What it is: “Inside Steve’s Brain” is one of many books that examines the thinking behind Steve Jobs and what made him such a successful pioneer in so many different technology fields.
Whether you like Apple or not, few people can deny that Steve Jobs literally changed the world first with the Apple II, then the Macintosh, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad. Of course Steve also had a hand in shaping Pixar into the computer animation giant that it is today. While Steve Jobs didn’t do this single-handedly, he played a large role in shaping these products and defining the future for the rest of the computer and computer animation industry.
“Inside Steve’s Brain” is one of many attempts to determine what made Steve Jobs so successful as a technology visionary. While nobody can answer that, “Inside Steve’s Brain” tries to analyze the past to determine how Steve Jobs worked.
Basically the idea is that Steve Jobs provided the vision and got the best out of people while surrounding himself with excellence at all times. Instead of focusing on technical specifications or profit, Steve Jobs focused on making the customer experience better than anything they’ve ever seen before. One example the book gives is how Steve Jobs was obsessed with the packaging of Apple’s products. In the early iMac, Steve Jobs and Apple designed the packaging so customers could only unpack the computer in a certain way that would guarantee they would set it up in the right order starting with the power cord, the keyboard, and the mouse.
Another unique feature of Apple’s innovation is that they let everyone get involved. During the design of the iPod, Phil Schiller, a marketing executive, came up with the idea for the scroll wheel interface. In early iPods, this scroll wheel interface made it easy for people to sift and sort through their music library. Now with touch screen interfaces, that scroll wheel interface looks like the antique that it is.
Apple focuses on creating multiple prototypes of devices until they’re happy with the final design. Other companies focus on cutting costs and rushing products to market. The result is often half-baked products that are confusing to use and often don’t work right even when you do figure out how to use them.
What’s interesting is that Steve Jobs often changed his mind. In the early days of the iMac, Steve Jobs wanted to focus on video editing. The result was that iMacs lacked CD burners at the time when people were busy downloading songs as MP3 files and burning their own CDs. Apple had to quickly reverse themselves and add CD burning capability that Windows PCs had offered for years.
While no one will ever know for certain how Steve Jobs thought, the real key is to follow his principles. Steve Jobs wanted excellence and wouldn’t settle for anything less. In comparison, most companies focus only on the bottom line and could care less about anything beyond their own profits. That’s why Dell Computers outsourced their telephone support to India to save money while frustrating their customers in the process. It’s easy to see how outsourcing technical support saves money. It’s much harder to see how you lose money through frustrated customers as a result.
However if you focus on keeping the customer happy and establish a relationship rather than rely on a single transaction, you’ll grow a base of loyal customers who will pay for excellence in your products. The key is to think more about keeping the customer happy and less about getting as much money as possible out of the customer right away.
Besides the problem of not putting CD burners in early iMacs, Steve Jobs made another mistake with the Cube. The Cube looked great, but it simply wasn’t functional. That was a perfect example of Apple and Steve Jobs losing sight of what the customer wanted.
Already you can see other companies starting to mimic Steve Jobs and Apple. Microsoft’s latest event when they revealed the Surface Book was close to a Steve jobs “on more thing” moment. The quality of the craftsmanship on the Surface Pro and Surface Book is another indication that Microsoft is taking Apple’s hardware design seriously. Now all they need to do is focus on making their software work better instead of releasing disasters like Vista and Windows 8.
Can anyone replace Steve Jobs? No, but everyone can follow the principles that Steve Jobs pursued which was excellence and customer experience. Short-sighted companies focus only on money. Companies like Apple focus on building a relationship with a customer and making the customer’s life easier.
Everyone can learn from Steve Jobs and strive to change the world in their own way. The big difference is when people let money get in the way, they’ll often lose sight of the bigger picture and settle for mediocrity when they could put forth the same effort and reach for excellence instead.