Learn from Steve Jobs via John Sculley

Learn from Steve Jobs via John Sculley

Whether you like Steve Jobs or not, you do yourself a disservice if you are not open to learning from him. He took a company that was on the verge of going under, Apple, and catapulted it to overtake Microsoft and Google in terms of market capitalization.

As people who like to learn, we are fortunate that much has been written about Mr. Jobs. One of the most insightful and useful articles I have read in this regard is Cult of Mac’s publication of an interview with John Sculley about Steve Jobs.

Mr. Sculley formerly served as Apple CEO and Mr. Jobs worked for him for a while. The two have known each other for over 25 years, though, so Mr. Sculley knows Mr. Jobs about as well as anyone could.

Two key things stood out for me in the interview: Mr. Jobs’ passion and focus on the user experience, and his approach to providing a great user experience by taking charge of the entire system associated with delivering the experience.

Those of you who have watched his keynote speeches at WWDC events, and other product unveilings, know that he is *passionate* about a great user experience. My hunch is that he knows he is gifted in the area of user-interface design and that he feels obligated to use it to make people happy. And you can tell he experiences real, genuine joy every time he delivers on that “obligation.”

It seems to me that we should do our best to think and behave like Mr. Jobs in this area. We all play a role in someone’s “user experience,” from our customers at work to the family members who eat the meals we prepare, to the friends who read our Facebook entries.

We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to look at how we can design those experiences to be as good as we can make them. In some cases, looking into this will expose some areas where we need to improve.

By following through and improving, we can better the “user experiences” of those who mean a lot to us.

Something you’ll want to think about in terms of what it means in your life: We Are All Designers.

As to Mr. Jobs focus on systems thinking, those of you who were around in the business world 10 or 15 years ago will remember seeing systems thinking in action in Re-engineering Activities.

I remember well how many companies hired consultants to come in and take their processes apart, and simplify them. Typical processes that got simplified (sometimes immensely) were purchasing, selection and hiring, warehousing, and design (the latter applied mostly to technical corporations).

Mr. Jobs knows that, to ensure you deliver the best user experience, you have to make sure every piece of the system that delivers the experience works well. That’s the main reason there is one, and only one, app store for iOS devices: so Apple can ensure that the user gets apps that give them a good experience.

Some people think of this as “being too controlling.” I don’t, because I see where Mr. Jobs is coming from with it. Sure, it also has other benefits for Apple, such as a percentage of the profit of the paid apps. But mostly it helps protect the Apple image and the customer experience.

As an engineer, I am familiar with systems-thinking, and I like to think I do pretty well at it. But, as I read through the Sculley interview, I became convinced that Mr. Jobs has me beat hands-down on it, and that I would do well to be more systems-oriented in my thinking, both my long-term and product-oriented thinking, and in my day-to-day thinking.

You may find additional points in the interview that impress you. I just wanted to emphasize a couple of what I considered to be the key points. My hunch is that we could all do better in these areas, and that Steve Jobs is a fine role model for us in our related improvement efforts.

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