Leadership / Management

Steve Jobs’ gifts: Vision, innovation, disruption


There's not a lot I can add to the avalanche of Steve Jobs commentary we've seen over the past couple of days. When a legend dies, most of the stories get told pretty quickly.

I do have a few brief things to say, though.

I've never considered myself an Apple person. I've used a PC almost my entire computing life. And yet ... the original Macintosh was the first computer I ever loved (the first one I ever used, alas, was a Commodore 64), and our home currently houses two iPod Classics, one iPod Touch, one iPad and one MacBook Air. (Curiously, no iPhones ... yet.) Apple resistance is futile, and Steve Jobs is largely the reason why.

Here's the magic of Steve Jobs: You never knew you needed one of his iGadgets until you held one in your hand.

Case in point: Not long after the iPod debuted in 2001, I played around with one at MACPA headquarters. (It belonged to Tom Hood, of course -- the ultimate early adopter.) I raced home and told my wife that we absolutely had to have an iPod. She was unimpressed. "Why would we ever need something like that?" she asked me.

I bought one anyway, and after playing with it for a few moments, she turned to me and said, "We need two of these things."

Jobs, it seems, knew want we wanted before we did.

As part of its retrospective on Jobs' life, NPR asked three commentators for their opinions on his legacy. As an inventor, innovator and visionary, he was arguably without equal. But given the benefit of time and hindsight, how will history judge him as a leader?

In my mind, that will depend on what comes next.

It goes beyond merely choosing your people well. It seems to me that one of Jobs' many gifts was the ability to detect the weak signals of disruptive change and innovate to take advantage of them. But it was more than that. Jobs actually created that disruptive change and made his competitors scramble to keep pace. If he passed that gift on to his successors, Apple will be just fine.

While we wait for our answer, let's bask in the wisdom of one of the greatest business minds of our time ... maybe of all time.


Bill Sheridan