Imagine an impetuous, spoiled child of the California sixties counter culture running a major Fortune 500 corporation. Your intuition probably says, “Not so much.” Corporate culture is about suits, ties, committee meetings, and high finance: most of the time. Not in the case of Apple Corp. I read Walter Isaacson’s wonderful biography of Steve Jobs this week and I came away encouraged that there is still hope for all of us who bring an artist’s temperament to business.

Jobs was, by most measures, an asshole. He freely admitted it. He had no filter when it came to criticism, little patience with others, was perhaps the world’s pickiest eater and would simply ignore things he didn’t want to deal with. Not Father of the Year. Not boss of the year, Jobs was hard on people. And; he was a genius. There were better engineers but no one who understood the relationship between modern technology and the improvements it could have on modern life. He loved design, he revered artists and he brought a sense of taste to technology that changed the world. He was an artist first, an entrepreneur second.

I am a true believer, by the way. I read this book on my IPAD 2, I am typing on my Mighty Mac Powerbook, I have Apple TV, several IPODS and anything else the folks from Cupertino think I should own. I love the Apple store experience, the energy, the zeal of the staff, the design of the space. I get Apple and they get me (and anyone else who loves business but hate ties and meetings.) Creativity and science are great business tools.

A few of my favorite things from the book:

Jobs approved and even wrote most of the iconic Apple ads:

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Apple revolutionized music for two reasons. Jobs loved his music and he knew how to solve the record industries struggles with technology. Sony had invented the Walkman, they owned record and movie companies and they couldn’t come up with the ITUNES solution because the company is divided into turf protecting, competitive divisions. Apple is not, there are no divisions at Apple, they all work to the bottom line together.

Jobs believed in starting with design and functionality, he forced the engineers to adapt technology to the design and not to just stick everything in a blackbox. When it comes to interface, less is more, according to Jobs. By the way, Steve designed or approved just about everything that you see for Apple, right down to the tiles on the floors of the Apple Stores. Think of the ONE button on the IPad, the scroll wheel in the IPod or the first use of graphical interfaces on the computer: all championed by Jobs.

The IPAD was actually on the drawing board before the IPhone. When Apple realized they’d better get in the phone business, they simply shifted their focus from tablet to phone architecture. Apple only focuses on one new product at a time. It is thought that Jobs had his eye on television and the myriad of remotes and gadgets that accompany one next!

Jobs went to India, dropped acid and was pretty much a smelly hippie until he reached thirty. (No literally! He wouldn’t wear deodorant and only bathed once a week.) He was forced out of Apple and the company was only months away from being bankrupt when he was summoned back. Jobs always said that it was because they favored profit over design. He fixed that.

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We forget, Jobs was also largely responsible for Pixar. He bought the company from George Lucas and fell in love with the art of making digital movies. My Grandson, Drew, loves Toy Story very much, so I am yet again grateful to Jobs.

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If you want to read a really great book about a truly flawed genius, download Isaacson’s masterpiece today!

 

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