With improving efficiency at the forefront of every business owner's mind, advisers should look to Steve Jobs for inspiration since the man was definitely an innovator of our times.
Every century or so an individual comes along and changes the world in profound ways – a genius.
Sir Isaac Newtown brought order to scientific study and changed how we viewed the world around us. We became curious.
Albert Einstein changed the rules by which we’d lived, and expanded our thinking with his search for a Unified Theory.
Michelangelo, Beethoven, Stephen Hawking, Middle Ages scholar Ibn Khaldun, who created entire new branches of study from sociology and economics to demographics and politics, all changed the world forever and in profound ways.
Steve Jobs was one of those rare breeds that comes along periodically and simply changes everything.
Jobs remains enigmatic in spite of his regular headline-grabbing rollouts of marvellous new products that, undeniably, changed the world. The original Apple computer was primitive but any home could have one. Businesses discovered that computers didn’t fill entire rooms, they fit on this tiny chip.
When Apple launched the Apple II and IIe, Jobs and his friend, Steve Wozniak (the tech genius) became very wealthy very fast. It didn’t matter that storage disks were enormous and computing power was slow and clunky, you could have a computer in your home! The concept itself was radical and prophetic.
The battle for supremacy between Apple and Microsoft operating systems was hot for a while until each platform gained a loyal fan base. Mac owners are evangelic when talking about Apple products.
And, if Jobs had done nothing else, he would have changed everything. Fortunately, he was an innovator.
What made Jobs innovative? He improved the computing experience year after year. Newer, faster, smaller, slimmer – Apple was an elite brand with a rock-solid following.
Think about it. Jobs conceived music stored on a chip in a device the size of a deck of cards. The iPod, iPad, iPhone, iTunes – Steve Jobs and the Cupertino crowd changed the way we exchange information (and pay for it, coincidentally).
He could envision the implementation of big ideas – game-changers that, today, we take for granted. But he did more than that.
Steve Jobs changed the way business did business. IBM’s corporate culture was button-down and traditional. Jobs presented the latest innovation in jeans and a black turtleneck.
The workplace relaxed, a trend that continues today with Casual Fridays a popular perk for any business team.
Steve Jobs pulled in his customer base.
He made Apple and Mac owners a testing ground for new ideas, new products, new technologies, and improvements to existing technology.
Jobs created a tool. Then, he asked his client base to improve on the tool to find new ways to use the thing. He created it. Then, other techs (and the rest of us) created reasons to buy the latest innovation from Apple.
That was the true genius of a man who changed the world so profoundly in a very short time. Jobs envisioned and sold the means to create. Computer games, business productivity programs, image manipulation software. Technicians around the globe created programs.
A dusty old military and academic information exchange ultimately became the internet, where many of us spend much of our time each day – even weekends.
Jobs engaged his market in a way that no other CEO ever had. He was the star. He was the brand. He was the genius holding up the next big thing.
The genius? Jobs created a blank slate and asked consumers what we should do with this new, world-altering device. Apple and, subsequently, Mac interfaces are intuitive, friendly, and screen-driven.
Spare-room techs took up the challenge writing programs that made home computers more useful and therefore more valuable. Jobs, and Apple, didn’t tell us what to do with the personal computer. He asked his client base to tell Apple what to do next.
This corporate approach pulled in Apple and Mac lovers who became part of the Apple/Macintosh family. Lifers who wouldn’t switch to a PC for love nor money.
Apple aficionados are almost rabid in their loyalty to the brand. They feel they’re a part of something larger, and that feeling of belonging has been fostered now for decades.
The result? Apple is a NASDAQ darling – a company that’s made a lot of money for its shareholders in recent years.
What would Steve Jobs do?
Jobs was confident – at times arrogant – in his thought process, believing he would find a new way to change the world.
Genius without confidence diminishes innovation. Those who step over the lines – the women and men who change the world – have confidence. They exude it, and to some, it may seem arrogant.
On the other hand, if it sells millions of units, pumps up shareholder price, and changes the world in profound ways, that’s genius.
And if you cultivate an inclusive brand that encourages visionary coders to build on this platform and then enable everyday users to employ computing power with the click of a mouse, you change everything.
Steve Jobs created a sense of family, of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, David versus Goliath, Apple/Mac people and PC people, loyal as long as their home computers live up to expectations.
What would Steve Jobs do? Of course I’m guessing, but I’m almost certain he’d be changing the world with our help.
Michael Harrison is the independent chair of Synchron and a business growth strategist.
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