Many people have explained what one can learn from Steve Jobs. But few, if any, of these people have been inside the tent and experienced first hand what it was like to work with him. I don’t want any lessons to be lost or forgotten, so here is my list of the top twelve lessons that I learned from Steve Jobs.
Experts are clueless.
Experts—journalists, analysts, consultants, bankers, and gurus can’t “do” so they “advise.” They can tell you what is wrong with your product, but they cannot make a great one. They can tell you how to sell something, but they cannot sell it themselves. They can tell you how to create great teams, but they only manage a secretary. For example, the experts told us that the two biggest shortcomings of Macintosh in the mid 1980s was the lack of a daisy-wheel printer driver and Lotus 1-2-3; another advice gem from the experts was to buy Compaq. Hear what experts say, but don’t always listen to them.
Customers cannot tell you what they need.
“Apple market research” is an oxymoron. The Apple focus group was the right hemisphere of Steve’s brain talking to the left one. If you ask customers what they want, they will tell you, “Better, faster, and cheaper”—that is, better sameness, not revolutionary change. They can only describe their desires in terms of what they are already using—around the time of the introduction of Macintosh, all people said they wanted was better, faster, and cheaper MS-DOS machines. The richest vein for tech startups is creating the product that you want to use—that’s what Steve and Woz did.
Jump to the next curve.
Big wins happen when you go beyond better sameness. The best daisy-wheel printer companies were introducing new fonts in more sizes. Apple introduced the next curve: laser printing. Think of ice harvesters, ice factories, and refrigerator companies. Ice 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Are you still harvesting ice during the winter from a frozen pond?
The biggest challenges beget best work.
I lived in fear that Steve would tell me that I, or my work, was crap. In public. This fear was a big challenge. Competing with IBM and then Microsoft was a big challenge. Changing the world was a big challenge. I, and Apple employees before me and after me, did their best work because we had to do our best work to meet the big challenges.
Steve drove people nuts with his design demands—some shades of black weren’t black enough. Mere mortals think that black is black, and that a trash can is a trash can. Steve was such a perfectionist—a perfectionist Beyond: Thunderdome—and lo and behold he was right: some people care about design and many people at least sense it. Maybe not everyone, but the important ones.
You can’t go wrong with big graphics and big fonts.
Take a look at Steve’s slides. The font is sixty points. There’s usually one big screenshot or graphic. Look at other tech speaker’s slides—even the ones who have seen Steve in action. The font is eight points, and there are no graphics. So many people say that Steve was the world’s greatest product introduction guy..don’t you wonder why more people don’t copy his style?
Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence.
When Apple first shipped the iPhone there was no such thing as apps. Apps, Steve decreed, were a bad thing because you never know what they could be doing to your phone. Safari web apps were the way to go until six months later when Steve decided, or someone convinced Steve, that apps were the way to go—but of course. Duh! Apple came a long way in a short time from Safari web apps to “there’s an app for that.”
“Value” is different from “price.”
Woe unto you if you decide everything based on price. Even more woe unto you if you compete solely on price. Price is not all that matters—what is important, at least to some people, is value. And value takes into account training, support, and the intrinsic joy of using the best tool that’s made. It’s pretty safe to say that no one buys Apple products because of their low price.
A players hire A+ players.
Actually, Steve believed that A players hire A players—that is people who are as good as they are. I refined this slightly—my theory is that A players hire people even better than themselves. It’s clear, though, that B players hire C players so they can feel superior to them, and C players hire D players. If you start hiring B players, expect what Steve called “the bozo explosion” to happen in your organization.
Real CEOs demo.
Steve Jobs could demo a pod, pad, phone, and Mac two to three times a year with millions of people watching, why is it that many CEOs call upon their vice-president of engineering to do a product demo? Maybe it’s to show that there’s a team effort in play. Maybe. It’s more likely that the CEO doesn’t understand what his/her company is making well enough to explain it. How pathetic is that?
Real CEOs ship.
For all his perfectionism, Steve could ship. Maybe the product wasn’t perfect every time, but it was almost always great enough to go. The lesson is that Steve wasn’t tinkering for the sake of tinkering—he had a goal: shipping and achieving worldwide domination of existing markets or creation of new markets. Apple is an engineering-centric company, not a research-centric one. Which would you rather be: Apple or Xerox PARC?
Marketing boils down to providing unique value.
Think of a 2 x 2 matrix. The vertical axis measures how your product differs from the competition. The horizontal axis measures the value of your product. Bottom right: valuable but not unique—you’ll have to compete on price. Top left: unique but not valuable—you’ll own a market that doesn’t exist. Bottom left: not unique and not value—you’re a bozo. Top right: unique and valuable—this is where you make margin, money, and history. For example, the iPod was unique and valuable because it was the only way to legally, inexpensively, and easily download music from the six biggest record labels.
Bonus: Some things need to be believed to be seen. When you are jumping curves, defying/ignoring the experts, facing off against big challenges, obsessing about design, and focusing on unique value, you will need to convince people to believe in what you are doing in order to see your efforts come to fruition. People needed to believe in Macintosh to see it become real. Ditto for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Not everyone will believe—that’s okay. But the starting point of changing the world is changing a few minds. This is the greatest lesson of all that I learned from Steve.
(Mon05) I voted for Barack Obama because nothing is more important to me than the preservation and expansion of the rights of my daughter. While I don’t believe that any president can fix the economy or ensure the safety of 285 diplomatic facilities 24 x 7 x 365, I do believe that a president can change the composition of the Supreme Court and reduce the rights of my daughter.
My father was a state senator in Hawaii, and I saw him stand up for what he believed in—including when it cost him his reelection. I’m now fifty-eight years old, and it’s time to follow his most -xcellent example.
I’m thankful that I live in a country where people can disagree on politics but still come together when it matters. At the very least we can agree to disagree. No matter who you support, cast your vote, and let's get to work because we have lots to do.
For awhile, Google+ was a beautiful swimming pool filled with enchanting people making substantial, supportive and serene comments. Then hell broke loose on Sept. 21, 2011 when Google+ opened for anyone to join. Overnight, posts were inundated with clueless, crass or callous comments.
On Sept. 22 I felt like I woke up feeling discouraged. The situation reminded me of Caddyshack when a kid throws a Baby Ruth bar into the pool, and widespread panic ensues. The geeks at Google are hard at work to discourage malicious "Baby Ruth" producers, but this still leaves a large group of people who need help with comments. As Google+ has grown, more quality people have joined the platform but there are still some growing pains occurring.
This post is not meant for spammers or sociopaths—nothing will alter their behavior. My goal is to help “the rest of us.” But first, you may wonder why anyone should care about crappy comments—after all, Google+ is a public forum, and readers can ignore the crap. Think of Google+ posts as a restaurant, and the comments are the public sidewalk in front of it.
Sure, you could ask the police to stop the litterers and hope that the police can enforce an effective solution. However, no matter how vigilant the police is, you still have to clean the detritus off the sidewalk because poor comments on your post affect your image just like a dirty sidewalk in front of your restaurant.
Before we get to the art of full-fledged comments that are at least a phrase long, there are other ways to provide feedback to the authors of posts. These actions require less effort and may be enough for what you want to communicate.
You can share a post. This means that you like it so much that you’re willing to bet your reputation on it by providing it to your readers too. This is probably the most powerful comment people can make. If I had a choice between someone leaving a comment and sharing my post, I would pick the latter because a share increases the exposure of the post whereas a comment does not.
A +1 is a like tip for the valet or bellman. Any single +1 is not a big deal, but like tips, they can add up to significant compensation. You should throw +1s around generously when you like a post. On the flip side, when you see a post with more than five to 10 +1s, it’s a good indication that IS interesting, amusing or useful. For Facebook users, a +1 is the equivalent of a Facebook “Like” and should be given and judged in the same way.
Many people leave one-word comments such as “cool,” “wow,’ “LOL,” and “hah!” On Twitter—this type of comment is okay because comments flow on a river of other tweets. Also, there is no Twitter equivalent to the +1, so you have little choice but to leave one-word "atta-boys." Google+ is different because posts and their comments are linked so that all the comments remain with the post—“floating in the pool”—and there is an alternative to one-word atta-boys.
Many people make one-word comments with good intention. Others do it to “join the party”out of sheer enthusiasm for the post. Unfortunately, a few people do it because they want attention and to just see their comments appear somewhere. You can see this when there are comments such as “cool” and “LOL” that don’t make sense for the post.
Although this is more complex than I’d like, I have three recommendations. First, try to make a comment that is longer than one word: “Cool, I’m glad that you posted this,” “Cool, I’ll have to try this too,” or “Cool, please keep this kind of post coming.” The goal is to differentiate yourself from the mindless spammers.
Second, use the +1 feature instead of making a one-word comment. Doing so provides the same positive feedback to the author, and +1s are automatically tallied so they communicate the quality of the post more clearly than a bunch of one-word comments.
Third, if the poster has fewer than 1,000 followers, it’s unlikely that his posts will be swamped with one-word comments. Then it’s okay—and even nice—to leave a comment of any length. Any feedback is likely to make them happy. However, if the poster has thousands of followers, a string of one-word comments is irksome.
Shares, +1s and one-word comments are not mutually exclusive, so you can do any combination of the three. In a perfect world, people would share the post with their followers, +1 it, and write a comment. If you really like a post, don’t hesitate to show your feelings in multiple ways.
Now let’s address the art of long-form comments that are at least a phrase. The quality, breadth and depth of Google+ comments compared to Twitter and Facebook blows me away. This level of interaction separates Google+ from those services, and it’s the reason that Robert Scoble and I and thousands of other early adopters love Google+.
A good model for comments is that you should behave as if you are a guest in someone’s home. Google Plus isn’t like Twitter where your comments float away in a river in less than in a minute. On Google+, your comments remain with a specific posting, so they are in your host’s pool, and they remain until your host scoops them out.
Here are my recommendations for long-than-one-word Google-Plus comments
Good comments provide information, analysis, assistance, entertainment or feedback. They make the post even better. This doesn’t mean that people should only say positive things—negative feedback is as valuable as positive feedback—but the spirit of the comment is what’s important. Is the commenter seeking to create value, or to simply attack the author and other commenters? Is the comment thoughtful and substantial, or simply inflammatory?
Stay on topic
Comments should be relevant to the post. You can supplement information and even add color and drama, but you shouldn’t go nuts. For example, if I make a post about hockey, God bless you if you want to talk about other sports or even about your non-sports passions. But don’t post a comment about how you think HP should not have discontinued its tablet or why Sarah Palin should be president. Certainly a link about your SEO consultancy or a site to meet singles is in poor and stupid form.
Show some class
People who want to swim in the Google+ pool—or at least my Google+ pool—should take a shower first. This means they should refrain from profanity and the big three isms: racism, sexism and ageism. The rest of the world might not know that you have no class, so why remove all doubt?
Limit arguments to three rounds
The best and worst interactions often occur between commenters—not between commenters and authors. It’s enchanting to watch strangers develop relationships and take posts in deeper and serendipitous (albeit related) directions. That’s the good news. The bad news is that commenters sometimes behave in ways they would never do in person and attack each other like boxers. But think about this: Does the outcome of an argument in comments really matter? Is anyone going to change their mind? HP will have the same CEO for 10 years before this happens.
My suggestion is to embrace the rules of amateur boxing and go for only three rounds. Here’s how this would work: the author says something—this is the opening bell. Round 1: Person A posts a comment. Round 2: Person B responds to your comment. Round 3: Person A responds to the response. End of fight—even if Person B responds again. If Person A and B want to go more rounds, they can start their own thread and fight someplace else. Frankly, by the end of three rounds, no one else is following the sequence of blows, and everyone couldn’t give a shiitake about the little urinating match.
“Reply to” the author
Type in “+” and then the author’s name until you see it her pop-up in a list of people with similar names—this is Google working its magic and finding the person for you. Then select her name, and it will turn blue and link to her profile. This is called a “+ mention” as opposed to simply mentioning her with plain, non-linked text. An easier way to create a + mention is to install a Chrome browser extension called “Replies and More for Google+.” This product makes it easy to “reply to” the author and commenters by adding a link to click on to select them. It’s the most valuable Google Plus extension in the world.
The reason that + mentions is important is that the people you mention receive notification. This is a huge advantage of Google Plus over Twitter and Facebook because people that you reply to or mention on Twitter and Facebook are much less likely to know you did so. These mentions also work for other commenters and not only posters—you want them to know the you’ve responded to their comments. Fortunately, Replies and More for Google+ works with other commenters too.
Another favorite Chrome extension for managing Google+ is Nuke Comments. This gives you the ability to delete a comment and report the spammer in one click.
These are my recommendations for the art of commenting in Google+. Having said all this, an author’s post—like her pool, restaurant or house—is a person’s post. Authors are free to enforce rules and tolerate behaviors according to their own liking within the terms of service of Google. Some people on Google Plus are more tolerant of turds in their pool, but this how I’m running my little tub.
*This post was excerpted from What the Plus! Google+ for the rest of us and originally posted on Open Forum.