Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

To many people, Steve Jobs was a hero. To others, his was a controlling tyrant who stopped at nothing to get what he wanted. Whatever you believe about him and his life, one thing is certain: his vision and ability to innovate left a dent on the universe. Leaving a dent on the universe is what he set out to do when he and Steve Wozniak launched Apple Computers from their garage in Palo Alto.

He was as fascinating as he was successful. He was a man of contradictions – upon his return to Apple for his “second term”, he worked for $1 per year, but demanded a corporate jet and millions of stock options. He heaped praise on employees who he felt were worthy of his time, and lashed out cruelly at others -and depending on the day you could be on both ends of that spectrum in the same 24 hour period. The products he produced are considered to be the most elegantly designed and fashionable products on the market – but famously wore black turtlenecks, Levis jeans and running shoes every single day.

For all his quirks and character flaws, there’s a lot to be learned from Steve Jobs, the businessman and the company he left behind. Here, in the next 10 minutes, are the 6 lessons we can all learn from the biography of Steve Jobs, written by Walter Issacson.

Focus

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple for his second tenure, he found a company that had lost its way. They had 350 product lines, all of which were floundering in mediocrity. So, he took out his scalpel and started cutting, even to the point where some people would argue that he was cutting into the bone. He cut 340 product lines in total, bringing Apple’s focus down to a core of 10 product lines.

None of these 350 product lines were “bad” ideas. As Jobs pointed out in an interview, even the bad companies are good at that. But in order for any idea to succeed, you need your best people and all of the resources at your disposal ready to be deployed in the name of seeing that idea succeed.

The problem, Jobs pointed out, have the idea of focus backwards:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

This is the type of thinking that spawned the iMac, iPod, iTunes iPhone, and the iPad. Had Apple deployed their resources across 340 other product lines, there is no doubt that this unprecedented string of successes would have been impossible. Only by cutting out the good ideas can the great ideas have a shot of succeeding.

This kind of cutting extends into the products themselves. As Jobs would tell you, his job at Apple was to play the part of the “editor”. So when the first design of the iPhone was almost ready to go into production, he had an insight that had eluded him until it was almost too late: the screen should be the focus of the iPhone, and everything else was secondary. So, with a design that probably looks a lot like other phones on the market today, Jobs told his team that they needed to start over. A heroic effort allowed them to create and produce the iPhone that millions around the world know and love today.

Focus on the most important things, and eliminate everything else.

Inspiration