Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Steve Jobs and Innovation

(My write-up, which appeared on our Office Mag)

It was one of the things overdue on my 'To Read' list. Finally, last week, got my hands on to The Second Coming of Steve Jobs by Alan Deutschman, one of the number of books on engaging, enigmatic personality called Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs, who? : - The co-founder and CEO of both Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, well that's if you go by just designation.
Apart from that he is the man who changed the world many times.

In his early twenties, he, the college drop out, co-founded Apple in 1976. Being the creative, brilliant, workaholic, innovative genius that he was, Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the revolutionary Macintosh (hailed as insanely great!), highlight being the Mouse and Graphical User Interface.In his mid twenties, Jobs was, successful, billionaire, famous as the visionary of the industry. The blue jeans clad, pop-culture/youth icon, Steve Jobs, was a celebrity and a kind of overachiever. But at times, used to surface, the other side of him, the bad Steve, temperamental, intimidating, arrogant and belittling. His Charisma is best exemplified when he lured John Scullery, an executive with Pepsi-Cola, to work with Apple, challenging him, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”. Ironically the same man was instrumental in firing him later from his own company in 1985.Devastated, Jobs founded NeXT Computer, where he built NeXT Cube, his philosophical idea of an "interpersonal" computer, the perfect machine. Though technologically advanced, his fanatic obsession with perfection resulting in high cost, it was never able break into mainstream. It was a financial disaster. And Pixar, which he had confounded, was also bleeding money. As followers, friends and media were abandoning him, in his 30s, he was right at the edge, emotionally and financially, even contemplating giving up entirely with dreaded shame of public failure.

Then came the great revival in almost filmy style. Both, Apple, which had lost its soul with Steve’s ouster, and, Steve who always had a strong emotional attachment to Apple, needed each other badly. In 1996 apple Bought Next and Steve returned to Apple.Meanwhile Pixar delivered the 'Toy Story' in 1998 the first of six most successful and beloved, stunning animated films of all time. (The other five being, A Bug's Life in 1998, Toy Story 2 in 1999, Monsters, Inc. in 2001, Finding Nemo in 2003, and The Incredibles in 2004. Watch out for next release, Cars, in 2006!)

Jobs, the brilliant, remarkable leader with limitless energy, maniac like intensity and management skills, revived Apple, delivering the first of the beautiful iMac series in 1998.

(Musings: -True the beige box kind of PCs that we use still dominate the market. The iMac may never win the war unless you decide to present the Medal of Honor, but you don't expect Porsche to outsell General Motors, do you?)

In 2001 Steve Jobs in one of his, carefully practiced, casual looking, rocking presentations, released the iPod (as near to perfection as human creation can get?!), which is leading the digital music revolution. And the charming, fascinating, Jobs is back to the center stage.

Looking back, did he commit a blunder? By not licensing the software (which was nearly a decade ahead of rivals) on other vendors machines and we all know, how Bill Gates, the brilliant businessman he is, encashed on it. Jobs feared that it might dilute the brand, the concept of perfection he wanted achieve in the products by creating both hardware and software. (But in real world ideals are not always practical?)

For all the innovation, today Apple is not the big or rich enough. But according to Jobs, the goal is to create best, perfect products, not to be the biggest or richest. (Just strive for excellence, who says only money can buy happiness?)

Recently Apple replaced their best selling ‘iPod mini’ within 19 months of its release, with the stunning new 'iPod nano’. Quite a statement huh?

And after releasing ‘video iPod’ in the most recent 'One More thing’ (Jobs' tagline that he uses at the end of a keynote to introduce a product, usually something new and unexpected) event, he concluded his presentation saying "I think this is the start of something really big, Sometimes the first step is the hardest one, and we've just taken it.''

Agreed, they make products to the niche market and not the masses. But if you are passionate, looking at gadgets as an extension of your personality (rather than looking for Value For Money) you will appreciate the austere/minimalist, aesthetic beauty, the ease of use, of those, number of life style products and the technical innovations. Perhaps iPod stands for what all Apple and Steve Jobs stand for....

Just Cool. (The word cool saves me so many adjectives!)

And when Jobs says "Innovate, that's what we do", Can't agree more...

Few Learnings

* Keep it simple.
It's best to do one thing really, really well.The key of being cool is to make things easier and simpler.
Applies to both work and life.

* Innovate constantly , there's always a better way to do it.
We can't rest on our laurels for long.Even great things have to be bettered to stay on the top.

* "That's how it works", can be changed.
It's often the people who are different, who challenge the conventional methods, change the world.
We can change the way things work.

* It's tough to do something new, but it's worth it.
First step is the hardest and there's fear of failure, but in the end the satisfaction alone is worth facing the challenge.


Anonymous said...

hi VK,
Quite Intersting one,
"Just Cool. (The word cool saves me so many adjectives!)" is the phrase which I liked most in the entire stuff.Keep Going and also keep the same enthu in writing some more blogs

swap said...

ur article is COOL!! :)

Anonymous said...

actually cool n learnable indeed!

Meghna said...

Just curious Vinay!

HAve you seen the movie `The Pirates Of Silicon Valley" ??

Vinay Krishna said...

It’s on my ‘To Watch’ from long time & I did finally, thx for the reminder:-)

Vishwanath Savakar said...

Superb! :)