Apple's Steve Jobs is a modern icon, but biographers have painted his character with a wide brush. That's why many who worked with Jobs seem keen to give us much better insight into the man. Here are six Steve Jobs stories we learned about this month.
He respected passion
We're often told Jobs was a challenging boss, but we seldom get to understand that it was passion, not perfection, he looked for. Speaking to the Milwaukee Business Journal, surviving Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak said of Jobs:
"He would directly confront people and almost call them idiots. But you know what? When they confronted him back and told him why they were right in understandable forms, he was just testing and learning, and he would respect those people and give them high privileges in the company.”
“That was one thing he did respect -- someone who believed enough in their own ideas to speak for him, not just shut up and be shy around him,” he said.
He could trust
Jobs knew he could make mistakes, and was quite capable of trusting his team to identify and fix them. Stanford Business tells a story (republished by Inc.com) from Apple's former retail chief, Ron Johnson:
"Before Apple opened its first store in May 2001, Johnson was riding with Steve Jobs to a weekly planning meeting. "We've organized it like a retail store around products, but if Apple's going to organize around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organized around music and movies and things you do,'" Johnson confessed. Jobs turned to him and said, "Do you know how big a change that is? I don't have time to redesign the store."
Ten minutes later, Jobs walked into the meeting and said,
"Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong. And he's right, so I'm going to leave now. And Ron, you work with the team and design the store."
He knew his enemy
Retiring Apple board member Bill Campbell is known for coaching tech industry leaders. He even advised Google and Eric Schmidt, which infuriated Jobs:
“Steve would say, ‘If you’re helping them you’re hurting me.’ He would yell at me,” he told Fortune.
Some Apple watchers may consider that, on reflection, Jobs was right on this one.
He had a plan for the enterprise
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger (who then worked for Intel) tells CDN a story about when Intel and Apple agreed to use Intel chips in Macs:
“I went with (former Intel CEO Paul) Otellini to meet with Jobs and his lieutenants. We go into this meeting and say Steve, let’s work together to make your Macs better for enterprise customers. Jobs looks at us and says ‘Why would I do anything for that orifice called the CIO?’” said Gelsinger. “At Intel we’re aghast; two-thirds of our business is that orifice called the CIO. He went on to say ‘I’m going to build devices that are irresistible for consumers, and CIOs will just have to deal with it.”
In retrospect, that's exactly what Apple did and the new IBM partnership underlines its strategic success.
He prized creativity
"Would you like to know how Steve Jobs analyzed an ad? He looked at it and said “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” After it ran, he gauged the reactions to it."
Segall believes the kind of thinking that creates the Ace Metrix report stifles creativity:
"Steve didn’t tolerate that kind of thinking. Apple’s history of great advertising is the validation of his approach."
He was genuine
Famed former Apple designer Hartmut Esslinger thinks we should change our perception of Jobs, telling Business Insider:
"I think the public image of Steve is very false. It’s way too anecdotal. He was a very authentic person; very talented, and he could see things others couldn’t see. He also had courage. He didn’t care for himself. He accepted creativity, respected it. He also said ‘Yeah, what I cannot do, you do.’ That’s what I learned from Steve, that I couldn’t do everything, I had to recognize what I could do, and for everything else I had to find someone else as a partner. Steve was a really brilliant person. When he got angry, it was because he could not bear stupidity, he could not accept dishonesty and pretentiousness. He had his edges and many still complain, but he was a truly good person."
I hope you have enjoyed this short collection. I've decided to dedicate a little of my time to building a better picture of what and who Steve Jobs actually was. I think the biographies we have so far just don't capture his spirit well enough. I'm collecting stories.
Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.