Wow, this Fortune interview with Steve Jobs is chock full of insightful gems. Here’s some of my favorites:
On Apple’s connection with the consumer
“We did iTunes because we all love music. We made what we thought was the best jukebox in iTunes. Then we all wanted to carry our whole music libraries around with us. The team worked really hard. And the reason that they worked so hard is because we all wanted one. You know? I mean, the first few hundred customers were us.
“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do.
“So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.”‘”
Too often, companies simply chase what consumers already want. The best companies offer us values that we’ve never dreamed of before. Such new values integrate so well into our lives that, in very short order, we cannot imagine ourselves without them. Apple has done that consistently, most notably with the iPhone. If I gave it up, I’d have to radically change the way I work and live.
On Apple’s focus
“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.
That same principle applies to individuals too. We have to choose what we do — and what we don’t do — wisely. We have to choose the activities where we have a competitive advantage — and outsource or forgo the rest.
On his marathon Monday meetings
“When you hire really good people you have to give them a piece of the business and let them run with it. That doesn’t mean I don’t get to kibitz a lot. But the reason you’re hiring them is because you’re going to give them the reins. I want [them] making as good or better decisions than I would. So the way to do that is to have them know everything, not just in their part of the business, but in every part of the business.
“So what we do every Monday is we review the whole business. We look at what we sold the week before. We look at every single product under development, products we’re having trouble with, products where the demand is larger than we can make. All the stuff in development, we review. And we do it every single week. I put out an agenda — 80% is the same as it was the last week, and we just walk down it every single week.
“We don’t have a lot of process at Apple, but that’s one of the few things we do just to all stay on the same page.”
Ah, my favorite remark!
To demand that employees conform to processes is to impose mind-numbing, productivity-killing, self-esteem-crushing bureaucracy on them. A bureaucratic company is focused on enacting certain fixed means — rather than on accomplishing its goals by the best means possible. The result is much wasted time, effort, and money. In contrast, notice that Jobs focuses on Apple’s goals in his Monday review. In fact, his Monday meeting seems like a company level GTD weekly review. It’s about production, including giving employees the information they need to solve problems, not about conformity to process.
A bureaucratic company is a company that doesn’t trust its employees to make good decisions. The result is stagnation and incompetence. If a company can’t trust its employees to exercise good judgment in doing their jobs, then it needs to fire them and hire better employees. Or it needs to learn to trust them to do what they’re capable of doing, including learning from mistakes. Bureaucratic focus on “process” and “policy” will drive away the most productive and capable employees — or crush them. It’s not a mode of business appropriate to rational, productive people.
Goals, goals, goals. It’s got to be all about the goals.