Lesssons to Learn from Steve Jobs

One company and one man had transcended all possible economic, geographic and demographic boundaries and become relevant to the entire world! The entire world, but almost! That’s huge, by any standards. And what a journey it has been… Travelling this disruptive road, Steve has also taught us many valuable lessons . While I’m sure experts will have a long list of those, I personally find three learnings most relevant to all business leaders.

The first of which being the courage to take the “leap” – Sometime back I read this interview of John Sculley, ex-CEO of Apple, who provided some great insights on Jobs.

Steve, he says, did not believe in consumer research. The reason is simple; he was going to create a product so new and innovative that the consumers would have no reference to react in foresight. “How can I possibly ask somebody what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphic based computer is? No one has ever seen one before.” He once said.

Jobs believed that showing someone a calculator, for example, would not give them any indication as to where the computer was going to go because it was just too big a leap. The rules of the game were made very simple with that one maverick thought, the winners of tomorrow would be the products who take us on a big leap, the one never seen, never heard before! I am also tempted to ponder here briefly on the biggest question that is on everyone’s lips today – would this obsession with breakthrough innovation continue to be Apple’s calling? I seriously hope so. After all, we need many more of the ‘never befores’.

Coming back to the learnings, the second lesson has been the need to focus on powerful ideas. As he once famously said, “You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best idea must win, not the ‘best person’ with the most power or seniority”. No wonder Apple was able to churn out one powerful product after another. Structures aligned to collaboration, innovation and human intellect is also a concept very close to my heart and I’m sure somewhere Mr Jobs has been an indirect influence on this thought process.

The third lesson, however is the one most people tend to miss. We must never forget that Jobs introduced us to the merit of ‘experience’. One almost forgets that Jobs built a phenomenally successful chain of retail stores, which became a benchmark for consumer experience. All of us who have bought Apple products will remember forever the experience of amazement we felt the first time we walked into an Apple store or simply the experience of the very user-friendly Apple devices.

Vineet Nayar – The author is Vice chairman & CEO, HCL Technologies and wrote this piece for ET while on a flight from London to Munich).


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