The Innovation Of Steve Jobs: How To Continually Create New Markets


Steve Jobsby Carmine Gallo.

There are very few people in the world today more closely associated with innovation than Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He is the classic North American entrepreneur. Jobs and his high school pal, Steve Wozniak, started Apple in Jobs’ parents’ house in California. Contrary to popular wisdom, they started in the bedroom, before fighting with Jobs’ mum for space on the kitchen table. Then they moved to the garage, where the legend was born. The Apple I and Apple II computers that they built in the 1970s sparked the personal-computer revolution. And when the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, it changed everything about computers and the way people interact with technology.

In 1985, Jobs was fired from the company that he had started, though in 1997 he returned just in time to save the Apple empire from bankruptcy. The interesting part here is that Jobs not only saved the company, but over the next ten years he went on to create products that have reinvented not one but four industries: personal computing; music; telecommunications; and entertainment. (It is often forgotten that Jobs is also the CEO of a little company called Pixar.)

Many companies find themselves in a similar position to that in which Apple was in 1997. It might be that they are struggling to survive in the global recession or attempting to redefine themselves to new and existing customers – which is why anybody in business can find inspiration in Apple’s success and in the philosophy that has driven Steve Jobs throughout his entire career. The following seven principles will encourage you to aim bigger and to build a company that might just change the world.

 Do What You Love

In 2005, Steve Jobs told Stanford graduates that the secret to success is having “the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” Jobs claims that he has followed his heart his entire life and that passion, he says, is what has made all the difference. He has often said that it is very difficult to come up with new, creative and novel ideas unless you are truly passionate about moving society forward.

Jobs claims that perseverance is half the battle and, without passion, a lot of people will give up easily. What is it about your product, service or company that you are truly passionate about? The answer is not always obvious. Steve Jobs is not passionate about making computer boxes. Instead he is passionate about building tools that help people unleash their personal creativity. Big difference.

Put A Dent In The Universe

Passion fuels the rocket, but vision directs the rocket to its ultimate destination.

As early as 1976, when Jobs and Wozniak co-founded Apple, Jobs’ vision was to put a computer in the hands of “everyday people”. In 1979, he saw an early and crude graphical user-interface being demonstrated at the Xerox research facility in Palo Alto, California. He knew immediately that the technology would make computers appealing to “everyday people”. That technology eventually became the Macintosh, which changed everything about the way we interact with computers.

Steve Jobs once proclaimed that Xerox could have dominated the computer industry but they did not because their vision was limited to making a new copier. In other words, two people can see exactly the same thing but perceive it differently based on their vision.

Steve Jobs wanted to put a dent in the universe and indeed he has. There is something to be said for dreaming the big dream. It inspires innovation and attracts the forward thinkers. Remember, innovation rarely takes place without a team of believers. It is important to never underestimate the power of vision – it is a great tool for attracting a team of dedicated, creative and motivated staff.

Seek Out New Experiences

Breakthrough innovation requires creativity; and creativity requires that you think differently about the way you think. According to Harvard research, the number-one skill that separates innovators from non-creative professionals is association: the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas from different fields. Steve Jobs has always subscribed to this theory.

Jobs has been connecting things his whole life. He once said “Creativity is just connecting things.” He knew instinctively what researchers had taken years to figure out. For example, the company name Apple fell from a tree – literally. He had returned from visiting a commune-like place in an apple orchard in Oregon. Apple co-founder and Jobs’ pal, Steve Wozniak, picked him up from the airport. On the drive home, Jobs said simply: “I came up with a name for our company: Apple.” Wozniak said they could have come up with more technical-sounding names but that their vision was to make computers approachable. Apple fitted perfectly.

That is just one small example of how Steve Jobs thinks differently by making associations from outside his field. He creates new ideas precisely because he has spent a lifetime exploring new and unrelated things and seeking out diverse experiences. Jobs hired people from outside the computing profession; studied the art of calligraphy in college (a study that found its way into the first Macintosh); meditated in an Indian ashram; and studied the finer details of a Mercedes-Benz and European-made washer-dryers for product ideas.

A crucial stage of innovation is to look outside your industry for inspiration. Seeking out new experiences can help you unleash your creative potential. Bombard your brain with new experiences, and trust that breaking out of familiar routines will lead to unfamiliar breakthroughs.

See Genius In Craziness

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after a 12-year absence, Apple faced an uncertain future. It was close to bankruptcy. Major media reporters and analysts had written off the company as irrelevant. Jobs closed his presentation that year at Macworld in Boston with an observation that set the tone for Apple’s resurgence: “I think you have to think differently to buy an Apple computer. I think the people who do buy them do think differently. They are the creative spirits in this world. They are people who are not out to get a job done; they are out to change the world. And they are out to change the world using whatever great tools they can get. And we make tools for those kinds of people… a lot of times people think they’re crazy, but in that craziness we see genius.”

It is important to establish how you see your customers and understand what need you are catering to. You need to define what you are helping your customers to do by offering the product or service that you offer. People do not purchase products for the sake of purchasing them; instead they purchase them to fulfill a specific need. It is likely that your product or service plays a role in realising their personal dreams and goals. If you can continue to help your customers fulfill these dreams and goals, you will continue to keep your customers, as well as attract more.

Think Differently About Design

Everything in Apple’s world – from products to packaging and websites to presentations – is simple, elegant and user friendly. And that was the goal. Jobs once quoted Leonardo Da Vinci when he said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Steve Jobs has also said that Apple is as proud of what it does not do as what it does do. This philosophy applies to everything, including the packaging. In addition to the photograph of the product, the only words on the outside of the iPhone 4 box are the name of the product. The theory behind this is that anything else detracts from the focus of the product. Reducing clutter is the reason why Apple products are so easy to use. So easy in fact, that a two-year-old can pick up an iPad and know intuitively what to do with it.

We live in a cluttered, complicated world. But according to Apple’s design guru, Jonathan Ive, people crave simplicity. That not only applies to design, it also applies to the ventures you choose to focus on and the ones that you choose not to pursue. When Mark Parker became the new CEO of Nike, he called up Steve Jobs for advice. Jobs told Parker to simply get rid of the crappy stuff.

Ask yourself: what is the deepest reason that people buy your product? Once you figure out what the reason is, make that your focus. Anything that detracts from the focus should be reconsidered and possibly eliminated entirely. Strive for a simple, elegant user-experience, just as Apple does.

Think Differently About Your Experience

In the United States, an online shoe company called Zappos is becoming legendary for its customer service. Zappos has a lot in common with the Apple stores. It sells different products of course, but its approach to customer service is the same. Apple never created a store to sell computers and iPods. Instead, it built a store with the aim of enriching lives. The aim of Zappos is similar. It has not set out to sell shoes; it is instead striving to deliver happiness. It is
crucial that you understand what exactly it is that makes customers happy. Understanding it, and then delivering it, ends up being good for business.

Most companies do not offer an exceptional customer experience. Those that do stand out are usually recognised for it. But how do you build a service that enriches lives? For starters, look outside of your industry for inspiration.

When Apple’s head of retail, Ron Johnson, sat down with Steve Jobs to develop the concept behind the wildly popular Apple Stores, they asked themselves who offered the best customer service. The answer did not come from the computer industry. Instead, the answer was The Four Seasons hotel. The next time you walk into an Apple store, have a look around. You will not find any cashiers, only concierges. You will even find a bar – though instead of dispensing alcohol, it offers advice.

What kind of experience are you offering your customers? Take a page from the Apple’s (best-selling) book and look outside your industry for ideas on how to stand out from your competitors.

Master The Message

You can have the greatest idea in the world but if you cannot convince anyone else of that, it simply does not matter. An idea cannot change the world until it is implemented and turned into a product, service or method. And for that to happen, you have to do a lot of persuading, convincing and inspiring.

Steve Jobs is the world’s greatest corporate storyteller. His presentations inform, educate and entertain. How does he do it? Here are three simple presentation techniques that Jobs uses and that you can easily adopt for your very next presentation:

1) Create a Twitter-friendly headline. If you have used Twitter then you know that it allows just 140 characters for each post. Can you describe your product or service in a sentence or two that fits in a Twitter post? Steve Jobs can. Every time he introduces a new product, he summarises it in fewer than 140 characters. The original iPod was described as “1000 songs in your pocket”, the iPad as “Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device” and the MacBook Air was proclaimed “The world’s thinnest notebook”. All of these statements are simple and concise, yet they tell you a lot. One sentence speaks volumes.

2) Strive for visual simplicity. Jobs understands that an audience retains information more effectively when ideas are presented in words and pictures instead of words alone. This is what neuroscientists term “picture superiority”. If you deliver information verbally, your listener will retain about ten per cent of the information. Add an image and retention soars to 65 per cent. If you look at the slides in a Steve Jobs presentation, you will see that they are image-rich – fewer words, more photos.

Complex ideas require you to present information in a more dynamic way if you hope to persuade your audience. You have to draft, brainstorm and sketch ideas on paper before opening your PowerPoint program. Try shifting away from the conventional PowerPoint template and tackle a new approach to presenting information.

3) Stick to the rule of three: Scientific studies relating to brain functioning are finding that humans can only process about three or four chunks of information in their short-term memory. If that is the case, why deliver 22 message points? Steve Jobs will often divide presentations into groups of three. For example, when he introduced the iPad in January 2010, the presentation was frequently grouped into threes. He explained that Apple was introducing a third device in between a laptop and smartphone. He explained that netbooks, which the iPad replaces, had three problems the iPad solves: they are slow, they have low-quality displays, and they use clunky, old software. From a marketing standpoint, the iPad was released in three versions – 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes and 64 gigabytes. Stick to the rule of three. It works.

Innovation requires positive buzz and positive buzz is spread by inspired people. Nobody is going to be inspired if they do not get your idea. If you have an extraordinary story to tell that involves the launching of an exceptional new product or service, use these techniques to tell that story with more clarity, power and passion.

Innovation sits in a lonely place because very few people have both the courage to pitch radically new ideas and the self-confidence to stick to their convictions. Innovation takes confidence, boldness and the discipline to tune out negative voices. Jobs was once told “Your problem is that you still believe the way to grow is to serve caviar in a world that seems pretty content with cheese and crackers.”

When a Disney executive charged with overseeing a revitalisation of the Disney stores asked Steve Jobs for advice, Jobs said: “Dream bigger.” Perhaps the greatest lesson Steve Jobs can teach us is that innovation involves risk taking and risk taking requires courage and a bit of craziness. See genius in your craziness. Believe in yourself and your vision, and be prepared to defend those beliefs constantly. Once you do, you’ll be on your way to building an insanely innovative company!

Carmine Gallo is a communications coach and the author of the book The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. His book can be purchased at all good book stores.

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