Grokking Steve Jobs – Create an ‘Insanely Great’ Business

Their gap is your command

Like one of the multitude of enthusiastic readers of Walter Isaacson’s terrific book, I’ve been trying to grok Steve Jobs’ way of looking at the world so that my clients and I can benefit from it.

This is a work in progress but this is what I think Jobs recognized:

  1. A market with a hunger and demand for computers and later technological devices such as music players, telephones that was only going to increase and not going to go away
  2. Competitors’ computers (and their later technology) that were complicated, unreliable and ugly
  3. The opportunity to seize control of that market if Apple could build “insanely great” products that were simple, reliable and beautiful (that latter would make them status symbols and showpieces)

Seeing and realizing the above enabled Jobs to define reality as delivering something simple, reliable and beautiful to a market so hungry for it that they’d be willing to pay premium prices to have it.  Much has been said of Jobs’ “reality distortion field” and how he could mesmerize and even be ruthless about it.*  It may be true that on many occasions he used that ability to get his way over an opponent regarding a trivial matter, but if he realized the above three items, seeing them informed his “reality distortion field” about product development that was more about what reality could actually be than about distortion.

How can you use the above three views to help you?

  1. Think of what your market (or “a market” if you are an entrepreneur) is hungry for, that will only grow, not go away and where your competitors’ and your products and services currently have some serious flaws.
  2. Identify the most egregious of those flaws that result in frustration, disappointment and loss of enthusiasm from your market.
  3. Fix those flaws such that your market’s experience goes from frustrated to enjoyable, disappointed to delighted, unenthused to excited.

In my own work, I have discovered that my market of CEO’s and other executives I coach are:

  1. Hungry for someone to quickly and accurately get where they are and where they want to go, but even more for someone to see beyond what they can see and get where they could be and even possibly who they could be.
  2. In working with a number of my executive clients, they have told me that they haven’t felt “gotten” before.  What they felt was that coaches and they would articulate goals and outcomes and then develop a plan to reach them and then have their coaches hold them accountable.  However, they frequently shared that both their coaches and they didn’t have a great deal of enthusiasm about the process and that over time in a number of cases it became a joyless chore.
  3. In our conversations, a number of these executives have been incredibly kind and generous in telling me that what they valued about our meetings is that they felt not just understood, but felt understandable — which immediately relieved their confusion when they felt sense could be made of it — and  “felt” and that I seemed to be able to “listen into their future” and go well beyond where they wanted to be to where they could be.  And that caused them to enjoy, feel delighted and excited about our work together.

I’m not presuming to be a Steve Jobs, but I believe the above process can help both you and I to see into our markets’ and our futures to where and who we could be.

* Regarding the ruthlessness of Steve Jobs… Enter Tim Cook.  One can’t say for sure, but essential to Apple’s success under Steve Jobs was having someone like Tim Cook under him.  Cook’s role however was not to do an “a-holectomy” on Jobs, even if he felt Jobs could go too far sometimes.  His job — and the job of any COO with a crazy smart, but crazy making CEO — was too soothe the feelings of people that Jobs roughed up too much and allow time to pass so that the Apple culture would become imbued with Jobs vision of building “insanely great” products that were simple, reliable and beautiful which it appears they have internalized.  So for those who think Cook’s recent pay package of $378 million (most of which came from his i million restricted stock units) was a little much, he earned it.

For more see blog post on Leadership Scorecard

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