What Steve Jobs believed was actually behind Apple’s greatness – biographer

Walter Isaacson is best known for his excellent biography of Apple co-founder, the late Steve Jobs. I learnt so much from the book, my review on Biznews is in three parts – The unravelling of a genius; Sweating the small stuff; and the importance of marrying well. There’s review another in gestation. But here is a different and far better informed take on Mr Jobs. In this video, Isaacson explains what Jobs really believed made the difference, what turned Apple from near bankruptcy into the most esteemed company on earth. Valuable lessons for all. And once you’ve watched this, you might also enjoy the best Commencement Speech of all time – Steve Job’s address to Stanford University in 2005. – AH

WALTER ISAACSON:  Yeah, Steve Jobs is one of those romantic innovators who comes up with great ideas, has real passion, real vision, and that prickly personality – that very pushy reality-distorting personality that can get something done.  However, in writing about Steve Jobs, I realised something interesting.

It wasn’t just his one vision.  It was his ability to create a team around him, his ability to work in partnership with Steve Wozniak – and you can go down the list with dozens of people all the way to Tim Cook – and not only to work in partnership, but to create a collaborative team around him of great designers like Jonny Ive.  Software people like Phil Schiller and Johnny Rubenstein…

I wanted to ask Steve Jobs ‘what product are you the proudest of’ and I thought he might say the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, or the Mac’.  He said ‘you know, making a product is hard but making a team that can continually make products is even harder.  The product I’m most proud of is Apple and the team I built at Apple’.

That’s when I moved to this new book ‘The Innovators’ because I wanted to say it’s not just about the visionary.  It’s about the visionary being able to execute on the vision by finding the right people to be collaborative and creative with.  With Steve Jobs; even though we think of him as being a tough boss or we think of him as having sort of a prickly personality, there were people who were so loyal to Steve that they would walk through walls for him.

He developed around him the tightest, most loyal, and most integrated team in Silicon Valley.  Steve Jobs was very intuitive in the way he made decisions.  He wasn’t somebody who deeply reflected or spent a whole lot of time hashing it through, but he would work with everybody from the hardware designers like Jonny Ive to the software people and just say ‘no, that doesn’t feel right’.  Sometimes he used a little bit stronger language than that or ‘it’s genius.  It’s perfect.  It’s awesome.  It’s incredible’.  However, don’t try this at home.  People come up to me sometimes and say ‘I’m like Steve Jobs.  When somebody does something that stinks, I tell them it stinks’.  I said ‘yeah.  Have you invented the iPod?  Have you invented an iPhone? No’.

Steve Jobs didn’t just have a tough personality.  He also had a charismatic visionary personality.  He brought people in and he really could inspire people because even though sometimes, he couldn’t articulate exactly what he wanted, he could surely point the way to getting it there.  He also believe in physical space as necessary for collaboration.  We think that maybe we could collaborate in the digital age by doing it virtually from afar.  However, when he built the Pixar building, and when he designed what will be the new headquarters for Apple, it was all about making sure people had serendipitous encounters – that they came through the HM, that they walked through the perimeter where the light was and the new Apple headquarters, where they would just bump into people and say ‘what are you working on’, and naturally collaborate.

He felt that just by walking through Jonny Ive’s design studio, touching a few things, and talking to people, he could collaborate by being in a physical space, better than he could do it by Skype, email, or Google Hangouts.  Steve’s teambuilding skills really came from the force of his personality and being with him.

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