I recently heard Guy Kawasaki asked what were some traits of Steve Jobs that innovators could learn from. He first explained what not to emulate: those turtleneck sweaters and those “dad behind a grill” tennis shoes! While no one should try to be someone else, we can learn some things from others and incorporate it into our repertoire. Here are some Jobs traits worth paying attention to.
1. Customers won’t tell you what they want. – I once had a client interview years ago to discover how they were going through an underwriting process. As the client was explaining the process to me there was some obvious opportunities where a digital solution would make their life easier. But even after I presented the idea, the client didn’t see the value initially and seemed content with a process they had become good at but that was otherwise inefficient. Being good a bad thing is just one of the things stopping clients from truly seeing what’s possible. Most of the time, what you’ll get from them is “make it faster” or “make it cheaper” but rarely something novel or innovative.
2. Taste Matters – Great design has been a hallmark of Apple. Everything from the packaging to the devices themselves has led the market in terms of efficiency, sleekness and has all the vibes of a “design for delight” mindset. But even more than just design, there’s a knack to “taste” and that’s where Apple really stands out. You can imagine other companies that still spend money on designers and UI/UX issues but don’t always get the results. Learn to separate the difference between great design and great taste. The reason modern cell phones have glass cases comes from Apple’s use of taste and UX focus. Engineers knew the glass would break more easily than plastic so they first prototyped and tested with plastic screens. The pilot users reported back that the screens scratched easily from just bringing it the phone in and out of a pocket. They quickly looked tattered. Even though the glass screens could out right break if they were dropped, they didn’t scratch. And users didn’t seem to understand that if they damaged it through abnormal use (i.e. dropping it). So by focusing on a more tasteful appearance and the psychology of the users, they came up with the best approach.
3. Meritocracy – It doesn’t matter where great ideas come from. Long before the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, Jobs had an open mind about who he would work with and it was simple – whoever could deliver great ideas regardless of job title, race, religion or any other classification. Elimination of politics and prejudice maximizes the size of the “idea net” you cast.
4. Iterate and Churn – Churn is often a four letter word in the business world but with respect to product and technology it’s a good thing. Build the smallest remarkable thing and don’t ship garbage but understand that getting to market and iterating quickly is the norm for innovation.
Have a great weekend!