Read Becoming Steve Jobs – can’t get enough

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

“Steve and I met here, at Stanford, the second week I lived in California. He came here to give a talk, and afterwards we found each other in the parking lot. We talked until four in the morning. He proposed with a fistful of freshly picked wildflowers on a rainy New Year’s Day. I said yes. Of course I said yes. We built our lives together.”

“He shaped how I came to view the world. We were both strong-minded, but he had a fully formed aesthetic and I did not. It is hard enough to see what is already there, to remove the many impediments to a clear view of reality, but Steve’s gift was even greater: he saw clearly what was not there, what could be there, what had to be there. His mind was never a captive of reality. Quite the contrary. He imagined what reality lacked, and he set out to remedy it. His ideas were not arguments but intuitions, born of a true inner freedom. For this reason, he possessed an uncannily large sense of possibility—an epic sense of possibility.

Steve’s love of beauty—and his impatience with ugliness—pervaded our lives. Early on in our marriage we had long dinners with Mona and Richie. I remember a particularly wide-ranging discussion that lasted late into the night. As we were driving home, Steve launched into a devastating critique of the restaurant’s sconces. Mona agreed with his assessment. Richie and I looked at each other, whispering, “Is a sconce a light fixture?” No object was too small or insignificant to be exempt from Steve’s examination of the meaning, and the quality, of its form. He looked at things, and then he created things, from the standpoint of perfection.

That could be an unforgiving standpoint, but over time I came to see its reasons, to understand Steve’s unbelievable rigor, which he imposed first and most strenuously on himself.

He felt deeply that California was the only place he could live. It’s the slanting evening light on the hills, the palette, the fundamental beauty. In his very soul, Steve was a Californian. He required the liberty it afforded, the clean slate. He worked under the influence, and the inspiration, of the sublimity of the place. He needed to be refreshed by the primal rhythms of the natural world—the land, the hills, the oaks, the orchards. California’s spirit of newness invigorated him, and ratified his own spirit. Its scale is contagious: such natural grandeur is the perfect setting for thinking big. And he did think big. He was the most unfettered thinker I have ever known. It was a deep pleasure, and a lot of fun, to think alongside him.

Like my children, I lost my father when I was young. It was not what I wanted for myself; it is not what I wanted for them. But the sun will set and the sun will rise, and it will shine upon us tomorrow in our grief and our gratitude, and we will continue to live with purpose, memory, passion, and love.”

Excerpt From: Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli. “Becoming Steve Jobs.” Crown Business, 2015-03-24. iBooks.
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Been 2 months. Still not over it.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Such an outlook impresses me and consoles me as we approach the turn of the year into 2012; as my son prepares to graduate from college and to genuinely enter that world of adults; as I try to reconcile the state of our financial and political affairs wondering how drastic will be the necessary reconciliation of the imbalances.

Excerpt from Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Friday, October 28th, 2011

I read this biography while flying back and forth to meet with senior executives of a Canadian Bank. On the late night flight to Raleigh, I sat next to a young, napping woman who awoke as the plane touched-down, checking her iPhone immediately. Wanting to share my thrill of the biography, I offered “if you like the phone, you’ll probably enjoy this biography.” She stared for a split second and replied, “Apple has changed my work completely. The products allow me to do my work.” “What do you do?”, I asked. “Designer. Used to work for Nokia but they never believed that design mattered first. Engineering came first. Now I work in Berlin and visit Raleigh to help with a local agency. Some of the founders of FROG (Apple’s own design firm) founded this agency.” (BTW, how Helmut Esslinger of FROG remembers Steve Jobs). “Oh,” mumbled the stunned Christopher, trying to imagine if in 45 seconds such an honest, spontaneous exchange of personal, public and historical information could ever take place between clients of other consumer electronics products.

Initial conclusions upon finishing the biography: 1) why doesn’t Apple’s iBooks let one gift an eBook as I’d give 10 away today?! 2) Steve Jobs was weird and weirdly unique and there will never be another like him — and this is not all bad. How’s that!? from a fanboy. As my Apple friend informed me, “yes, there has definitely been a shift at the company over the past three weeks and maybe we can use the change to better operationalize some of the success and processes as we are bursting at the seams with systems catching up to creative and physical output.” 3) it’s up to us to carry-on in some manner, in some small way what Steve Jobs accomplished in so many significant ways. Of course, behaving different is hard. Maybe I should try it.

Over the past 18 months of speaking with banking executives of many sizes and risk profiles, nearly all react positively to the Simon Sinek description of why Apple is so successful…because they know Why they do things; they know what they believe. Below is an excerpt from the biography where Tim Cook offers his description of what Apple believes in.

“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovation. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
Tim Cook Apple CEO pg 488 Steve Jobs by WalterJacobson.

Mourning is over. Time to get busy.

19 October 2011 Remembrance Celebration at Cuppertino Campus

Who will defend us from the ‘show me the money’ barbarians?!

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Sculley, Spindler & Amelio! Oh My! Then Steve returned.

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

In the mid-1980s while working at Bath Iron Works, one of the documentation specialists for the Electrical Engineering Department raved about this PC that so improved the quality and speed of his work. “Called an Apple,” he exclaimed, “it’s incredible, man. It’s like I do my work the way that I want to without wasting time on how the machine works. It’s unbelievable! Everybody in the Department should have one.”

Then I moved to North Carolina and hooked-on to a start-up where everyone was issued one of these Macs with the 9″ screens. We could open two documents at once – yeah, baby! – network with other Macs and even share a $10,000.00 laser printer around the cubicle farm.

Paid $2,200.00 in 1990 for a Mac with 2 megabytes of RAM and a dot matrix printer.

But somehow these Apple products had a feminine overtone; real men used DOS (before Windows 95 introduced phrases such as Blue Screen and Security Patch into the office vernacular). No doubt that Apple had plenty of chances to rule the roost if only they woulda licensed the operating system to other PC manufacturers. Finally, Windows did catch-up by virtue of its broad distribution relegating the Mac to beatniks and hippies and designers and those who favored taste eg ease of use over price. Apple hovered at loyal 6% market share for a long time.

Jobs was replaced by the man from Pepsi, John Sculley, who was replaced by the German Diesel, Michael Spindler, who tried to sell Apple to IBM or Sun or Philips, and then was replaced by the NCR execs Gil Amelio and Ellen Hancock. Folks, those were dark days of fractured market positioning and the dullest of product ideas. Mac batteries were reported to burst into flames on occasion. My related personal misfortune was to be an Apple developer during the Spindler-Amelio period; visits to Cupertino felt like a tour of a movie set were a once renown film was made. “Watch out for tumbleweed in the lobby” sort of ambience.

No one dreamed that Jobs would return; that Pixar would rescue Disney; that Apple would invigorate both our telecommunications and retail shopping industries. I spoke with a senior banking executive last week who purchased recently his first Mac product. He said, “when you get it, it’s like.. sort of feels like…” he hesitated. Two of us finished his remark by saying, ‘it’s like receiving a present so well packaged is the product and so welcoming to open. We all feel that way.” He agreed. My colleague rejoined, “I keep my Apple packaging.” With a conspiratorial smile, the exec agreed that he kept his also.

I paid $750 for a Newton in 1993! Hand-writing recognition estt not soet grtate, tho.

I could dance all night on the wonder of this company and the genius of the man who steered it to its brilliance. Of course, I’m saddened by his ill health and scared that we’ll retreat under the onslaught of the cost-accountants and marketeers who treat us as though, well, we have no taste.

For now, and amidst this uncomfortable economic time, we must admit that we have an example of design genius, marketplace understanding, technology-driven productivity and a vivid example that beauty and function are indeed compelling roommates.

Think Different about corporate architecture.

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Link to Mac Observer page with related description.

At a near crisis point in real estate valuations and retail space vacancies- at least in my trips around our RTP- and at a time where companies induce employees to work from home to save costs (this too has a cost, mainly team-building more than productivity loss), Apple again defies the wisdom of the time by planning an elegant, expensive and confidence inspiring approach to corporate building design. The construction of this building will improve the neighborhood where Jobs and Apple grew up; strengthen the community of employees by bringing them all together in one location; and set a standard of business architectural statement akin to what Apple did to reshape the notion of a retail store (where one learns by engagement more than where one shops for boxes).

As well described by Simon Sinek’s book on leadership, Jobs and Apple are absolutely clear on Why this new headquarters building is required and the purpose that it will fulfill. Gifts of free community wi-fi not required.

My kind of neighborhood

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

“This is worth repeating. It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology is not enough. It’s tech married with the liberal arts and the humanities. Nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC products. Our competitors are looking at this like it’s the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC, more intuitive.” Steve Jobs at conclusion of iPad2 announcement.

Designed to be built, not designed to cost.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

My mother nearly despised the garish looks of American cars in the early 1960s. After all, she traded in her green Lark, made by Studebaker, for what could have been the first FIAT sold in New Orleans (we really got to know the dealer’s repair shop on Canal Street).

Who wouldn’t prefer the statement of even an Eldorado or a Oldsmobile Rocket 88 to the homogeneous appearance of nearly all cars today which remind me of upscale Trabants.

14jordan-sfSpan

The demise of Detroit is well documented and particularly so in David Halberstam’s The Reckoning. John Kenneth Galbraith’s review. The essence is that the car guys, designers such as Chuck Jordan, who passed-away yesterday, lost control or stature within their companies and industries to the likes of Robert Mcnamara and his Whiz Kids, of which Les Aspen was one by the way. Quantitative Analysis and MBOs gone mad.

I’m sure that Chuck Jordan admired Steve Jobs as both share Chuck’s opinion of focus groups and brand managers etc: “A good designer doesn’t need Mr & Mrs Zilch from Kansas telling him what 2 do.” A bit harsh on the Jayhawk state and accurate in the context of asking strangers to imagine something that they’ve never seen before, ie a graphical user interface.

What will rise from the ashes of our automotive industry is yet to be determined. But let’s not put the cost-accountants and the financial wizards in control of our banking and investment industries.

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The Economist 2010 Award for Innovation: be like Steve

Monday, October 11th, 2010

economist innovation

Economist citation here. What can be the results of such innovation? Microsoft announces new mobile phone platform today and stock goes nearly nowhere, remaining around $24.62. Today, Apple stock rises $2.83 to $296.91 achieving new, all-time high. Imitation is indeed a high, and seemingly profitable, form of flattery.

Where is the mobile phone app race presently?
Daily Downloads in millions:
Apple – 20
Android – 5
Nokia – 2.3
RIM- 1.5

Mobile Device Operating Systems, market share in %
Symbian (Nokia) – 40
Blackberry (RIM) – 18
Android- 16
Apple – 15
Microsoft – 7
Others- 4

Apple has 15% market share and greater than 2x the number of apps sold as all of their competitors combined!

As other firms cut costs, buy back stock and hoard cash, Apple pursues its own path of innovation. Their stock is up nearly $60 since the iPad’s introduction in April of this year. Seems to me that the mantra of the enterprise should be “how might we be like Apple?”

‘With access to the same people, the same technologies and the same funding sources, why are they consistently so innovative?’ might be a question that every CEO would strive to answer in our economic doldrums.

Steve Jobs The Econ