Ron Arden's Reviews > Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
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M 50x66
's review
Dec 12, 2011

really liked it
Read from December 12 to 18, 2011

I really enjoyed reading this book, because I got to understand what made Steve Jobs tick and got to understand how he helped change major industries. I haven't followed his life in any detail, but was well aware of his founding of Apple, Next, Pixar and his bringing Apple back from the dead to one of the top technology companies in the world.

Steve Jobs was a very complex man that was driven to extremes both in his personal and professional life. He had a knack for understanding what users wanted from computers and technology and his entire being was driven toward that. Many call him a control freak and he clearly wanted to be in control of all situations in his life and in business. Isaacson and others think this came from his feeling of being abandoned by his birth parents. While he truly loved his adoptive parents, there was something in his psyche that made him angry that his birth parents didn't want him.

As I started reading this book, I thought, this guy was a real jerk. He says that he is in fact an asshole at times. He could be a warm, very charming person and then a minute later become a raving maniac. Many of those who really knew him viewed these swings as Steve being passionate about what he believed in. I'm fairly sure that other great people, like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, were dicks at times too. Maybe it's just what you have to put up with to deal with a great inventor.

The two business lessons I took from Steve Jobs are to focus and simplify. When he came back into Apple in the late 90s, he saw the myriad of products they had and said it was crazy. After what seemed like a million meetings from product groups, he yelled stop. He went up to a whiteboard, drew a 4 quadrant grid and said we need a desktop and a laptop for professionals and for home users. That started Apple back on a firm course.

He was also obsessed with making things easier, whether it was computers, music players or retail stores. He focused completely on the end user experience. He would argue with people over the color of a button or placement of a screw, but Steve was not creating a tool. He was creating art and an experience. He turned boring or ugly experiences into things of beauty. He believed in the intersection or art and technology. That's what drove him.

Like him or not, one cannot argue with his and Apple's success. Steve believed that controlling the entire ecosystem of a product was how you created perfection. By controlling design, manufacturer and distribution of both hardware and software, everything could be optimized. Many refer to this as a walled garden and don't like it. They prefer the open environment of Windows, PCs, Linux and the Android operating system. While those may spur greater innovation in some areas, they create fragmentation in others. Windows was and is wildly successful, but is it a good operating system? It's an interesting difference in how to do business.

The last thing I took from this book is to follow what you think is right and always look to the future. Apple was berated in the press and by pundits when the iPhone and iPad came out. The Apple board thought Steve was crazy when he wanted to open Apple retail stores. Many industry executives said the iTunes store would fail because Apple could never get the music industry to agree to it. The critics were wrong. Each of these products completely changed things and are outselling the competition by a long shot.

If a business doesn't innovate, it will die. Steve knew that you are only as good as your last success and made sure to always look to another area of life to simplify.

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