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THINK DIFFERENT

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, everything else will follow.” – Steve Jobs



By Natalie Maroun

Managing Director


Steve Jobs’ legacy is ambiguous, dualistic, and complicated.

 

As a human being, he was volatile and mercurial; often mean, often selfish, always demanding. He had a propensity for petulance, and an ability – some might say an appetite – for cruelty. Even with those he loved.


He routinely surrendered to bouts of melancholy, or protracted petulance. He took credit for ideas that weren’t his own, and was intolerant of being challenged. Everyone was “either a genius or a bozo” – there was rarely middle ground.

 

And yet, Jobs built two of the greatest organisations ever in Apple and Pixar, both of which are globally synonymous with innovation and brand loyalty.


Apple, in particular, continues to delight its fans, and confound its detractors. Despite surrendering much of its Jobs-era pioneering edge over the past few years, it has been the most admired company in the world for 16 years in a row. And in 2023, Apple became the first company in history to reach a $3-trillion market cap.


How did the undeniably dark nature of the man not overwhelm or negate the enduring impact of his life’s work?


For all his failings as a human being, and his many well-documented missteps as a leader, many of Jobs’ core philosophies as an innovator have proven more relevant than ever. And, in the context of our emerging world of generative and immersive AI, wholly prescient.

 

Throughout his life, but especially in the final, brilliant decade, Jobs brought a singular clarity of mission to all he tackled:

  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

  • Don’t give people what they want. Give them what they will want tomorrow.

  • Delight your audience. Everything else will follow.

What Jobs understood, and got fundamentally right at both Apple and Pixar, is that we are all emotional, tactile, and intuitive human beings before we are consumers.

 

And that we all ultimately seek the same thing: Connection.

 

It was true when Jobs founded Apple in 1976. And it remains true today.



STAY HUNGRY, STAY FOOLISH


Jobs’ phenomenal success as an innovator and a master amplifier of ideas can be distilled into six core principles.

 

1. Never compromise your vision.

The delivery of every ground-breaking new Apple design, from the iMac to the iPhone, was preceded by some very smart people telling Jobs that his vision could not be executed. He never capitulated. The bigger the ask, the more Jobs leaned into his “reality distortion field", a term coined by Apple workers to describe his unique blend of charisma, persuasion, intimidation, and sheer force of will.


"People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who usually do."
 




2. Obsess over the details.

Jobs was maniacally involved in the minutia of every product design, and obsessed over even the smallest details. He believed that form inspired function, and that excellence lay in the finest of a device’s features, from the curve of an edge to the appearance of a font. Nothing but perfection was acceptable.


"Details matter. It's worth waiting to get it right."
 

 

Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrates the new iPhone 4 as he delivers the opening keynote address at the 2010 Apple World Wide Developers conference June 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California.



3. Innovate as if your life depends on it. It does.

Innovation was the lifeblood of Steve Jobs' work. He consistently pushed the boundaries of what was possible, inspiring ground-breaking products like the iPod and the iPhone that not only propelled technology forward, but revolutionised our relationship with it. Despite Apple’s trademark catchphrase, Think Different, Jobs wasn’t just interested in different for the sake of it. He relentlessly and fearlessly agitated to push the limits of what was physically and technologically possible.


"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."
 

Think Different campaign updated for a new generation.



4. Surround yourself with A-players.

Jobs obsessed about surrounding himself with excellence. This extended to the people he wanted in his orbit. But it wasn't just about finding technically proficient people. He craved passion, hunger, and people who could get behind a shared vision: A-Players, who could work in small, impactful A-Teams. And he was ruthless in weeding out the B and C-players.


"A-players recruit A-players. B-players recruit C-players."
 

Steve Jobs brainstorm with the NeXT team (1985).


The original team tasked with developing the Apple Macintosh (1984).



5. Embrace the power of collective genius.

Jobs was fiercely competitive, as his decades-long rivalry with Microsoft attests. But with his core team, he understood that true innovation only happens in an environment where great ideas are allowed to be polished, matured, and elevated. And while he loathed to be challenged, his mind could be changed with a compelling argument. For example, when designing the iPhone, Jobs was adamant in his refusal to allow third-party apps. He envisioned a tightly controlled user experience where Apple itself dictated every aspect. However, his software chief, Scott Forstall, and other colleagues relentlessly argued for an open app store, highlighting the potential for increased user engagement and revenue. Jobs eventually conceded, and the App Store became a defining feature of the iPhone's success, generating billions of dollars for both developers and Apple.


"Great things in business are never done by one person.
They're done by a team of people."
 

Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall, Senior VP of iPhone Software, at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California.



6. It can always be better.

Perhaps the most impactful of Jobs’ obsessions, which linger on in the DNA of every product he either inspired or refined, is a blue-sky infatuation with the art of the possible. Jobs was a dreamer. He imagined a world few others could see and was relentless, even ruthless, in his pursuit of that world. He believed, passionately, that everything could be simpler and, therefore, better. It almost always could.


"Stay hungry. Stay foolish."
 

THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE



 

In March 2011, shortly before his death, Steve Jobs told an iPad2 launch audience:



“Technology is important, but technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that makes the heart sing.”

 


Apple has been making our hearts sing for four decades.
 

Not because it produced the most technologically advanced products, or the most powerful hardware, or the most innovative software. Yes, it excels in all these areas.


But the reason Apple reigns supreme, still, is because it has never strayed far from Jobs’ legacy of beauty, simplicity, and delightful human experiences. In a world that is staggeringly complex, with no off-ramp in sight, simplicity and human-centricity have never been more important.

 

Technology is important, but it is not enough.


What do we need?
What connects us?
What delights us?

 

Everything else will follow.


© The Performance Agency

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