Book Log: The Steve Jobs Way

I haven’t really been an Apple-fan until I recently bought my iPhone and subsequently the iPad. The iPad has been my greatest companion now everyday, whether it’s for reading news, playing word games or reading ebooks. It has been my greatest productivity tool!

I actually wasn’t intending to find this book. My mum and I saw the book Inside Steve’s Brain at Shanghai Pudong airport, but it was way over-priced. I hence went to {prologue} at Ion to look for it. They didn’t have that book, but the bookstore assistant recommended this book to me strongly as the book was written by Jay Elliot, former Senior vice president, someone who was close relation with Steve Jobs himself. He shared with me some interesting nuggets from the book and I bought it on his recommendation.

The book traces Steve’s journey from when he first joined Apple, to when he was chased out due to a leadership tussle, started his own company NeXT Computer and supported Pixar to finally, when he rejoined again and led Apple to its current status.

Some flaws

The middle of the book was rather difficult to get through for me as Ellis goes into extensive detail of the various Apple computer models and some rather technical details of the developments and changes in the corporation and computer model. I also got slightly bored in the first section as it seemed like the chapters were rather repetitive in its portrayal of Jobs. Elliot also isn’t exactly unbiased and disses Google’s phones and the Android system rather unfairly at least twice in the book.

Interesting stories:

  • Steve Jobs always created his product from the perspective of the ultimate consumer. He decided early on that the iPhone would only have one button. His engineers kept telling him that it was not possible if you only had one control button, but he kept sending them back to demand that they figure out the necessary solution, even though he himself didn’t have the solution. Eventually, the iPhone was created with only one control button.
  • Steve was driven to imbue his products with two qualities – in addition to being intuitive, each product should create an experience so satisfying that the user would feel an emotional attachment to it.
  • Steve was a person who was such a stickler for detail that he even went down to the Apple Store in Pasadena to inspect the tiles of the floor.
  • Steve truly cherishes people. Examples provided:
    1) Steve decided that the signatures of the original engineering team of the first Macs would be etched inside the Macs’ cases. A signing people was held and everyone signed on a big piece of drafting paper and copies were then put in all the first macs.
    2) When the first Macs went on sale, Steve went down to the factory himself to hand out a hundred dollar bill to every worker, congratulating everyone as he did it.
    3) When he realised that the products weren’t being prepared for shipping fast enough, he went down to the factory and slipped into the role of imagining himself as the product, describing what he was experiencing as a product being packaged, shrink-wrapped and packaged. Most people were uncomfortable and dumb-founded, but his visualisation exercise actually revealed ways to increase the flow of shipping.
  • Steve believed in holistic product development. He understood that it was not possible to produce a product that works well if the group creating the software and hardware work entirely independent.
  • Steve believed in quality over quantity. When he returned to Apple, he decided to cut dozens of products and devoted his resources to just four, even though the other products were connecting Apple to a reliable stream of revenues. Steve claims, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”
  • Steve’s story of iTunes is extremely interesting as it highlights how he changed the mindset of the music industry players and emphasized how music piracy was fundamentally behavioral, not technologically. (Read the book to find out more!)
  • The Apple Store was Steve’s move to take the Apple products directly to the consumer as sales through traditional retail channel were rather weak. He decided to create a store which was more like a hands-on demo center rather than a traditional retail space, where you can play with the products you would buy – without any pressure. When it was first launched, most were sure that this was Steve’s Folly. However, as of last year, Apple now has more than 300 stores.
  • Content is King: Everything before the iPHone and Ipad was Steve as the creator of products that catch the imagination. Today, Steve’s vision has been updated to focus on content… The iPad is seen as a tablet. However, in Steve’s vision, it’s a delivery platform – a platform for bringing content to the user… most apps on the iPad will be directed at improving how we access and use content.


What makes an entrepreneur?

One of the key elements of the entrepreneur is momentum… Do not quit, keep it going, always going forward despite the setbacks, always remaining open to the next idea… Martin Luther King once said, “Judge a man on how he reacts to failure, not success.”

What makes a good board of directors?

Everyone knows that a good board of directors is critical to a successful company. But what does a “good board” really mean?  …. The ideal board is a group of people with differing business experiences who use the company’s product religiously and have a very clear understanding of who the customer is and where the business should be in five years… Profit is an outcome of the product and the people who run the company.

What is innovation?

Steve Jobs believes that you cannot design a product with focus groups, not when you’re trying to be truly original… If you ask a group of people, even people who aren’t dissatisfied with a product, how to make it better, the odds are they’ll spend most of their time trying to think of things that are wrong with it. That fault-finding has some value. But the best you’ll get is some guidance about how to make incremental improvements. It won’t give you ideas for dramatically new products that are game changers. It’s not innovation.

What you need are people who focus on what their experience could be… Innovators create products that are an outgrowth of what they imagine, things that help them create a world they would like to live in. That’s a drastically different mind-set from just figuring out how to improve upon the past.

All in all

Definitely a good read if you’re interested in Steve Jobs as an entrepreneur and also the history of the Apple company and some of its products. Not very good if you’re looking for an autobiography of Steve Jobs. If you’re looking for leadership or entrepreneurial insights, you won’t find much that’s new here but the principles coupled with the anecdotes did provide some nice ‘Wow’ or ‘I could apply that’ moments for me.