WWSD? (What would Steve do?)
He would change!
Since the passing two weeks ago of one of the world’s greatest thinkers, we have had a media deluge of information about Steve Jobs, his life, his words and his brilliance. As a student of great thinkers and a lover of quotes, I have compiled in this post many of my favorites and some food for thought as you contemplate what we can learn from Steve.
Most of all, it is not about trying to imitate his thinking! The irony, I believe, is that what is happening—in a way, making him a thinking “God,” as we strive to push our own innovation and thinking by studying him to replicate what he did— is the last thing Steve would have wanted. As he said in the Stanford commencement address:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
As a thinker, Jobs was a leader who could “see around corners”—a trait I hear many are working to develop in this increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” (Inc. Magazine)
His thinking epitomized the future-oriented, conceptual, design-focused thinking preference (Yellow D-quadrant thinking in our Whole Brain® parlance.) Yet his ability to serve all needs of the business while still honoring his core tenants, great design, usability and user friendly technical innovation showed how his thinking actually served a Whole Brain® outcome.
I believe this contributed to what made him the truly remarkable business person he was: his ability to drive the top and bottom line, create a culture of extreme change and project the needs of the customer before the customer knows what they are. In addition, his obsession with quality and execution rounded out his thinking approach:
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
Most of all, like most great leaders I have observed, Steve understood what he was good at and where he struggled:
“My model for business is the Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They believed in each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts.” (60 Minutes interview, 2008)
One of the most important lessons we can learn from Steve is this: The secret is leveraging the thinking of others who complement your thinking. Steve’s “islands of brilliance” were more oriented to those traits we often associate with the right brain. COO Tim Cook complemented him as more of the traditional left. The 2009 Harvard Business Review article Innovation in Turbulent Times noted:
Apple may have the best-known both-brain partnership. CEO Steve Jobs has always acted as the creative director and has helped to shape everything from product design and user interfaces to the customer experience at Apple’s stores. COO Tim Cook has long handled the day-to-day running of the business.
Ironically, I understand that much of Steve’s net worth was actually in Disney assets. Steve was acutely aware of what happened after Walt Disney passed. If people would ask, “What would Walt have done?” Steve knew the answer: Walt would have changed! The last thing Steve would have wanted is for people try to think like he did to solve problems we will face in the future.
Those who knew him personally as a friend are grieving a great father and family man. May he rest in peace.
And for us, instead of trying to figure out what Steve would have done, we should follow one of his key messages: Celebrate your own thinking. Be inspired. Take action. Live!
What can you learn from Steve Jobs that will help you celebrate your thinking? Which of his quotes that follow are your favorites, or are there others that inspire your thinking? Share them with us in the comments.
Steve Jobs on…
“That has been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”– Businessweek
“We’ve gone through the operating system and looked at everything and asked how can we simplify this and make it more powerful at the same time.”– ABC News, Jobs on Mac OS X Beta
Life and Finding Your Calling:
”You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.”– Stanford commencement address
“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it and like any great relationship, it just gets better as the years roll on.”– Stanford commencement address
“We're here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?"
“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”– Fortune
“Almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”– Stanford commencement address
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently—they’re not fond of rules…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”– Apple “Think Different” campaign
"Are you a virgin?"– Steve Jobs recruiting '”pirates” in the early 80s
"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."– Stanford commencement address, quoting the Whole Earth Catalogue
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you'll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”– Stanford commencement address
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”– Stanford commencement address
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”– Stanford commencement address
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me…Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters to me.”–The Wall Street Journal (source: WikiQuote)
“I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”
“I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…It’s very character-building.”– Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company (2004), by Owen W. Linzmayer
"When I went to school, it was right after the '60s and before this general wave of practical purposefulness had set in…The idealistic wind of the '60s was still at our backs, though, and most of the people I know who are my age have that engrained in them forever."
“Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”– As quoted or paraphrased in Young Guns: The Fearless Entrepreneur’s Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own (2009), by Robert Tuchman
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”– Businessweek
“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”– Businessweek
“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”– Businessweek
“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”– The Seed of Apple’s Innovation
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”– 1995 interview with Smithsonian Institute
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”– Fortune
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
“So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know–just explore things.”– CNNMoney
“My job is not to be easy on people. My jobs is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.”– CNNMoney
“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”– Macworld
“I mean, some people say, ‘Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.’ And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple. My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.”– CNNMoney
“When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.” – CNNMoney
“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”– Fortune
“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”– Fortune
“Click. Boom. Amazing!”– Macworld keynote
“That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”– New York Times, The Guts of a New Machine
“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do.”– CNNMoney
“I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.”– The Seed of Apple’s Innovation
“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”- As quoted in Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company (2004), by Owen W. Linzmayer
“The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!”– Businessweek
“If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth—and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.”– Fortune (1996)
“You know, I’ve got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can’t say any more than that it’s the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me.”– Fortune (1996)
“Apple has some tremendous assets, but I believe without some attention, the company could, could, could—I’m searching for the right word — could, could die.”– TIME, 1997
"The Web is not going to change the world, certainly not in the next ten years. It's going to augment the world. And once you're in this Web-augmented space, you're going to see that democratization takes place."– Wired
“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people—as remarkable as the telephone.”– Playboy
"Older people sit down [at a computer] and ask, 'What is it?' But the child asks, 'What can I do with it?'"– via David Sheff, Playboy
"This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy as well, but of another kind: free intellectual energy."– Playboy
"[A computer] takes these very simple-minded instructions—'Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it's greater than this other number' —but executes them at a rate of, let's say, one million per second. At one million per second, the results appear to be magic."– Playboy
“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.”– Classic Gaming
"But good PR educates people. That's all it is. You can't con people in this business. The products speak for themselves."– Playboy
"The people who built Silicon Valley were engineers. They learned business, they learned a lot of different things, but they had a real belief that humans, if they worked hard with other creative, smart people, could solve most of humankind's problems. I believe that very much."
"It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough—it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices."– Stanford commencement address
Thanks to the following sources for the quotes: