CIO Symmetry

Oct 11 2011   4:19PM GMT

What can we learn from the Steve Jobs Way?

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

There have been many timelines, retrospectives and other examinations of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ career, aka the Steve Jobs Way, and it would be a waste if we don’t learn lessons from him about how to run businesses going forward.

Jobs’ legacies include the company itself, its products and its loyal user base. Along the way, Jobs and Apple also developed a strong hater community. One of my friends, a devout PC user and administrator, had a simple reason why he didn’t like Apple: “They tell you how you’re supposed to work with your computer,” he said.

That’s true. The closed paradigm of the Mac shut out three quarters of Apple’s potential users, developers and other partners. No one will get through business school if they espouse the idea of not giving customers what they want.

Yet, the Steve Jobs Way embodied that philosophy and built it into one of the most successful and influential companies in history. He avoided market research, saying, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Jobs took risks and trusted his gut more than anything else, then saw his vision through to completion.

This worked because the user community built around Apple wanted what Steve Jobs wanted them to have, and trusted him to deliver (yes, there have been misses, but many more hits, especially in the past decade). Still, what are we to learn from this?

It would be dangerous to try to emulate Jobs to the letter, because the one thing that really separated Jobs from the rest was unique to him: his intuition. Yet, true innovators will have to try in their own way, or else, without taking risks, disruptive innovation will never happen.

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