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Please do not try to emulate Steve Jobs!

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A Jobs lot of Apples
Image supplied by flickr.com/photos/ollesvensson/

I do not think that anyone can dispute that Steve Jobs was a visionary. He took an under-performing company and through his tenacity and vision created a brand and suite of products that many people would pay any price to own. What other companies would enjoy admired celebrities such as Stephen Fry, voluntarily singing, nay, worshipping the products that you produce? But please, do not try and be like Steve Jobs!

Despite the numerous patents to his name and the inventions he is accredited with, I don’t think Steve Jobs created anything I would consider new or revolutionary:

  • The Macintosh and iMac: Desktop computers – we already had them
  • The iPod: Personal digital music players – we already had them
  • The iPhone: Smartphones – we already had them
  • The iPad: Tablet computers – we already had them

What he did succeed in doing, over and over was taking a technical solution or product and bringing it to the masses. The focus was taken away completely from technical specifications and oneupmanship (faster processor, higher resolution, more megabytes) to what it actually means for the average consumer who doesn’t know or care what a screen resolution or a megapixel is. His tunnel vision and singular goal was creating products that everyone can and wants to use, and making them as easy to understand and to use as is absolutely possible.

And he succeeded in doing that, time and time again.

So why would I be saying don’t emulate him? By all means, try and emulate his success, have a vision and the courage and tenacity to pursue it, but do not try and do it how Steve did it or you will no doubt crash and burn.

Like most of us, I did not know Steve Jobs other than what I read about him, but to me, he did not appear to be a very nice person at all. He appeared to treat people with utter distain and lack of respect, breaking the golden rule at all times. I won’t go into the details here, because if you are reading this you are probably already aware of some of the legendary stories. It certainly appears though that he managed to break all the rules regarding leadership and still got the results.

The rules of good leadership are well established, and can generally be summised as getting others to do what you want them to do because they want to do it, rather than because they feel they must or that they are fearful of not doing it. If you don’t follow these rules and don’t treat people with the respect they deserve, encourage them, reward them and get buy in to your vision, making them feel safe, secure and valued, you will likely fail.

So how did Steve Jobs break so many rules yet appear to have become one of the best business leaders in modern corporate history? I believe that Steve Jobs was so good at what he did, had such fantastic vision and single mindedness in what he wanted to achieve, that he succeeded despite his shortcomings.

Great people leave great legacies, which normally involves making a change that positively effects a great number of people. Steve Jobs made some great advances in consumer technology through improved user experience, but does he fit my definition of leaving a great legacy? Only time will tell.

Do you think Steve Jobs has created a lasting and great legacy? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.


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2 thoughts on “Please do not try to emulate Steve Jobs!”

  1. Steve Jobs WAS an innovator, but then he (and Apple) got comfortable. They could sell the same products with nominal spec upgrades over and over. e.g. iPhone 3g to 3gs, 4 to 4s, all the iPads are essentially the same. They’re probably sitting in Cupertino laughing their heads off at all the Apple sheep they have under their control. “Hey guys, wanna make another couple of million? Lets release the iPhone 4 again, but we’ll put an “s” on the name and put in a bit of a faster processor”.

    This is why you shouldn’t emulate Steve Jobs, because its not fair to make people buy into a way of life. People with the loyalty of the apple fanbase should be rewarded for their business with constant innovation, and products that outshine the last ones and add new value – its not like they’re not giving apple enough money! With all that money Apple should be pushing brand new innovations out of the door at a huge rate, and yet over 3 iterations of the iPad we have essentially the same product, and the same with the iPhone.

    It makes me really angry. I had an iPod because it was innovative, and every time I ran out of space I bought a new version of the iPod with the expectation that a) I would get more space (which I did) and b) that I would get something new (which I didn’t – as with the iPhone and the iPad each iPod was pretty much the same with a larger hard drive). This is the point at which I fell out of love with Apple. I realised that their business plan was to release a really good product and then milk it to death before releasing something else new. They also appear to hold back features (which is apparent with the new iPad and the retina display, which is over a year old in the iPhone 4) in order to sell to customers later on (hey… I need the new iPad because my iPad 2 doesn’t have a retina display).

    So I agree, I hope people don’t emulate Steve Jobs – I hope that the CEOs of tomorrow are actually interested in innovating and pushing out great products that will really change our lives.

    1. Hi Tom, thanks for your response. We know that Mr. Jobs isn’t at Cupertino laughing his head off, but I bet Apple’s Marketing Department is, especially with their latest claims that Siri isn’t finished and is in fact still in beta. I failed to see that in the small print on the TV adverts!

      I don’t think we should be mad at Apple for the actions of it’s customers. I’m sure if the new iPad had been a Etch-a-Sketch with a camera held on the back with some masking tape (iPad 4 idea maybe?), some people would still go out and buy it. Who’s the fool?

      What concerns me more about emulating Steve Jobs, and Apple for that matter is that he is legendary for treating people really badly, both inside and outside of work, meanwhile Apple continues to manufacture products at a factory that has questionable working practices and employees that commit suicide – while Apple becomes the most profitable company in the world. How can that be right?

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