Because of my heavy diet of classics (I’m currently reading Anna Karenina), I have to read something easy or less demanding on the side and usually I’ll choose children’s literature or YA, but out of curiosity, this time I selected this biography.
And so it goes.
I find this book very informative in that it details how a visionary created something great that it distinguishes not only Apple and Pixar from other tech companies, but also Steve Jobs from other CEOs or C-level executives who walked this earth and who can only claim that they run a company. Steve Jobs didn’t just run a company, that’s plain to see. He produced hit after hit of high-tech consumer products as the author and tech writer Leander Kahney explains in this 9-chapter, almost 300-page, very handy book.
So what does the reader expect to know from this sort-of-biography / business book?
Don’t expect to read things like What Steve Jobs did is textbook management skill in that he used the organization to create something of value. Kahney is a blogger and a former reporter for Wired magazine so you’ll find the writing both factual and anecdotal. Just don’t expect Harvard Business Review type of analysis, which I know some followers of successful companies are wont to read. But Kahney uses concepts like vertical integration, innovation, control, etc. to explain the business decisions made by Jobs so that should attract even the most adept of business practitioners.
This chapter title should give you a clue of Kahney’s tone in writing: Elitism:Hire Only A Players, Fire the Bozos.
So what was Steve Jobs thinking inside his brain that made him legendary?
Not money. That was the result of months, years of prototyping that his top designer, Jonathan Ive, and his other managers performed. Not competition. He wasn’t concerned about company rankings or market share. Again, those are results. What was inside his brain is this vision of having the best customer experience with him as the test market. If he thought that a competitor gadget or any high-tech appliance, say, a washing machine, is too inferior both in appearance and functionality or too complicated to use, he wanted, he obsessed about improving them.
That was his mission. He improved the way we use our everyday tools, communication—connecting being the most important and human.
You’ll find anecdotes galore here, placed in between Kahney’s piecing through of the puzzle that is Steve, manager of people and talents and inventor of simple and elegant communication and music tools.
And yes, he was a despot. Yes, he was a perfectionist. I’m not really shocked. Though I’m sure I’ll be the first person out of the door if I should work for someone as demanding like Steve. But that’s my choice. The employees of Apple made their choice and now they’re enjoying their Italian cars and other such luxuries.
Thank you Steve.
I look now at my long dead Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, bought in Singapore before the first iPhone was launched. I’ve since replaced it with an iPod Nano so that I can still listen secretly to my parents’ music when I’m feeling nostalgic. I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to Elvis in public (from where I came, it’s acceptable for people to turn on their radio really loud especially on weekends).
But with 1,000 songs in my pocket, at least I can have that private, secret experience.
Thank you Steve.
One more thing: Steve Jobs once said after taking the helm of the company in 1997 that he had second thoughts about getting involved for the second time. I like reading that little known fact, that moment of doubt. It made Steve human, at least to me.