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Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

This is a Summary of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo

Steve Jobs, cofounder and CEO of Apple, the electronic powerhouse, is widely regarded as one of the most successful innovators in history. How does he pull that off? Well, for one thing, he doesn’t believe a rigid step-by-step method exists for innovation. Nor do Apple employees attend classes or seminars on “Howto innovate”. Instead, Steve Jobs has achieved genuine breakthrough success by applying seven general principles:

Key Points

  1. Do what you love
  2. Aspire to change the world
  3. Kick-strat your brain
  4. Sell dreams, not products
  5. Say no to the unnecessary
  6. Create insanely great experiences
  7. Master delivering the message

1. Do what you love

Follow your heart and do things you feel passionate about deep down inside your soul. Steve Jobs has spent his entire adult life trusting his curiosity and figuring out answers to questions he personally found challenging. Doing that has made him a billionaire many times over and given the world some impressive innovations like the iPod, iPhone, iMac, Apple Store and iPad.

Steve Jobs lasted for one semester at college before he dropped out – disappointing his adoptive parents who were prepared to spend their life savings paying for his tuition. “After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all the money my parents have saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust it would all work out OK,” said Jobs.

For the next eighteen months, Jobs slept on the floor of his friends’ dorm rooms and attended classes that looked interesting. He finally decided to take a course in calligraphy which he found fascinating. He noticed the dots never connected when you looked forward, only when you looked backwards. Years later, when he was assisting with the development of the Macintosh computer, that calligraphy class would come into its own as the Mac was the first computer which could generate impressive typography. By following his curiosity, Jobs had made a connection nobody else had ever imagined would be of any practical use.

Jobs had met and became friends with Steve Wozniak who lived about a mile from his parents when Jobs was in high school. They decided to start a company and the end result was Apple Computer. At thirty years of age, however, Jobs was fired by the CEO he had recruited to run Apple. He was publicly humiliated and then it dawned on Jobs he loved what he did, so he started over building NeXT, a new company from the ground up. He also acquired Pixar – a struggling startup which was just learning how to make movies using computers rather than real actors. Eventually, Jobs was able to move back to becoming CEO of Apple again.

Interestingly, the decade after he was fired from Apple was the most creative period of his life and the innovations have kept on flowing since Jobs was reunited with Apple. The company has brought out a number of electronic devices which have almost single-handedly revolutionized one industry after another – all because Steve Jobs found a subject which consumes him and energizes his everyday actions. He’s completely focused on creating insanely great products and the markets have responded in impressive fashion.

When Steve Jobs would later reflect on his “wilderness years” when he was away from Apple, he would note the only thing which kept him going was that he loved what he did. He continued to innovate at NeXT and Pixar and worked hard to grow both companies. Ultimately, his drive and passion made it possible for him to get back to being CEO of Apple where he has presided over one of the greatest second acts the world of business has ever seen. It would have been easy for Jobs to give up and throw in the towel but he persevered and came out on top in the end. That’s a great illustration of the staying power of following your passions.

“Passion is the emotional fuel that drives your vision. It’s what you hold on to when your ideas are challenged and people turn you down, when you are rejected by experts and the people closest to you. It’s the fuel that keeps you going when there is no outside validation for your dream. Passion won’t protect you against setbacks, but it will ensure that no failure is ever final.”

– Bill Strickland, author

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

– Steve Jobs

“I hope you’ll be as lucky as I am. The world needs inventors – great ones. You can be one. If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it’s within your reach. And it’ll be worth every minute you spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design or build. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

– Steve Wozniak, Apple cofounder

“Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”

– Joseph Campbell, author

“I was lucky to get into computers when it was a very young and idealistic industry. There weren’t many degrees offered in computer science, so people in computers were brilliant people from mathematics, physics, music, zoology, whatever. They loved it, and no one was really in it for the money.”

– Steve Jobs

“Passion is the genesis of genius.”

– Anthony Robbins, author and motivational speaker

“Passions are irresistible. If you’re paying attention to your life at all, the things you’re passionate about won’t leave you alone. They’re the ideas, hopes, and possibilities your mind naturally gravitates to, the things you would focus your time and attention on for no other reason than doing them feels right.”

– Bill Strickland, author

“I never did it for the money. Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful – that’s what matters to me.”

– Steve Jobs

“I’m convinced about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the nonsuccessful ones is pure perseverance. It is so hard. You put so much of your life into this thing. There are such rough moments in time that I think most people give up. I don’t blame them. It’s really tough and it consumes your life. If you’ve got a family and you’re in the early days of a company, I can’t imagine how one could do it. It’s pretty much an eighteen hour per day job, seven days a week for a while. Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about, otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. I think that’s half the battle right there.”

– Steve Jobs

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

– Steve Jobs

2. Aspire to change the world

Steve Jobs wants to “put a dent in the universe” – he wants to do things and make products which will make a difference for lots of people. By making that his preeminent goal, he attracts other people who want to be involved in projects which become the stuff of legend in the technical world. Steve Jobs has sweeping visions and that appeals to and attracts other A-players.

Apple has always excelled at inspiring evangelists and brand enthusiasts. Part of the reason for that is that Steve Jobs has the ability to see over the horizon and to inspire people. His track record in taking technologies other people have pioneered and subsequently turning them into successful consumer products is highly impressive:

  • Steve Jobs did not invent the personal computer but Apple with its Mac line of machines has managed to retain a sizable chunk of this industry against all odds.
  • Nor did Steve Jobs invent the MP3 player yet Apple innovated and put together the ecosystem which ultimately grew into the iPod product line.
  • Steve Jobs did not invent the smart phone or the tablet computer either but under his guidance, Apple has been successful selling iPhones and iPads.

One good character trait Steve Jobs has is he openly acknowledges he doesn’t know everything and therefore Jobs is willing to hire the best people he can find to help make his dreams become realities. Despite Jobs being the most visible Apple employee, Apple is not a one man show by any stretch of the imagination. Jobs does supply the bold and intoxicating vision which inspires team members and turns them into evangelists for the various Apple projects but then he steps back and lets people do their stuff.

Steve Jobs has always inspired Apple employees to see themselves as revolutionaries – to take computers to the masses, to unlock the potential of smart phones for everyone – basically and fundamentally to make the world a better place. By putting that overriding vision out there, Jobs attracts others who want to do meaningful things and who will walk through fire to make it happen.

It would be easy to say Steve Jobs has been lucky with Apple and that the company just happened to be in the right place at the right time if it were not for the fact Jobs is also the driving force behind movie animation powerhouse Pixar. In 1986, Jobs invested $5 million of his own money to purchase what was then the Graphics Group from LucasFilm of StarWars fame. Within ten years, the company, renamed as Pixar, released Toy Story, the first 100 percent computer-generated animated film in history. By 2010, Pixar has won more than twenty-two Academy Awards and released movies which have generated more than $5.5 billion in revenues worldwide. Nobody would claim Pixar’s success was down to good luck but it was Steve Jobs who funded Pixar when all everybody else saw was problems.

The vision Steve Jobs had for Pixar was sweeping: “Over time we want Pixar to grow into a brand that embodies the same level of trust as the Disney brand.” That vision came to vivid fruition when Toy Story was included in the list of the one hundred greatest American films by the American Film Institute. Pixar would later be acquired by Disney.

“We’re gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make ‘me-too’ products. For us, it’s always the next dream.”

– Steve Jobs

“You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

– Walt Disney

“Let’s make a dent in the universe. We’ll make it so important that it will make a dent in the universe.”

– Steve Jobs

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

– Daniel Hudson Burnham, American architect

“When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum of human potential, which is how our greatest problems will eventually be solved. Give yourself permission to dream. Fuel your kids’ dreams too.”

– Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

“There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very beginning. And we always will.”

– Steve Jobs

“When you sell your product, people use it. When you evangelize people, they get infected, carry the torch for you, share your heartbeat, and defend you against your enemies. When you look in their eyes you see your logo. Without the successful evangelism of third-party developers, Macintosh would have failed.”

– Guy Kawasaki, former Apple executive

“Here’s what you find at a lot of companies. You know how when you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, what happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. They then take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘ We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.”

– Steve Jobs

“A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance. In doing so, it transforms great talent into exceptional accomplishment.”

– Gary Hamel, author

“Companies, as they grow to become multibillion-dollar entities, somehow lose their vision. They insert layers of middle management between the people running the company and the people doing the work. They no longer have an inherent feel or passion about the products. The creative people, the ones who care passionately, have to persuade five layers of management to do what they know is the right thing. The great people leave, and you end up with mediocrity. The way we will not become a vanilla corporation is to put together small teams of great people and set them to build their dreams. We are artists, not engineers.”

– Steve Jobs

 3. Kick-strat your brain

Steve Jobs has suggested creativity is usually nothing more than taking what is already working in one field and applying it somewhere else. To create the most fertile conditions for those connections to happen, you have to kick-start your thinking by getting fresh input all the time. The more diverse the experiences you have, the more creative you can become.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak went into business together in July 1976 when they released the Apple I which was sold as a kit to hobbyists. About a year later, they released the Apple II which had a color screen, an integrated keyboard, eight internal expansion slots and a unique plastic case. The Apple II looked much more like a complete ready-to-use computer and it was designed by an industrial designer who took his instructions from Steve Jobs. Tellingly, Jobs found his inspiration for what he wanted the Apple II to look like in the kitchen section of Macy’s where he looked at food processors. He went to the designer and said: “Here’s what we need for the Apple II: a nice molded plastic case with smooth edges, muted colors, and a lightly textured surface.” Wozniak might have invented the Apple II but it was Jobs’s insistence on turning it into an appliance everyday people would use and enjoy that made the two partners millionaires many times over.

Jobs has always sought out novel physical and intellectual experiences. This is the basic feedstock for his creative thinking processes. He takes ideas which are in use elsewhere and reapplies them in different settings. When he was younger, he studied calligraphy while everyone else was at university. He spent time meditating in an apple orchard, which led indirectly to the name of his company. He visited India in the 1970s to experience a different lifestyle. Similarly, Apple hires musicians, artists, poets and historians because they have different ways of looking at problems.

Steve Jobs also uses lots of analogies and comparisons when thinking about potential solutions to problems. By seeing something novel in a familiar light or something familiar in a novel light, he can make creative connections nobody else has previously made. Analogies show the similarities between two completely different things and can help people buy-in to unfamiliar solutions. A good example of this was contained in the Macintosh business plan which Steve Jobs wrote in late-1981. To illustrate what would make the Macintosh different, Jobs wrote: “Since 1979 Apple has invested millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours in the development of a consistent user interface that will take the crank out of the personal computer. The philosophy behind the Macintosh is very simple: in order for a personal computer to become a truly mass-market commodity, it will have to be functional, inexpensive, very friendly and easy to use. Macintosh represents a significant step in the evolution of the mass-market personal computer. Macintosh is Apple’s crankless Volkswagen, affordable to the quality conscious.”

Jobs also described the Macintosh as a “telephone sized” computer. He spent hours studying phones and one day realized many telephones in offices sat on top of a telephone directory. He decided that was the maximum space a computer should take on a desk and went to work designing the Macintosh so it would fit in that footprint – three times smaller than most other computers then on the market. It turned out to be a distinctive feature which was very popular with consumers.

“Creativity is just connecting things.”

– Steve Jobs

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

– Albert Einstein

“It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing. Picasso had a saying. He said: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas. Part of what made Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

– Steve Jobs

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, innovation isn’t about a genetic endowment magically given to some and not to others; it’s a set of skills that can be developed with practice. If you want to be one of the really successful people that make a mark in business, you want to be the person that comes up with the idea, not just the person who carries out others’ ideas.”

– Dr. Jeffrey Dyer, management professor

“The only way to come up with something new – something world changing – is to think outside of the constraints everyone else has. You have to think outside of the artificial limits everyone else has already set.”

– Steve Wozniak

“Sometimes a simple change of environment is enough to jog the perceptual system out of familiar categories. This may be one reason why restaurants figure so prominently as sites of perceptual breakthroughs. A more drastic change of environment – traveling to another country, for example – is even more effective. When confronted with places never seen before, the brain must create new categories. It is this process that the brain jumbles around old ideas with new images to create syntheses.”

– Gregory Berns, author

“The human brain is intensely interactive. You use multiple parts of it in every task you perform. It is, in fact in the dynamic use of the brain – finding new connections between things – that true breakthroughs occur. Albert Einstein, for instance, took great advantage of the dynamics of intelligence. Einstein’s prowess as a scientist and mathematician is legend. However, Einstein was a student of all forms of expression, believing he could put anything that challenged the mind to use in a variety of ways. For instance, he interviewed poets to learn more about the role of intuition and imagination. His success came not from the brute strength of his mental processing power but from his imagination and creativity.”

– Ken Robinson, author

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

– Steve Jobs

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

– Steve Jobs

4. Sell dreams, not products

Instead of selling products, sell tools people can use to realize their dreams. Make it clear you believe they can change the world for the better and want to be part of their ongoing success and people will respond with enthusiasm. View your customers as real people with aspirations rather than merely as eyeballs for what you pitch.

If you give your customers completely new and better ways to think about their problems and resolve those problems, they will love it – particularly if you tell them what they need before they realize it for themselves. A great example of this principle is the way Apple developed and then launched the iPod.

Before the launch of the iPod in October 2001, people were struggling to organize their digital music collections:

  • The early MP3 players used small memory chips so they could only store about a dozen songs at a time.
  • Downloading a song from a computer using a USB connection took about five minutes for an entire CD.
  • The music industry had just been through the Napster debacle before it was shut down for good.

To solve these problems, Jobs put together an entire product ecosystem based around the iPod which was revolutionary in its scope:

  • First, the iPod was developed using a 2.5-inch hard drive rather than memory chips. That meant when the iPod was launched, Jobs could make the startling headline claim: “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
  • The iPod incorporated Apple’s FireWire which meant consumers could download an entire CD onto an iPod in five to ten seconds. In less than ten minutes, an iPod can download 1,000 songs as against the five hours it would take a conventional MP3 player.
  • The real masterstroke for the iPod came in 2003 when iTunes Music Store launched. For ninety-nine cents a song, consumers had a legal digital version of the songs they wanted, all delivered in a seamless user experience managed by Apple itself. As of 2010, more than ten billion songs have been downloaded from iTunes accounting for over 70 percent of all legal digital music online sales worldwide.

By helping people take their music with them wherever they went and offering a legal, feel-good way to buy music at a reasonable price, Apple became the world’s most successful music company. It was the entire system Apple created – the iPod player with software, the iTunes Store and the flat fee business model for selling music – which people loved. iPod’s initial sales weren’t all that spectacular until the iTunes Store was available and then iPod sales took off.

In just the same way, Apple has made an art form of filling other gaps customers didn’t even know they had. The iPhone, the iPad and Apple Stores have all followed a similar blueprint – to create happy people by offering cool technology wrapped up in complete user ecosystems that work smoothly and easily. Steve Jobs has excelled in recent times because of his commitment to product excellence matched with an equal commitment to obsessing over making the overall customer experience excellent as well.

“We, too, are going to think differently and serve the people who have been buying our products since the beginning. Because a lot of times people think they’re crazy, but in that craziness we see genius.”

– Steve Jobs

“It’s not about pop culture and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t want. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of people are going to want it too. That’s what we get paid to do. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what’s the next big thing? There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me ‘A faster horse.‘”

– Steve Jobs

“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of wondering about what happened yesterday.”

– Steve Jobs

“Nobody cares about your products but you.”

– David Meerman Scott, author

“We don’t do focus groups. They just ensure that you don’t offend anyone, and produce bland, inoffensive products.”

– Jonathan Ive, Apple VP

“We’re drowning in a sea of technological crap. Because every product that is released to the market is a result of multiple compromises based on decisions by the product manager, the engineering manager, the marketing manager, the sales manager and everyone else who has skin in the game as they prepare the offering to meet what they think are the target customer’s needs. The reason Jobs and Ive get it right is because they design sexy products with elegant and simple interfaces – for themselves. Then they count on their hip gaggle of early adopters to see it the same way. Once the snowball starts rolling, it’s all momentum from there.”

– Alain Breillatt, director of product management

“Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. Part of my responsibility is to be a yardstick.”

– Steve Jobs

“It was a great challenge. Let’s make a great phone that we fall in love with. And we’ve got the technology. We’ve got the miniaturization from the iPod. We’ve got the sophisticated operating system from the Mac. Nobody had thought about putting operating systems as sophisticated as OS X inside a phone, so that was a real question. We had a big debate inside the company whether we could do that or not. And that was one where I had to adjudicate and say, ‘We’re going to do it.’ The smartest software guys were saying they could do it, so let’s give them a shot. And they did.”

– Steve Jobs

“When you’re in a situation where you’ve really got to be judicious, to do more with less, that really drives a need for innovation and a level of creativity that you might not otherwise have in normal times. Increased innovation doesn’t always have to be about more dollars. It’s about how you use those dollars.”

– Adalio Sanchez, general manager, IBM

5. Say no to the unnecessary

Apple is an excellent example of the principle simplicity is the ultimate form of elegance and sophistication. The company has done exceptionally well by reducing its product line and doing a few things well rather than trying to be in every product niche. Do everything you can to reduce and ideally eliminate complexity in your business and in your products.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 after an eleven year absence, he found Apple had fifteen product platforms each of which offered all kinds of variants. Jobs responded by asking: “What do people want?” He decided Apple needed two kinds of computer products – consumer and professional. Within each category, a desktop and a portable model was needed – and that was it. By the end of 1998, Jobs had reduced Apple’s product offerings from 350 to 10 and the company started to move ahead because everyone was focused.

In a similar vein, Steve Jobs also says no to anything he believes will compromise the elegant solutions Apple is trying to offer its customers with all its products. That means he says “no” to lots of things which could distract, even if that answer angers some customers and partners. The design ethic at Apple is to figure out what’s important, simplify how that is delivered and get rid of everything else.

A good example of this approach in action is the iPod. The MP3 players of that era were fiddly with lots of buttons and dials. Technophobes who enjoyed that kind of thing invested time figuring out how everything worked as if it was some kind of initiation ceremony into an exclusive brotherhood. Then along came the iPod which had a scroll wheel allowing users to load and then access at least a thousand songs with just a couple of clicks of the navigational wheel. This was a major breakthrough in design which would go on to revolutionize the entire product category.

Every suggested component for any Apple product is considered carefully, explored and then either eliminated or designed to be as easy and uncluttered as possible. A deliberate and conscious effort is made to get rid of as much stuff as possible. Apple products are designed to be used without user manuals. Many designers try to make their products stand out by integrating more and more features but Apple moves in the opposite direction. The iPod is designed to help people listen to music and anything which detracts from that goal is aggressively eliminated. Great companies like Apple typically focus on the one thing the product is made to do and design a simple solution to perform that task which ends up being elegant because of its simplicity.

In essence, Apple works long and hard to make its products so simple that a two-year-old could use them. This is what the company has learned to do very well under the guidance and encouragement of Steve Jobs. It’s one of the underlying reasons why the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone and Apple’s stores have been a success. The company actively eliminates the unimportant and concentrates its efforts on doing a few things well. In terms of business strategy as well as product design, that subtraction often adds value – by eliminating inconsistency, staff overload or waste. To do the same, you must have enough guts and courage of your convictions to eliminate everything but the essential.

“I am as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

– Steve Jobs

“The way we approach design is by trying to achieve the most with the very least. We are absolutely consumed by trying to develop a solution that is very simple, because as human beings we understand clarity.”

– Jonathan Ives, Apple design guru

“When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple with all these simple solutions, you don’t really understand the complexity of the problem. And your solutions are way too over-simplified and they don’t work. Then you get into the problem and see that it’s really complicated. And you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s sort of the middle and that’s where most people stop, and the solutions tend to work for a while. But the really great person will keep on going and find, sort of, the key, underlying principle of the problem. And come up with a beautiful elegant solution that works.”

– Steve Jobs

“In my experience, users react positively when things are clear and understandable. What bothers me today is the arbitrariness and thoughtlessness with which many things are produced and brought to market, not only in the sector of consumer goods, but also in architecture and advertising. We have too many unnecessary things everywhere.”

– Dieter Rams, industrial designer

“We are the most focused company that I know of or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we choose. The table each of you are sitting at today, you could probably put every product on it that Apple makes, yet Apple’s revenue last year was $40 billion. I think any other company that could say that is an oil company. That’s not just saying yes to the right products, it’s saying no to many products that are good ideas, but just not nearly as good as the other ones.”

– Tim Cook, chief operating officer, Apple

“Think digital, act analog. Use every thing including every tool at your disposal to create great products and services. But never lose sight of the fact that the purpose of innovation is not cool products and cool technologies but happy people. Happy people is a decidedly analog goal.”

– Guy Kawasaki, former Apple executive

“What makes Steve’s methodology different from everybody else’s is that he always believed that the most important decisions you make are not the things that you do, but the things you decide not to do.”

– John Sculley, former Apple CEO

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

– Antione de Saint-Exupery, aviator

“There is wide agreement that innovation is the best way to sustain economic prosperity. Innovation increases productivity, and productivity increases the possibility of higher income, higher profits, new jobs, new products, and a prosperous economy. We need to transform smart ideas that tackle and address real problems into products and services everybody wants.”

– Tapan Munroe, economist

6. Create insanely great experiences

The only true purpose for building any product or offering any kind of service is to create memorable experiences for customers. Never forget that or lose sight of this goal. To succeed, you have to enrich the lives of your customers in tangible and real ways that they will value. Let your imagination run wild on the ways you can create great experiences.

About the year 2000, Apple had a problem. It was dependant on giant electronic retailers (like Sears and CompUSA) who just wanted to push more and more products, Apple or otherwise. Purchasing a computer had become a dreaded consumer experience, so Apple decided to do something about it. Apple opened its first retail store in 2001 and less than five years later, it reached $1 billion in annual sales – faster than any other retailer in history. Circa 2010, Apple has 287 stores worldwide which generate in excess of $ 1 billion a quarter.

So what does Apple do differently when it comes to retail? It all flows from Steve Jobs’s conviction people don’t want to buy a personal computer per se. Instead, they want to know what they can do with them and Apple Stores are designed to show them precisely that.

Apple Stores are certainly distinctive:

  •  They are uncluttered because they sell nothing but what Apple makes.
  • Apple Stores are located in malls or shopping districts rather than remote locations.
  • Customers are allowed, encouraged even, to test-drive all the products on offer. Everything is connected to the Internet and ready to go for hands-on use.
  • There are no salespeople or cashiers. There are concierges, consultants and experts who can talk about a particular solution but that’s about it. There is also a “Genius Bar” where customers can talk to experts and get advice.
  • Apple Stores are designed with 25 percent of the space showingproducts and 75 percent being devoted to solutions.
  • It’s simple to buy something in an Apple Store. There are no cash registers but every specialist has an EasyPay wireless credit card reader. Receipts are sent out by e-mail. You can’t pay cash so everyone can buy and then get out quickly.
  • Apple Stores offer free one-to-one training with all purchases.
  • All Apple Store employees are on salary and not commission. Because of this, staff approach potential customers differently. They are prepared to spend more time than those who don’t get paid if they don’t sell something.

In all, Apple has innovated and completely reengineered the retail experience. All the experts predicted Apple’s move into retail would be a short-lived and expensive disaster but this conclusion was based on the assumption Apple was entering the business of building stores. It never was. Apple was trying to enter the business of creating great customer experiences – the kind of thing which isn’t easy to quantify or fit into a spreadsheet. Apple has managed to create a retail environment where a distinctive customer experience is delivered and the ongoing growth of Apple Stores illustrates they are on the right track in that regard.

“People don’t want to just buy personal computers anymore. They want to know what they can do with them, and we’re going to show people exactly that.”

– Steve Jobs

“To succeed in any business, you need an exceptionally clear vision. And to me, a vision is something you can say in a single sentence. The fewer words the better. When we started, the commonly accepted thing that retailers did was to sell stuff. So if you put Gateway’s vision into words, it was to ‘sell boxes.’ When we envisioned Apple’s model we said it’s got to connect with Apple. It was easy. Enrich lives. Enriching lives. That’s what Apple has been doing for thirty plus years.”

– Ron Johnson, senior VP of retail operations, Apple

“We do not do market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.”

– Steve Jobs

“Innovation is this amazing intersection between someone’s imagination and the reality in which they live. The problem is, many companies don’t have great imagination, but their view of reality tells them that it’s impossible to do what they imagine. We let imagination win. If you ask customers what they love about our stores, they love the things we imagined.”

– Ron Johnson, senior VP of retail operations, Apple

“If you just think about what makes customers and employees happy, in today’s world that ends up being good for business.”

– Tony Hsieh, founder, Zappos.Com

“It’s OK to ‘steal’ ideas from customer service experts in other industries and to adapt those ideas to your business. Stealing ideas from your competitors may work for the short term, but it’s unlikely to turn you into an innovation leader. You’re simply copying the leader. That’s not innovation. Innovation is seeing what exists in another industry and applying what you learn to improve the customer experience.”

– Carmine Gallo

“People haven’t been willing to invest this much time and money or engineering in a store before. It’s not important if the customer knows that. They just feel it. They feel something’s a little different.”

– Steve Jobs

“The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

– Michelangelo

“These seven insanely different principles for breakthrough success will work only if, regardless of your title or job function, you see yourself as a brand. How you talk, walk, and act reflects on that brand. Most important, how you think about yourself and your business will have the greatest impact on the creating of new ideas that will grow your business and improve the life of your customers. Steve Jobs is CEO of two legendary brands – Apple and Pixar. Thirty-five years ago, he was assembling computers in his parents’ house. Nobody viewed Jobs as a ‘brand’ in 1976, but he did. Michelangelo looked at a marble block and saw David; Steve Jobs looked at a computer and saw a tool to unleash human potential.”

– Carmine Gallo

7. Master delivering the message

It’s all well and good to have a great message but you also have to convince others that your great idea really is a great idea. This is where Steve Jobs shines. He is the world’s greatest corporate storyteller. You might not be able to do as well as he does at this but you should try and get better at thinking differently about how you present your message to the world.

When it comes to delivering superior messages for a corporation, Steve Jobs is the gold standard. He is a standout presenter and people have been known to queue overnight just for the opportunity to attend one of his product launches in the flesh.

When you deconstruct the magic behind his presentation skills, you will find Steve Jobs uses the same key presentation elements again and again:

Come up with a twitter-friendly headline –which encapsulates the message you’re trying to get across. When launching the iPad, Jobs said: “Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.” When launching the iPod, it was: “One thousand songs in your pocket.” Always provide a concise one-sentence description which sizzles.

Introduce an antagonist – someone who wants to maintain the status quo despite all its obvious inadequacies. That way you can set up a David-and-Goliath battle. In the 1980s, IBM was the villain. Today it might be net-books or smart phones that are boring. There must be a villain. More often than not, Steve Jobs and Apple position themselves as the people’s champions, heroically fighting the big enshrined entities for the rights of creative people everywhere. People like that kind of storyline and respond to it.

Live by the rule of three – focus on three key points and no more. This is the maximum amount of information people can retain in their short-term memories so always use the rule of three.

  • Keep your slides and visual aids simple – lots of pictures, a few words and no bullet points.
  • Use emotive, zippy words – like “gorgeous”, “advanced”, “a dream” and “awesome.”
  • Practice, practice, practice – so your presentation is so smooth it comes across like a casual chat. People love that presentation style and will respond with enthusiasm.

Quite simply Steve Jobs is one of the corporate world’s premier storytellers. He is in a class of his own in this area but by incorporating the elements he uses into your own presentations, you can similarly generate lots of buzz around your products and services. That positive buzz will be great because it will inspire evangelists to sign on for what you’re saying.

Learn how to tell great stories. Position yourself as a revolutionary out to beat the entrenched enemy which is seeking to oppress right-thinking people everywhere. Be consistent and get everyone aligned with the same unified message and you’ll go places.

“Steve Jobs is the ultimate showman who keeps the audience excited the whole way leading up to the reveal.”

– David Blaine, magician

“Self-confidence is the surest way of obtaining what you want. If you know in your own heart you are going to be something, you will be it. Do not permit your mind to think otherwise. It is fatal.”

– General George S. Patton

“Personal computers are now at the stage where cars were when they needed to be cranked by hand to get started. Personal computers are simply not complete, as cars were not at the crank stage. The crank for personal computers is the awkward human interface. Users need to learn a host of unnatural commands and operations in order to make the computer do what they want it to do. The turn of this decade saw a lot of manufacturers, some very big ones, jump on the personal computer bandwagon. Some personal computers have more memory than others, some have more mass storage, some have color, others have more columns, but they all need to be hand cranked.”

– Apple business plan written by Steve Jobs in 1981

“Ideas are not really alive if they are confined only to a person’s mind.”

– Nancy Duarte, author

“How do you set about changing the world? First, you need to believe in yourself. Don’t waver. There will be people – and I’m talking about the vast majority of people, practically everybody you’ll ever meet – who just think in black-and-white terms. Maybe they don’t get it because they can’t imagine it, or maybe they don’t get it because someone else has already told them what’s useful or good, and what they heard doesn’t include your idea. Don’t let these people bring you down. Remember that they’re just taking the point of view that matches whatever the popular cultural view of the moment is. They only know what they’re exposed to. It’s a type of prejudice, actually, a type of prejudice that is absolutely against the spirit of innovation.”

– Steve Wozniak

“What we’re about is not making boxes for people to get their jobs done. We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”

– Steve Jobs

“If we want to bring down unemployment in a sustainable way, neither rescuing General Motors nor funding more road construction will do it. We need to create a big bushel of new companies – fast. But you cannot say this enough: Good-paying jobs don’t come from bailouts. They come from startups. And where do startups come from? They come from smart, creative, inspired risk-takers.”

– Thomas Friedman, columnist, New York Times

“Perhaps the ultimate lesson that Steve Jobs has taught us is that risk taking requires courage and a bit of craziness. See genius in your craziness. Believe in yourself and your vision, and be prepared to constantly defend those beliefs. Only then will innovation be allowed to flourish, and only then will you be able to lead an ‘insanely great’ life.”

– Carmine Gallo

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