Inside Steve's Brain - PCC - ebook

One of USA Today's Best Business Books of 2008-now updated with a new chapter It's hard to believe that one man revolutionized computers in the 1970s and '80s (with the Apple II and the Mac), animated movies in the 1990s (with Pixar), and digital music in the 2000s (with the iPod and iTunes). No wonder some people worship Steve Jobs like a god. On the other hand, stories of his epic tantrums and general bad behavior are legendary. Inside Steve's Brain cuts through the cult of personality that surrounds Jobs to unearth the secrets to his unbelievable results. So what's really Inside Steve's Brain? According to Leander Kahney, who has covered Jobs since the early 1990s, it's a fascinating bundle of contradictions. This expanded edition includes a new chapter on Jobs's very public health crisis and the debate about Apple's future.

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It's normal when talking about Steve Jobs to dwell on his control-freak tendencies or his propensity to rant and shout when frustrated, but that's probably a little too superficial a view to take. The fact is that Steve Jobs has single-handedly:

Revolutionized the personal computer industry (in the 1970s with the Apple II and in the 1980s with the Mac).

Built the world's most successful animated movie studio (Pixar).

Dramatically impacted on the music industry in the 2000s (with the iPod and iTunes).

Turned around a Fortune 500 company that appeared to be in a death spiral (Apple Computer).

In other words, say what you will about the difficulty of working with Steve Jobs, this self-made billionaire must be doing something right. He has generated too impressive a track record of billions of dollars of product sales for it all to be dismissed as dumb luck or fortuitous timing. Jobs has succeeded where many other highly competent companies have stumbled and fell.

When you try and boil down what it is that Steve Jobs does differently, it all comes down to his seven distinct personality traits:

Steve Jobs succeeds because he takes what others would dismiss as personality flaws and turns them into a business philosophy that works in the real world.

Trait 1Focus

At a personal level, Steve Jobs excels at focusing on what he's good at and delegating the rest to others. The same philosophy applies to business. When he regained control of Apple, his first priority was to get the company focused on what it's good at.

Irrespective of any personality issues that may become involved, Ideas Steve Jobs is crystal clear about what he's good at and what he's not:

In just the same way as Steve Jobs is crystal clear about where he adds value and where he does not, when he returned to Apple Computer as interim CEO in 1997, Steve Jobs systematically took the company apart and analyzed its components. Jobs quickly found that there were four facts staring him in the face:

1. Apple was about six months from bankruptcy if it kept doing business the same way it then was.

2. The company was selling about forty different products—everything from inkjet printers and hand-helds to computers.

3. Apple's computer product line had become so confusing that it was impossible for customers to tell one model from another.

4. Apple's R&D engineers were working on some interesting stuff, but nobody was doing the difficult work of buckling down and get-ting things market ready.

Jobs went through all of the product lines offered by Apple one by one and then came back with his “go-forward plan,” which was considered to be quite radical at that time:

■ Apple would develop and sell four machines—two notebooks (one for consumers, the other for professionals) and two desktops (again, one for consumers, one for professionals).

■ Apple would sell everything else—its printer business, monitors, software, hand-helds, etc.

■ Apple would focus on making premium world-class computers. Any research projects that did not relate to this aim were can-celled—which meant Jobs killed hundreds of projects with immediate effect.

■ The product managers were responsible for matching staffing levels to the company's needs moving forward—which resulted in mass layoffs. Jobs was careful, however, to retain a core team of talented engineers, which he referred to as his A team. They would later work on the iPod.

■ Jobs also streamlined Apple's organizational chart so everyone knew who they reported to and what was expected of them.

■ Jobs killed the Mac clones in the marketplace, and insisted on keeping everything Apple did totally proprietary.

Trait 2Despotism

When developing technology-based products, it's easy to try and cram more and more features in. You've got to have someone who makes the hard call to stop developing new things and start manufacturing and shipping. Steve Jobs is good at acting like a despot and making the hard calls.

Key Thoughts

"As technology becomes more complex, Apple's core strength of knowing how to make very sophisticated technology comprehensible to mere mortals is in even greater demand."

Steve Jobs

"What makes Steve's methodology different than everyone else's is that he always believed that the most important decisions you make are not the things that you do, but the things you decide not to do."

John Sculley, Apple CEO 1983-1993