progress – and there will be no need to decode what people are really saying.

Learn the Powerful Lessons of Simplicity

Simplicity isn’t just a design principle at Apple – it’s a value that permeates every level of the organization.

-Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity.

The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. Led by Steve Jobs’ uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

Insanely Simple gives you a true insider’s perspective on Apple’s obsession with Simplicity. Here are just a few of the topics covered:

  • Think Small – swearing allegiance to the concept of “small groups of smart people” raises both morale and productivity
  • Think Minimal – distilling choices to a minimum brings clarity to a company and its customers – as Jobs proved when he replaced over twenty product models with a lineup of four
  • Think Motion – keeping project teams in constant motion focuses creative thinking on well-defined goals and minimizes distractions
  • Think Iconic – using a simple, profound image to symbolize the benefits of a product or idea creates a deeper impression in the minds of customers

Segall introduces the book with the concept of The Simple Stick – a core value within Apple. Sometimes it’s held up as inspiration; other times it’s wielded like a club. In all cases, it’s a reminder of what sets Apple apart from other technology companies and what makes Apple stand out in a complicated world: a deep, almost religious belief in the power of Simplicity.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, you know about and fight the battle of Simplicity every day. It may seem like a losing battle, but you need to know that the results are worth the effort.

The simpler way isn’t always the easiest. Often it requires more time, more money, and more energy. It may require you to step on a few toes along the way. But more often than not, Simplicity leads to better results.

Simplicity needs a champion – someone who’s willing to stand up for its principles and strong enough to resist the overtures of Simplicity’s evil twin, Complexity.

Simplicity needs a leader who is willing to guide the process with both head and heart…

…someone like you?

To read more about Insanely Simple, go to the top of the page and click on the orange title of tomorrow’s post.

Still More Disney Secret Words…

Anticipation

Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research or focus groups. He instilled the idea that Apple would create products that people hadn’t dreamed of yet. Jobs’ genius was to create experiences that people didn’t even know they needed.

Walt Disney had that idea before Jobs was even born.

Disney took the images, speech, and music from his film and created them in 3D at Disneyland in 1955. Ten years later he first imagined, then began to create, Disney World.

Though Walt Disney died before Disney World opened in 1971, his vision lives on 40 years later.

Even more remarkable, his team of Imagineers continue to anticipate – and deliver – remarkable experiences.

Walking around the Magic Kingdom at 2 AM this morning, there were continued signs of expansion. A cast member said that Disney World is “always being built”.

That’s anticipation.

A: “We’re Here to Help You Grow”

Q: Why Apple has been able to create one of the most innovative environments – in any industry – ever.

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Principle #6: Create Insanely Great Experiences

People don’t want to just buy personal computers anymore. They want to know what they can do with them, and we’re going to show people exactly that. – Steve Jobs.

Apple entered the retail business out of necessity. Up till 2000, it was dependent on giant electronics retailers that simple pushed products – Apple or otherwise. Apple realized it would continue to lose market share if it didn’t do something.

Steve Jobs’ decision was to enter retail: “We have to think different about this. We have to innovate.”

Along with Jobs, Ron Johnson, Apple’s Senior VP of Retail Operations, realized that innovation could not take place without a clear, compelling vision. That vision?  Enriching lives.

That simple vision drove the Apple team to create a store unlike anything else in retailing. They innovated around the retail experience by changing people’s expectations of what a retail experience could be.

  • Design uncluttered stores
  • Locate the stores where people live their lives
  • Allow customers to test-drive products
  • Offer a concierge experience
  • Make it easy to buy
  • Offer one-to-one training

Where most retailers are moving product, Apple is establishing a lifelong relationship.

Innovation is seeing what exists in another industry and applying what you learn to improve the customer experience.

What are the lessons here for ChurchWorld?