An insider's view

The Steve jobs Way: ileadership for a new generation

Jay Elliot with William L Simon
Jaico Books
2011, pp 259
Rs. 250

What makes it worth reading is that it has been written by someone who worked closely with Steve Jobs. It is able to chronicle both his successes as well as failures, and the learning from that for people who are in business. There are quite a few books on Steve Jobs so writing another one could have actually been challenging.

What sets apart the book is that though it is predominantly anecdotal it still stresses things that anyone in business can relate to. The enthusiasm of Jobs and his enormous energy and ability to fight the odds come out loud and clear. His commencement speech at Stanford in 2009 embodies some of his ideals. “You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference,” he said to a rapt audience.

Jobs’ management style was unique. He would never take ‘no’ for an answer. He would never compromise on something that he felt strongly about. He had enormous resilience to come back to lead the same company that he founded and which still threw him out.

Through the book one can experience the passion that has driven this extraordinary man who spent his early years in India trying to understand Buddhism. He was an impossible boss in the sense that most of the deadlines that he gave his subordinates were unreasonable and almost unreachable. And yet, he recognised them individually like getting the engineers to sign on the inside of the Macintosh. While the consumer might never know who the original design team was, the team knew and that was all that mattered. Or his simple gesture of giving a 100 dollar bill to every one of the employees on the occasion of a launch is unforgettable.

Without formal education or the background of management he instinctively drove Apple to be a product-centric organisation. He might not have been able to articulate this theory but his thinking was absolutely clear.

One of the important aspects of the book is that it brings out one unique quality that ensured Jobs’ and Apple’s success over the years. This was his ability to look at any product not merely from the technological perspective but mainly from the consumer’s perspective. He could put himself in the consumer’s shoes and ask his design engineers to ensure that the iphone has only one button for controls or that the ipad should be so designed that the consumer would get the music in two touches of the index finger.

Great design, but key was thinking from the founder who kept worrying about the consumer.

The spirit of Jobs is captured in the book, and so is his personality which, on occasions, was flawed. He was a fighter to the core with a human side too. Like the incident of his shyness, when young girls in Japan asked for his autograph! He was the face behind the Apple brand and its success, and the reason why the book is interesting is that we have a ringside view to his life from a long term colleague in a tone and manner that is extremely conversational.

Read the book. You will enjoy it. More importantly, you can learn something that you can carry to your place of work.

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