Last Friday at our First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson for the first time. I repeated it to another audience on Tuesday and, I suspect, will do so a number of more times in the weeks/months to come. I have found that a book synopsis is a great conversation starter, and then, a valuable and useful “let’s think about things” catalyst. Isaacson’s book is terrific for just such a purpose.
So, on Tuesday, a man walked up and wanted to talk about Steve Jobs (the person, the business leader – not just the book). This is a sharp man. He earned a PhD, he started a successful company, and he is involved in an exciting new start-up. He is extremely well-read. (In this conversation, he told me of a book that I have not read, and I immediately downloaded into my iPad). Oh — he is also a long-time Mac user.
He had quite a few observations about the leadership style of Jobs. He asked me if I knew the MobileMe story, when Steve Jobs let the team “have it” for their failures. I did know the story. (I forget where I first read it. You can read about it here). Here’s the key part of the story:
Jobs asked his team what MobileMe was supposed to do. Upon receiving an answer he quickly fired back, “So why the f*** doesn’t it do that?”
This astute observer then said this about Jobs:
“Steve Jobs was the greatest advocate for the customer I have ever seen in a business leader.”
That may be IT! – the insight about what made Steve Jobs great. As a business leader, Steve Jobs cared about, was passionate about!, was demanding for, the customer and the customer’s experience. He cared that his products made the life of the customer better, and easier. And his products do exactly that.
And though he was hard to work with/for, this was his motivation. From the Isaacson book:
Business Week asked him why he treated employees so harshly, Jobs said it made the company better.
In other words, according to the insight of this Tuesday night participant, Jobs wanted to make the company better in order to make the customer experience better. He was hard on his employees in his role as advocate for the customer.
This is the insight of the year!
This brings a real clarity to my understanding of Steve Jobs, and to business success in general. You have to care for the customer. You have to be an advocate for the customer, all the time. Because, without the customer — without a happy, genuinely satisfied customer — your days are truly numbered as a business.
You can purchase my synopsis of Steve Jobs, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
It’s Saturday. The weekend is upon us, and I read wherever the links take me. And I think back over the week, think about what I heard, read, learned… So – here is a Saturday edition of Randy’s “let’s just think about some stuff…”
1. The office is disappearing. That’s the conclusion of Seth Godin, and it was so “big,” and yet, once you read it, you knew he was certainly correct, that it even got picked up by Andrew Sullivan (The Office, RIP: Seth Godin gives the last rites). Sullivan writes about a lot of different topics all the time, but seldom about business issues — so this is notable.
Here’s what Godin wrote (click on the link to understand his #7 comment):
If we were starting this whole office thing today, it’s inconceivable we’d pay the rent/time/commuting cost to get what we get. I think in ten years the TV show ‘the Office’ will be seen as a quaint antique.
When you need to have a meeting, have a meeting. When you need to collaborate, collaborate. The rest of the time, do the work, wherever you like.
The gain in speed, productivity and happiness is massive. What’s missing is #7… someplace to go. Once someone figures that part out, the office is dead.
2. The desktop computer is disappearing. That’s the conclusion of Farhod Manjoo, Slate.com’s technology writer. (I’m a big fan of his writing – I understand it!)
In the last decade, portable computers have erased many of the advantages that desktops once claimed while desktops have been unable to overcome their one glaring deficiency—by definition, these machines are chained to your desk.
Amazingly, by 2015, desktops will constitute just 18 percent of the consumer PC market…
In just three years’ time, tablets are projected to outsell desktops, becoming the second-largest PC category after laptops. This sounds crazy until you consider that Apple alone is already selling 1 million tablets a month.
He’s right, of course. I now read as many articles on my iPhone as I do on my desktop. I suspect I will have an iPad before too long.
But, let me describe how I work. I wonder if any others out there work the same way. I do fine with my portable devices for “input.” I read my e-mail, read articles, find information. I read both the Godin post and the Manjoo post on my iPhone. But for “output” – blog posts, e-mails, preparing handouts to go along with my presentations, I want/need my desktop. (I’m a Mac guy – I’m now on about my 5th Apple over a long period of time; and I love my iMac. I’ve never warmed to the keyboard/mouse in a laptop, and practically refuse to work on one when I “have to.”’ I’ve never owned one).
Recently, I heard Ron Holifield, CEO of Strategic Government Resources, describe two different kinds of workers. Those who work “from the shoulders down,” and those who work “from the shoulders up.” This is a really clear, graphic image. Increasingly, those who work “from the shoulders up,” can work anywhere there is a connection. Which is just about anywhere. They won’t need an office – and they won’t need a desktop. They will just need to be connected.
As for where all of your stuff will be – it will be in the cloud. So it will be available anywhere, anytime… (I’ve got every one of my book handouts, and a whole lot more, available to me on my iPhone and/or from any connected computer anywhere, through my MobileMe account. Yes, I could do the same for free on Google Docs, but MobileMe does a whole lot more, and it is so easy to use with my iMac! It is worth the cost).
And just for fun, let me remind you of a few of the fantasy communication devices we all remember. Dick Tracy had a wristwatch that allowed for live visual face-to-face communication (you know – where you could talk and see each other at the same time). The new iPhone will now actually have capability. Captain Kirk had this hand-held device that he could flip open and say “Beam me up, Scotty.” By the time Captain Picard arrived, he just tapped a spot on his uniform. No more clumsy, too large, inconvenient flip-open communication device.
The communication devices/reading devices/working devices are getting stronger, faster, smaller, less obtrusive, easier to use, seemingly by the week. Tomorrow is arriving faster by the minute.