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A bicycle for our minds: Steve Jobs in his (and others') own words
Steve Jobs' story is fascinating to me for two reasons: first, because I've used Apple
products long enough to remember when they weren't cool; second, because more than any other person of our era, Bill
Gates included, Jobs redefined our relationship with technology and
revealed its possibilities in a way that, since his return to Apple in 1996, continually captured our imagination. In this sense, I put Jobs on the same plane
as Kevin Kelly, whose views on the intersection of humanity and its machines carry strong aesthetic, philosophical and even religious attributes. I'll admit it: these are the the kinds of things you tend to think about when you work for a mammoth technology company with equally ambitious and visionary goals.
It's not news anymore that Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple for health reasons. While industry watchers, fans and investors sort out what it all means for him and for the company he built in his own image (Will his hand-picked successor Tim Cook also work for $1?), I've shared a few snippets that came through my social feed in the last few hours and that attest to the vision, influence and undisputed business success of the man. Feel free to comment, share or add your own:
In his own words:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people
how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t
really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a
while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had
and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was
that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their
experiences than other people. [...] The broader one’s understanding of the
human experience, the better design we will have." Wired, Feb. 1996
"When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions
you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if
you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the
onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple
solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get
there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are
well thought through." MSNBC and Newsweek, Oct. 2006
"[Y]ou 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, June 2005.
"I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list....That didn't look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That's what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds." Interview for the documentary "Memory and Imagination," 1990.
"My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people." Interview with 60 Minutes, 2003
"We try to pick things that are in their spring. So we have a history of doing that, we went from the 5-inch floppy disk to the 3.5 inch with the Mac and sometimes when we get rid of things like the floppy disk drive on the original iMac, people call us crazy. But sometimes you have to
pick the things that look like the right horses to ride going forward." D8 Conference, June 2010
Andrew McAfee, AndrewMcAfee.org: "Jobs and Apple have done the best job of answering with their products the question posed by wiki inventory Ward Cunningham: What’s the simplest thing that could possibly work? As I’ve stressed before,
most technologists / nerds / geeks don’t think this way — they think
that success comes from cramming in features and functions, bells and
Umair Haque, HBR Blogs: "Steve's goal in paying obsessive attention to all things Apple wasn't
merely to "listen" but to discern people's wildest expectations, and
then firmly take a quantum leap past them, instead of merely discovering
the lowest-common-denominator of what people wanted most today, and
then pandering to it. Leapfrogging your customers means creating new
markets, not just new products. And Apple's created (or rejuvenated) market after market by applying the logic above"
OmMalik, GigaOm: "While I wish for him to have more time with his family, I am also being very selfish. I will miss the thespian who made inanimate objects like a computer become a thing to behold. A few years ago, I compared Steve to Howard Hughes using the line, “Some men dream the future. He built it.”
John Gapper, Financial Times:"Mr Jobs, at the age of only 56, stands as one of the great business leaders – arguably the greatest – of the postwar era. For the past 30
years, he has not only led the wave of technological change emanating from Silicon Valley – the personal computer, the internet, the tablet – but stamped his aesthetic on the world.
He has combined the iconoclasm and creativity of the rebel entrepreneur with the ability to assemble a world-beating manufacturing, design and marketing team around him. In the past few years, Apple has been not only unbeatable but hardly even matchable. Its competitors have fallen by the wayside in frustration."
John Biggs, TechCrunch:"I wasn’t always a Mac lover. I thought they were over-priced and pretty. [...] But over the past decade I learned the satisfaction of a machine that just works. It’s a machine that [Jobs] put most of his life into, a machine that has the heart of a much older thing, a thing that lay blinking and frantic in a Stanford computer lab somewhere and then, over time, shrank down to something you and I can fit into our pockets. Many complained that the ecosystem that he created was a walled garden, but I’d equate it to a pasture. “The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance,” wrote Zen master Shunryu Suzuki. “But its background is always in perfect harmony.” In the front,
anything can happen. In the back, perfect calm and order."