The 10 Commandments of Steve

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?

4 responses to “The 10 Commandments of Steve

  1. Kristin, excellent post and thanks — I had not seen this. It is an interesting compendium of items that defined him, and a few that are counter to the “textbook models” of management; e.g., he was very secretive and non-inclusive in decision-making ….. not known as the best of collaborators.

    Like all people touched by greatness, he had one core trait they all have: intense passion for what he did, belief, and a burning desire that fueled his drive to success. The comeback part of his story is the best part of it. The interesting thing about this for me is that this key trait of success is a DECISION we all can make, led by our passions.

    The most interesting thing I learned about him this week is that when he was fired from AAPL, he would not speak to Sculley, and never spoke to him again. He also broke the mold in the case of a founding entrepreneurs and visionary coming back to lead a well-established organization.

    It is a shame people like him are now generally vilified by the political class inside the Beltway ….. but that is another conversation. Hope you are well!

  2. P.S. I positively LOVE your website. A++ to you on this and I hope to copy it and have directed others to it. Like everything with you — first class all the way.

  3. Thanks for posting this Kristin! Steve Jobs was definitely a great leader of our time. I am intrigued by the “non-traditional business school approach” he used to leadership and the great success he had and there are also some great concepts that I too believe in and have seen work…only when the organization has the courage to really go there. Thanks! This was encouraging to me to keep leading my clients to think differently, try the “radical”, and have courage.

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