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Day May 8, 2011

Codifying asymmetry: How Apple became Jobsian

Any student of organizational theory must struggle with the question of how to assign weight to the influence of the leadership of a company. In the case of Apple, the question is:

Is Jobs is the embodiment of Apple or is Apple already Jobsian, imbued with his ethos?

John Gruber summed up (start at 8:00 min) the “Apple is Jobsian” argument by saying that Apple is Steve Jobs’ greatest creation and that he has been working on crafting the company as much as he has been crafting products. The result being that it’s well designed for sustainable longevity.

The arguments for “Jobs is Apple” are mostly rooted in anecdotes of a supreme leader that is indispensable to every decision and detail. There are also ample examples from history of companies who foundered after the departure of founders (Apple itself is notably cited.)

But beside armchair quarterbacking, what evidence is there that Apple is being engineered to operate independent of its founder?

Staying Hungry

During the June 2005 Stanford University commencement speech Steve Jobs famously cited the farewell message placed on the back cover of the 1974 edition of The Whole Earth Catalog: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

That’s a nice, pithy statement. I interpreted “Being Foolish” in a Quora answer as “being naive about how things should be and thus allowing oneself to see how things could be.”

But what about staying hungry?