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Marcel McCarthy

October 5, 2020

Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacson
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The bizarre, complicated and inspiring life of Steve Jobs.

I'm sure you wont be surprised that this book landed on our desks. Most of you – probably all of you – will know of the late Steve Jobs. You might even be reading this on a product he designed, and if not that then you've definitely experienced the development of user-focused interfaces begun by Apple.

It's not often I'll pick up a biopgraphy but in this case, I'm very glad I did. Like most design led agencies, we owe a lot to Steve and the team at Apple. I'm writing this on a MacBook Pro. Someone imagined that. Someone said let's make a thing that will impact the world but let's also make that thing intuitive and beautiful. What comes across in the book is that Jobs is clearly a genius, and one with many short comings. He wasn't the best employer, best manager, best coder, best anything really. He had a peculiar diet. He was obsessive. Often leaving a path of destruction in his wake. And while it's not a leadership model we'll be endorsing, there is one thing that made him very different. He had vision.

It was his vision that set him apart. He imagined a future, and then he went about building it. While there were numerous ups and downs on that journey, he stayed steadfast to the vision he had as twenty-something, despite the opposition he faced in all corners. As a character he, I expect, created much of the opposition he experienced.

Mike Markkula, the second CEO at Apple, titled a paper, 'The Apple Marketing Philosophy', it had three points. This captured my curiosity, not only because they were insightful forty odd years ago but because of how relevant they still are today.

  1. We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.
  2. In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.
  3. People do judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc., but if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.

I see this all over Apple today. Think about their stores, their packaging and their presentations. Considered and designed down to the smallest detail. I sure appreciate that. And the call to burn unimportant opportunities, I think I need that on my wall. Perhaps we all do.

I wonder what Jobs would think of his company today. It's more common that they're seen as a domineering power, a gatekeeper, rather than that of the underdog they painted in their '1984' advert. However you think of Apple, Jobs and the story to date, getting a glimpse behind the curtain was enlightening, encouraging and provoking. Put it on the to-read list.