Technology, Humanities and Apple

Ten years ago I got my first iBook. After reading ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ I decided to share why I am an Apple fan.

Apple is not flawless and Steve Jobs was not born a great leader. On the contrary, he failed big time, but he learned from his mistakes, and to manage his own weaknesses. Steve wanted people at Apple – just like him – to be passionate and love what they do and the products they develop. Already in 1997 Steve set the tone of a company that  ‘Think Different’ (one of the best ads ever made).

‘While some see them as a crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do’ – Steve Jobs

Apple embrace diversity and equality, because ‘inclusion inspires innovation’, used in one of its Pride video’s.

‘Technology alone is not enough’, concluded the iPad 2 ad from 2011. When presenting the iPad 2, Steve said ‘It is in Apple’s DNA that technology married with the humanities’. Another 1.30 min video describes that their design is about focus, to make people feel delight and connection, to say no before saying yes, and to simplify.

Steve did not sell computers, he sold dreams of a better future. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs explains how he did it. Throughout this post I link to video clips, as he was known for tirelessly rehearsing until perfection. He always answered what Apple does, what problems it solves, how it’s different and why people should care. He also included elements of personal stories, analogies, metaphors or first hand endorsements. Appealing to familiarity and emotions, proven extremely powerful, as described by Kahneman (read my previous blogs on populism and on fear).

Teaching children that they can be whatever they believed in, makes them see endlessness of possibilities. This Steve got from his adoptive parents. (His biological father was a Syrian PhD candidate studying political science, a good reminder as Europe is closing its borders to refugees..).

***

In 1986 Steve got fired from the company he founded, two years after presenting the first Macintosh computer. He was considered too reckless, self-centred and immature to be the CEO that was required. The next coming eleven years Steve took many wrong turns. He started a company NeXT that did not manage to deliver the next big thing he was aiming for. His past success shifted to present failure, and for almost two decades Apple lost its mojo. His story is not about success, its about growth. (Steve did one smart investment, and that was in Pixar, which took off with Toy Story in 1995. The future prosperity of Apple was thanks to the lessons learned at Pixar.)

By the time Apple offered Steve the job as CEO again in 1997, he had become a more matured manager. Wisely he firstly publicly presented the ‘State of Apple’ to tell that things would change for the better. The same year he decided for the ad ‘Think Different’, to shift focus from himself back to the company, reminding about its spirit and values. In 1998 he introduced the first iMac, redefining Apple as forward-looking and creative. Followed by the PowerMac, aiming on those that think different, such as entrepreneurs, small businesses, engineers, architects and designers. The success of Bill Gates, owning more than 90 percent of the market, made the PC less personal, working in the advantage of Mac.

Despite success, the company’s sales continued to shrink. In 2001 Steve presented iTunes enabling people to ‘Rip, Mix and Burn’ music. Although it needed something to make it grow, this was the iPod, ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ as Steve simply put it. The same year the first Apple Store opened, designed with beauty, simplicity and cleanness at its centre.  

The next big thing was the iPhone, presented in 2007. Steve explained its three products in one; ‘a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communication device’. The same year Apple announced the App Store, making a software available for anyone who want to develop apps. In 2010 he presented his last product before he died, the iPad.

Each product has its own story. It was fascinating to read about the ‘behind the scene’: How all product were built during many years and thanks to many different people. The iPod came with new technology such as the shuffle functions to allow people to rediscover music. The iPhone combined three products in one. Steve aimed for a holistic approach; gave his team’s space to be creative and brought them together when time was right, to jointly crack the technological challenge of developing a new interface.

‘…if you’re going to be creative, it’s like jumping up in the air; you want to make damn sure the ground is going to be there when you get back’ – Steve Jobs

In 2005 graduates at Stanford University listened to Steve’s speech. He had a ‘rule of three’ messages; Firstly, about ‘connecting the dots’, how he dropped-out of school, ended up taking a calligraphy course, leading up to the typeface of Mac. Secondly, about ‘love and loss’, getting fired from his own company led to ‘the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again’. Thirdly, about ‘death’ revealed his pancreas cancer, ending with encouraging the graduates to ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish’. Its a inspiring speech worth listening to.

In October 2011 Steve died. His last nine years were his most productive. He wanted Apple to continue as he visioned. He appointed Tim Cook as his predecessor (who worked with Apple since 1998), and he was a part of designing the new Apple Headquarter to ensure the best creative and inspiring work environment he wanted his staff to have.

Lieutenant Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don’t have to worry about money no more.’Forest Gump (1994)

 

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