Newsweek published a fabulous article on Steve Jobs’ creative genius a few months ago. The top 10 tips from his playbook follow. They are very insightful, and can be helpful for any of us embarking upon a opportunity which commands “out of box” thinking and management of a creative process. These tips are not for every situation within an organization; however, when trying to stimulate and inspire new “green field” ideas, they are spot on:
1. Go for perfect. Steve Jobs sweats the details. Enough said.
2. Tap the experts. Jobs hired I.M. Pei to design the NeXT logo, for example! Imagine, a world class architect designing a logo.
3. Be ruthless. Jobs is as proud of the products he has “killed” as the ones he has released. Focus. Fail fast. This will free up resources to focus on the right things. He scrapped a Palm Pilot clone when he realized that cell phones would eclipse PDA’s – and this lead to more engineers focusing on the IPod.
4. Shun focus groups. He believed that “people don’t know what they really want until you show it to them.” So he was his own one-man focus group – testing and playing with products himself for months. Interesting perspective – from a true creative leader driving innovation.
5. Never stop studying. He studied German and Italian cars for the Mac design case. He poured over Sony’s use of fonts, layouts, etc. He never stopped learning, growing, and challenging the status quo.
6. Simplify. His design philosophy is constant simplification. The classic example was when he asked the Ipod engineering team to lose ALL buttons, except the on/off button – which lead to the iconic scroll wheel instead!
7. Keep your secrets. Everyone – everyone – at Apple is on a “need to know” basis. This secrecy allowed Jobs to generate frenzied demand which lead to global headlines and lines from every Apple store around the block.
8. Keep teams small. The original Mac team was only 100 folks! This maintains strict accountability and tight communication.
9. Use more carrot than stick. Enthusiasm inspires long hours and “insanely great” commitment from your employees. Jobs is scary smart and tough as nails – yet his charisma is his most powerful attribute.
10. Prototype to an extreme. Everything from Apple is tested and tested – for years. Steve Jobs was known for scrapping a project after a year+ of time and resources on a prototype and start over from scratch.
We can all learn a tremendous amount from Steve Jobs – from his resiliency in the face of cancer to his perseverance when Apple faced tougher times in past decades. Yet, one of the most valuable lessons we can learn is his (and his team’s) approach to creativity – how can we apply these simple tips to our work?