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Polymath

In a rare reflective moment Steve Jobs, after the launch of the iPad, mentioned Apple’s DNA. He said:

“Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.

Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices…that need to be even easier to use than a PC, that need to be even more intuitive than a PC; and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC.

We think we are on the right track with this. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon but in the organization to build these kinds of products.”

Steve Jobs’ legacy in product development has been clearly established and celebrated. What remains now is to determine his legacy in company development. If indeed Apple has the “right architecture in the organization” to serially build disruptive products. The collection of evidence begins today.

If Apple has indeed become Jobsian then it will have been a grand achievement. John Gruber is already convinced. He points out

Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.

If indeed he has built Apple sufficiently well to last then he has built an admirable process and not just a product. But this would not be a unique achievement. There have been other companies which preserved their founders’ cultural imprints, at least for significant periods beyond their departure. Consider that Disney, Ford and even HP and IBM remained successful for many years after the departure of their founders operating much the same way. They were infused with an indelible culture and preserved it for some time.

But a leader should aspire to do more. A leader should claim to have left a legacy not just on their company but on all companies.

Is it not more worthy to have changed civilization than the fortunes of a few?

I believe that Steve Jobs has actually sought just that. He put it as “making a ding in the universe.” This can be interpreted as developing products that “change everything”. But if the thing that Steve Jobs should be most proud of is the creation of Apple Inc. then how exactly could an Apple Inc. benefit the world?

This is where Jobs’ quote above strikes me as valuable. The lesson the world should take from Apple is that a company needs to become multi-dimensional. It needs to mix the core business with the disruptive innovation. It needs to combine the intellectual with the artistic. It needs to maintain within it the rational and the lunatic.

Apple’s violent success should serve as a powerful beacon that others should follow. Rather than copying its products other companies should copy Apple’s processes–its way of thinking. They should copy how Apple harbors the creative process and the technology processes under the same roof.

If they do heed this call then we should look forward to the the post-Jobs era as that time when large companies gained the ability to intertwine multiple core competencies. A time when humanism balanced corporatism. A time when we came to reconcile the rational and spiritual.

This post has be re-published in The Harvard Business Review Blog as: Steve Jobs’s Ultimate Lesson for Companies – Horace Dediu – Harvard Business Review

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  • Iosweekly

    Beautiful post.

    I don't think I have ever heard the term "Violent Success" before – but it's very powerful language, and appropriate for describing apple.

  • http://twitter.com/vahidyamartino @vahidyamartino

    I think you will enjoy this quote, Horace:

    "Religion and science are the two wings upon which a man's intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism. All religions of the present day have fallen into superstitious practices, out of harmony alike with the true principles of the teaching they represent and with the scientific discoveries of the time. Many religious leaders have grown to think that the importance of religion lies mainly in the adherence to a collection of certain dogmas and the practice of rites and ceremonies! Those whose souls they profess to cure are taught to believe likewise, and these cling tenaciously to the outward forms, confusing them with the inward truth."

    – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

    • sscutchen

      I like this a lot. I would suggest replacing "religion" with the more general term "spiritualism." I believe it represents that which centers us and helps us avoid the selfishness that we would otherwise tend to move toward; even as the religious have often moved in this way.

      Some can find this spritualism through organized religion. Others through yoga, or exersise, or retreats, or whatnot. The key is that you find what works for you. That you apply science for what it give, the growth of the intellect, and you apply spritualism for what it supplys, the growth of empathy.

    • Childermass

      Religion and Science are the belief systems predicated upon emotion and logic. Those who prefer religion enjoy the revelatory and mysterious aspects of our world. Those who prefer science prefer the evidentiary and inferential aspects.

      Jobs is a rationalist who infers from evidentiary input. There is nothing mysterious or revelatory or 'magical' about his work. He is simply (hah) very good at it.

      Sometimes it is more pleasant to infer a sublime influence to the mundane reality of high quality thinking.

      Too many leaders are in thrall to, and therefore subjects of, their ego. Jobs is not. That is what makes him special, not a hot-line to god.

      • http://www.mauricekessler.com Moeskido

        Science isn't a belief system. It's a method for learning empirical information about the natural world by observation and experiment. You can't have a belief about empirical facts.

      • EWPellegrino

        There are non-empirical components to science and mathematics. Occam's razor can't be proven, yet it's a key part of the scientific method. Scientists will invariably pick a beautiful theory over an ugly one, which is why string theory is so popular, but there is no scientific basis for the greater correctness of beautiful theories.

        Science and mathetmatics are indeed belief systems, indeed they encompass more than one as there are several different variants. Popperian falsifiability for example, constuctivist mathematics, etc etc.

      • http://www.mauricekessler.com Moeskido

        Science is a means to an end: that of discovering how things work by noting observable attributes about those things and attempting to discern relationships between them. Whether individual scientists tend to behave contrary to that principle may itself be an interesting subject for a scientific study, but it doesn't support your argument.

        Yes, string theory is popular right now. Someday it won't be, because new discoveries will make possible a better theory to explain the phenomena it attempts to describe. Scientists, by definition, seek elegant solutions, not beautiful ones. There's a difference.

        That's part of what Horace is doing here, too. He's attempting to filter out the emotionalism of marketing trash-talk and instead parse statistics as indicators of a worldwide phenomenon. His rigor exists, in part, in the degree to which he can dismiss his "non-empirical" feelings about one company or another, while focusing upon what numbers and corporate behavior suggest is occurring. Science, not faith.

        I consider attempts to degrade the scientific method with the irrationality of emotion as politically-motivated sophistry. You're trying to associate the emotional fallibility of individual judgment with the ideal that the process is intended to represent. That's about as rigorous an argument as any I've ever heard coming out of the Discovery Institute. Which is to say: not very.

      • EWPellegrino

        You simply seem to misunderstand what a belief system is. Saying that science is one, or in fact a family of them doesn't make it the same thing as religion, nor is it degrading to the scientific method to acknowledge that there is considerable disagreement within the scientific world itself as to exactly what constitutes science and what does not.

        You do science an immense disservice by attempting to reduce it to mere empiricism, indeed you degrade the scientific method enormously. Science is about far more than just observing what is and noting it down in a big book of facts, or even generating theories inferentially based on observed facts. If you had actually studied any higher physics you might understand that.

      • http://www.mauricekessler.com Moeskido

        If the study of higher physics (a subject I readily admit I have little capacity for) is now required to properly understand the full, true purpose and definition of science as a whole, then I concede that everything else I've ever learned about the subject might now be in doubt. My mistake for overlooking the possibility that the definition had expanded beyond mere layman comprehension.

        Or, rather, mere layman capacity for belief.

      • EWPellegrino

        The definition hasn't expanded beyond mere laymen comprehension, it was always far more complicated than the casual layman gave credit for – because there was never a definition.

        Philosophers of science have attempted to fit various definitions, with varying degrees of success. Each of those definitions could be considered a scientific belief system, scientists themselves tend to have home grown systems that rarely directly reference any rigorous definition. Ultimately the only real measure of whether something is or isn't science is whether scientists agree to describe it as such.

    • r00tabega

      s/Religion/Spirituality/g … and I'd agree. Religion is just organized spirituality.

      Even Buddhism, which is the least dogmatic of the world major religions (which some consider it a philosophy rather than a religion, but hundreds of millions of followers would disagree) is full of tradition and rites that dilute and stray from the core spiritual message.

  • JDD

    Put David Pogue down as someone who absolutely rejects the whole DNA argument:

    "Steve Jobs resigned as CEO today. http://nyti.ms/qQT6Gi There's probably 2 years of great Apple stuff in the pipeline, but after that…"
    https://twitter.com/#!/Pogue/status/1065179106499

    • publiclee

      "There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre." – Mark Kac

      Much has been said of Steve Jobs extraordinary vision to identify, conceptualize and sell the 'next big thing'. In my view that marks him out as a 'magician'. There's no real way of following his mind to where he gets it. We just have to wait until he comes back with it – and then present it in a way that we can 'get it too'. That explains why Microsoft (thinking Ballmer/Ozzie), for all their try hard efforts, just can't deliver on the big picture items. They haven't got a guy with the complete ball of wax in one hand, so they drop it.

      The last few days has seen much said of Tim Cook's genius with operational matters. I mark him as an 'ordinary' genius so I'm sure he can manage Apple's product rollout for as long as it takes to exhaust Steve's current vision – the iPad, the Cloud and all it entails.

      So I agree with Pogue. Apple needs to find a new magician. But its more like five to ten years before its a problem.

      • CndnRschr

        Jobs taught his skills to others. In this way, he was not selfish. Jobs was not a magician in the sense that he hid the tricks and methods. He has been quite vociferous about his logic and ethos. Apple espouses those traits and is built to expect them. Other companies do think it is all about the man and are still clueless, even when the answers are spelled out. They do not get Steve Jobs. Apple does (and had no choice!). Couple that to the fact that it has been obvious (and he's said it) that Apple is working on a 10-20 year horizon, the fact that it has built an unmatched ecosystem and that it has a $75 billion cushion, and I think betting against the long term, continued dominance of this company reflects very poor judgement. A lot of intelligent people, not only Apple competitors, just don't get it. That's another good reason Apple will persist.

      • asymco

        There was a time not too long ago when doctors were thought to be magicians. Good ones anyway. There was a time only 30 years ago when manufacturing management was thought to require magic. There was a time only 20 years ago when good software was thought to require magician software managers. Today we tend to believe that innovation requires a magician.

        This myth will continue until the practice is laid bare and a theory for it is refined. Some have already made giant strides in that direction.

      • claimchowder

        "Some have already made giant strides in that direction."

        Sound very interesting; any online sources you can share with us?

      • Horace Dediu

        Search for work by Clayton Christensen. Most recently his writing has been on the topic of how business theories are built.

      • westech

        It is much too soon to judge Tim Cook, just as it was too soon to judge Steve Jobs when he left Apple. He may have that magic. There were a lot of people then who believed that he was a geeky loser.

  • pvt_zim

    I assume most of the readers of this blog have seen this already but it's worth watching again:

    Steve Jobs and Bill Gates Together at D5 Conference High Quality
    http://bit.ly/oIqQ7z

  • publiclee

    Its interesting to observe the divergent paths that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have taken in their middle-aged years. Hearing the siren call of his christian capitalist roots Bill appears to have taken the philanthropic route, but with a business mentality. That's disruptive.

    Steve, as far as I know, shows no particular interest in bettering the lives of the poorest of mankind with appropriate technological solutions. Perhaps that reflects his 'eastern' ideologies that focus on the journey of the self, independent of the suffering of the many. His public actions suggest he thinks his particular contribution must be through ever more subtle technology – hardly useful or appropriate in the places that Bill visits.

    In the corporate context the old multi-nationals (petroleum, chemicals, manufacturing – I'm thinking of you Unilever, Shell, BP, Monsanto) sought to establish themselves as good corporate citizens with corporate philanthropy. Such largesse is funnelled through well-oiled image making machinery and in many, if not the majority of cases, it drips with cynicism. Nonetheless some good outcomes result for at least some poor individuals.

    Apple eschews that corporate image burnishing – does that reflect Steve's worldview too – or am I missing something?

    • WaltFrench

      That's not the job we hire Apple to do.

      I have plenty of respect for how Gates, personally, has already transformed the world with his new work. Little of that accrues to the firm he led; in my mind it's more a signal that Microsoft has a culture where social values are not trampled.

      Apple has been most valuable to the world when it does what Steve has done best. Watch his commencement speech to Stanford (2005?) and ask yourself whether Apple is playing a game of burnishing its image, or is espousing the values of making a mark for the better.

      “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

    • Russell

      I think you're comparing Apples(Steve) to Oranges(Bill) here. Bill departed on his own terms but Steve did not. Bill is more public about his charity work, perhaps Steve is not. As for helping the poorest of mankind as Bill has done, i get a feeling Steve may wind up helping the sickest of mankind as a result of the path he has traveled. This can be done during his lifetime or after. Charities are just as happy with either.

      The longer he waits and the more he accumulates( and this is the growth phase for Apple for sure), the bigger the impact his money will make. If you do want to comapre the two men, i would say that when Microsoft was where Apple is today, charity was not the all consuming force in Bill's mind, but still years away.

      I know he's green for the planet because United Airlines just purchased 11,000 ipads for their pilots which is estimated to save annually ( if i remember correctly) 19,000 trees and 325,000 gallons of jet fuel.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

        Let me apologize in advanced, because I'm going to nit pick, and I'll try not to be a deek.

        Steve Jobs clearly stepped down from CEO on his own terms (we're talking about now, right? Not 25 years ago?). He has made a choice of what to do with the remaining time he has on this earth (which could be short or could be many years, same as for all of us), and what he chose was not to be the CEO. What he will do now, we don't know, other than that he will be Chairman of the Board and continue to guide Apple and be involved intimately with the company. We can guess that he feels he can no longer operate at full capacity. We can imagine that he wants to spend time with his family. All we know is that Steve made a choice, a decision. No one made it for him. I don't know how you can say that wasn't "on his own terms".

        I have a somewhat cynical view of Bill Gates, so I'll just say that I respect and admire what he has done as a philanthropist.

        It's really impossible to say that charity given now will have less impact than greater charity sometime in the unknown future. We just don't know. Besides, as much as I would like that the wealthy and powerful were more charitable and followed Gates and Buffet as role models, it's really not my place to say how they should spend their money, just as it's not my place to say how you should spend yours, nor vice versa.

        The sale to UA doesn't make Steve Green. Perhaps it makes UA eensiest bit more green, but 11,000 iPads is not really getting them much carbon offset wise, compared to the amount the generate.

        Jobs has led a company that brought a bit of beauty even joy to the tech world. He created products that were less frustrating and that got out of the way. Sometimes adding beauty to the world is just as (if not more) important than trying to mitigate the ugliness of it.

      • Waveney

        @@Marcos_El_Malo
        Nit picking is ok, as is being suspectful of Bill Gates Foundation. Rather than charity, it's more like US sourced largesse which does nothing to support local industries, food production or sustainability whilst imposing a western style ideological straightjacket.
        Regarding, the UA iPad green 'ness', the figures actually look quite good when you consider the heavy industries that are supported on the back of paper production. The reduction in the use of bleaches alone will have a major impact on the environment. Also Apple has made major strides in product recycling in recent years. I would love to see a full carbon balance sheet for the IPad versus the impact in various areas of use. I'll see what I can pull together when back from hols.

    • GQB

      Foolish post. Compare Gates and Jobs at similar points in their companies lives, and then comment. At MS's peak, Gates was doing precisely what Jobs was, albeit not as well.
      Had Gates been struck with a debilitating illness 15 years ago, would his path have been the same?

    • Brenden

      It seems to me that Steve has felt a responsibility to continue in his roles at Apple, Pixar and Disney, and it's not hard to understand why. He was incredibly good at what he was doing, and a lot of people were relying on him. I think he also really enjoyed what he was doing, and I think he was definitely making the world a better place. I would be surprised if he didn't spend a good chunk of his money on philanthropy as well. I think Gates arguably made the world a worse place with his work (and I realize that many will disagree) but he was not seen as being as central to the success of MS as Steve has been to Apple, so Bill was able to step away form MS to focus on philanthropy. Sadly, Steve will probably not have this luxury.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

        Gates was very central to MS's success. Say what you want about his making the world a worse place, he was an astounding CEO and the moving force behind the company, as Jobs has been for Apple. You need only look at what has happened to MS since Gates left to pursue other interests. Microsoft mattered (for good or ill) when Gates was at the helm. Under Balmer, that has not been the case.

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      I have nothing but respect and admiration for what Bill Gates has done over the last several years.  He and Melinda have created something remarkable, not just for the beneficiaries of their foundation, but for charitable giving on the whole.  Other large organizations are now held to a certain standard; their utilitarian choices on asset allocation and businesslike processes have set a high bar.
       
      But say it with me…Bill Gates is retired.  He has been away from daily responsibility since 2008 and handed over his CEO title in January 2000.  He also has a wife who is as intelligent and focused on the cause as he is – she got the foundation rolling years before Bill came on full time.  Bill Gates also has a net worth north of $56 billion, which he mostly accumulated 20 years ago.  While Jobs is fabulously wealthy, his hoard is a fraction of Gates' and mostly a result of AAPL's very recent run.
       
      Jobs does not have to reinvent the wheel to give his fortune away (if that's what he decides to do).  He could sign the Giving Pledge at http://givingpledge.org/#enter and help Bill and Melinda Gates toward common goals.  I respect Warren Buffet's logic that he'd rather put his fortune in the hands of the most capable givers than found a rival charity.  Take a look at the list of signatures on the Pledge site – it's pretty impressive and will allow the foundation to do much more than what the Gateses could accomplish on their own.
       
      Finally, Steve Jobs does not owe the world his money.  There is nothing immoral about putting his wealth into a family trust if he so chooses.  He has accumulated his fortune through success and fair competition, and has paid his taxes along the way.  He isn't racked with guilt about ill gotten gains – he doesn't need to balance his prior sins with future giving to "save his soul." 
       
      Steve Jobs is clearly in very poor health, and to somehow chastise him in comparison to Gates is embarrassing.  Rare is the titan of industry who makes his biggest contributions as a philanthropist; Bill Gates should be praised, but not at the expense of anyone else – least of all a sick man on the day of his resignation.

      • unhinged

        Joe, every time I read your words I feel a better person for it.

    • Sacto Joe

      What a vainglorious response! You purport to take the moral high ground, lauding a man whose wealth came from near piracy of the endeavors of others, and who, as a businessman, contributed nearly nothing to the cultural enrichment of the world in general. And you castigate a man whose genius and drive have clearly accomplished said cultural enrichment – in spades!

      I've seen this absurd argument thrown out by many similar luddites in a clearly purposeful attempt to denigrate and cheapen Mr. Jobs and his legacy. And all I can think is that these are the actions of people with some kind of ulterior motive, some kind of deeper agenda. I believe this type of argument to be a hallmark of an unreasoning Apple hater.

      • publiclee

        You're jumping to the wrong conclusion about my attitude towards Steve Jobs, and I think you use 'vainglorious' incorrectly – nothing in my last post was about myself. Nor do I have a deeper agenda other than to explore the apple phenomenon from every angle and see it for what it is.

        At 56 I am roughly the same age as Jobs and Gates. I've used (and certainly owned) Apple products exclusively all my life. I'm regularly surprised by how much my interests and attitudes resonate to Jobs' persona and 'take on life'. I don't know that I'd like him as a boss but from a distance he is clearly someone very special. AS for Bill, I well remember how he (and Balmer) rode Apple into the dirt whenever he could <a href="http://(http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=A_Rich_Neighbor_Named_Xerox.txt&sortOrder=Sort%20by%20Date&detail=medium&search=gates)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=A_Rich_Neighbor_Named_Xerox.txt&sortOrder=Sort%20by%20Date&detail=medium&search=gates)

        My personal journey parallels their timeframe. Career, wife, kids, wins, losses – the lot. Commonly at some point in one's life stream you stop a moment and evaluate whether to keep going or change direction. Most often your partner is intimately involved in that choice. With Melinda's help, Bill went left and embraced his humanity, Steve kept going straight ahead. I'm interested in why, that's why I mentioned it. I'm not caught up with whether it's a good or bad thing, although to achieve fully rounded hero status Steve could have taken his spare time and energy and hitched his star to a worthy cause, say this one http://www.ammachi.org/

      • kevin

        Couple of thoughts:
        1. I don't think Steve was aiming at hero status.
        2. When did "fully rounded hero status" require spending time and energy on some "worthy" cause? (Who defines worthy? Why doyou imply that being just a great businessman is not "worthy"?)

        Although you say you're "not caught up with whether it's a good or bad thing", your language in your posts certainly compromises that thought.

      • Sacto Joe

        "…nothing in my last post was about myself." Not true. Your post was all about your moral perceptions of Steve Jobs. If you can't see the egoistic aspect of that, then there's nothing more I can say.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

        You did use luddite incorrectly, though. I hesitate to speculate about what inspired publiclee's post, and why he thinks Steve Jobs needs to be a "fully rounded hero" or some sort of a moral exemplar.

      • http://www.mauricekessler.com Moeskido

        @publiclee: You appear to make a lot of assumptions about the "humanity" of an individual who goes to great efforts to keep his personal affairs private, "christian capitalist" or not. I don't believe many here can knowledgeably quantify Jobs' philanthropy, because he's probably not the kind of person who'd want to make a public spectacle of such a thing.

        But how fortunate for Jobs that he has you to recommend worthy causes for him to support.

    • Yowsers

      I believe AAPL's involvement with the education and research markets are deep and long lasting, and can't be measured by mere "$$$ donated". The iPad seems to be taking all that to yet a new dimension, particularly with medical care.

      A cynic would probably ape an AAPL commercial citing that they don't help the sick or needy, but make the products that enable those who do to do it better. There's something to be said for that.

      It's probably not discussed much, but I bet there are AAPL corporate charity initiatives, or AAPL supporting employees in their charity work (I've seen such at all big corps I've worked at).

      I'm not sure I would be comfortable commenting on an individual's choices on charity work and donations — it's a personal choice, frankly, and I wouldn't be surprised if he does it quietly oranonymously.

    • pvt_zim

      The thing that popped into my mind watching the D5 video again is how differently these gentlemen and their companies go about their business. It's hard to put my finger on it but it's something like innovation and intuition vs. grind and power. One approach is putting a lot of thought into what people want while the other is throwing a lot of stuff — or watching stuff thrown — againts the wall to see what sticks in the knowledge that they can buy the wall. I prefer the former but it's scary that the latter also seems to work.

    • kevin

      Simply put, Bill felt he had done all he wanted to as CEO and Chairman of Microsoft and it was time to move on to something else. Steve's passion to make great products for people is still far from being extinguished; however, he finds he can't fully perform the CEO role due to his health.

      I don't know how one can say one path is necessarily better than the other. Is it better to advance technology for all mankind? Or focus only on the poorest of mankind? It seems to me some are called to do one, and some to do the other, and it's best that way. Looked at another way, should Einstein have been serving the poor instead of advancing science?

    • Childermass

      What is the purpose of the executive? To run the company in the pursuit of some arbitrary Endymion or to create wealth? Your good cause is my waste of time. Your medicine is to me poison. Businesses should behave ethically but not take moral decisions on behalf of their owners. Once the wealth is in the hands of the owners they can do with it what they will.

  • http://twitter.com/Accent_Sweden @Accent_Sweden

    Those who dare to have their wings singed by the sun are either fools or geniuses, depending on what condition they are in when they land. Jobs has both crashed and soared and that has helped make him a well-rounded leader. I'm still waiting for other companies to adopt Apple's process but I'm not holding my breath.

    Perhaps a company has to be more than just multi-dimensional in terms of worldview. It also has to offer a broad range of products that allow its philosophy to shine through. So a Box.net or Sling would never be able to demonstrate their broader approach in any significant way with just one product. A company like HP and perhaps Google or Microsoft could potentially, but it requires a leader of rare salt to make it happen and it likely has to be there from the beginning to define the company culture. HP could be said to have had this but later management stripped it out. Apple's culture was saved from similar bean-counting management when Jobs returned and he was given a second chance to redefine the company, dropping what didn't work in the beginning and introducing what he'd learned since leaving. We can hope his approach spreads but it likely requires too many variables for it to happen more than once in a lifetime and unlikely that it could be quantified in a way business schools could teach or others could copy (without it involving trekking in Nepal, becoming a Buddhist and smoking some weed while forming your personal approach to the world).

    • Daniel

      As far as HP, I think part of the backlash against them last week was due to it looking like they may be the first company to "get" what Apple was doing only for them to blink at a crucial moment.

  • Nangka

    Some times the competitor CEOs could learn a thing or two from what Jobs said about them and their products, like:
    – Microsoft has no tastes.
    – Apple is the largest mobile company
    – iPhone sales has passed RIMM and he can't see them catching up
    – 7" tablets are DOAs
    – PCs are trucks & post-PCs are cars
    – Keyboards & styluses don't work on smartphones
    – 16:9 is just right for tablet screen
    – Battery life is more important than processor speed in tablets
    – Flash is bad
    – Open is fragmentation; closed is good

    instead of just rejecting it, or brushing it off as his reality distortion ruse.

    • CndnRschr

      Minor quibble, the iPad has a 4:3 aspect ratio. 16:9 works poorly in portrait orientation and is not just right for a tablet. Xoom sales kinda agree.

      • Nangka

        You're right. I was thinking of them squared.

  • CndnRschr

    Apple's competitors don't understand why Apple is so successful. They think its due to Steve Jobs magic. Instead, it is due to Steve Jobs building a company that works its butt off and sweats the details so you don't have to. What I mean is that Apple creates products that don't require you to have a degree in mathematics to make full use of them (if you do have a degree in math, that's OK too but you are not a big enough niche to support the company – or any company). Samsung may be cluing in, but I think their success is largely through mimicking what Apple is doing (and that's a good plan). That business approach could be patronizing, "We know What is Best for You". Except, Apple has managed to nuance that level of decision-making by marketing their products as facilitators and enablers of their users (who couldn't give a rats a$$ about the underpinnings of the hardware they use as tools). It's why Black and Decker doesn't require a degree in electronics to use their drills and saws. That approach seems to be working out quite well for Apple. :-)

  • Mike

    Jobs has had the wonderful combination of being having the vision with the ability to execute. The vision is much, much easier than the execution, we all can think of great products. But getting them to mass market is where the real genius lies. Tim Cook knows how to do that.

  • Michael C

    Both eloquent and powerful, Horace – well done. I feel about Apple the way I feel about Shakespeare. If the form and function of Shakespeare's writing are optimizations of each other, it's heartening to know that there is a man in the middle. Same with Apple – the company and its devices, with Steve Jobs the man in the middle.

    • CndnRschr

      Something like 50% of all stage productions are of Shakespeare plays – 500 years after his death. I've a feeling that Apple won't be quite so persistent (!!) but I bet the company believes it will.

  • Nalini Kumar Muppala

    An apt title.

  • Kristian

    Did everybody just miss that the Apple introduced the Steve Jobs 5.0.3?

    Tim Cook has the internal code name beyond executor and with his little finger he beats 7 shades of shit out of the Superman.

  • poke

    Great post. I think it's obvious Apple will be different without Jobs. But it's not an all or nothing proposition. This isn't Jobs being ousted. This is Jobs stepping down with his vision intact and a handpicked team in place. Apple is Jobsian now. Jobs has surely inculcated much of his wisdom as processes but surely some of it will also be lost. But that doesn't mean Apple is doomed, like some tech bloggers seem to think. You can see Cook's fingerprints on much of Apple's recent success. I'd credit Cook with turning Apple into a giant. He's the guy who gets you the margins and volumes and quality that have been so crucial to Apple's dominance. He's now the guy who can produce an iPhone cheap enough to disrupt the low-end, prepaid market and take Apple to 200 million iPads a year (maybe it's time to start the Tablet vs. PC Tipping Point clock).

    • Sacto Joe

      Well said! The first time around, Steve Jobs was summarily forced to leave Apple, putting his vision at deep risk. This time, he has been able to help grow an Apple culture that can sustain itself until such time as, from its creative core, it sprouts a new crop of visionary leaders.

    • jonshf

      I can't help but wonder if this was in fact a good time for Jobs to quit, with or without the health problems. Maybe he's given to apple what he has to give. Maybe the next ceo will add to what Jobs has left behind.

      Most people are looking at this as more or less of a negative for shareholders. Who knows, Cook might take the company to new heights that would not be achieved with a persisting Jobs.

      I'm certainly not trying to downplay Jobs's importance to the success of Apple and his huge contributions, as Horace points out, to developing a culture of innovation that others should and will learn from. I'm just saying there is a right time to quit, even for him. His efforts to pass on his magic only makes that time come sooner. Now others get a chance to use the magic and add to it.

      We'll now see how his "greatest creation" will fare.

  • Kristian

    Did I sound little nerdish? Horace.. Here is the AAPL $1000 that I promised you ;)
    It came sooner than I tough and later than I needed :P

    Steve is doing the things that the shareholder should do and Tim Cook executes competition with innovation and accuracy.

    This Computer Renaissance is so much fun and Tim Cook is our hero. Long Live The King Steve!

  • Kristian

    Nowadays you should not put anything in to the internet, but I have to say that Tim Cook is amazing. Now when he is controlling the company, he will 'totally execute' the competion with innovation.

  • D_D

    I'm not worried about Apple post-Jobs. I think he has spent enough time grooming his senior execs to think the Apple way. It's not that complicated really. Learn to say 'no', sweat the details, be willing to abandon products that have outlived their usefulness, get the logistics right and most importantly, skate to where the puck is. Cook will be fine.

    • Guest

      I'll bet you mean, Skate to where the puck is going to be.

  • GQB

    One of Steve's biggest accomplishments has been exposing the divide between the sliver of people for whom the computer itself IS the goal, and those (the vast, vast majority) who want it to be invisible.
    The former make their living off of computers' difficulty, the latter from its simplicity.

    Interesting stat. 90% of computer users don't know how to use Ctrl-F. Think about that.
    Steve did.

    • jonshf

      Yes, and he made it Cmd-F :)

      • r00tabega

        No, the Jobsian version is CMD+Space (Spotlight)… and (based on work by QuickSilver) it can launch everything.

        I love it and I can teach it… it's visible at all times in the top right corner, and the keystroke is only for those who "get" key commands.

  • http://twitter.com/rcastano @rcastano

    Excellent point of view Horace. Jobs legacy will be his management philosophy. His products will be history in a couple of decades but his leadership at Apple will be studied in business schools for generations to come.

  • CndnRschr

    One thing that the selected quote of Jobs reminded me of is that Steve Jobs is an enormous proponent of the humanities and liberal arts. This is remarkable from the leader of a technology company that employs more geeks and PhDs than many universities. It is particularly prescient in a time where cost cutting and budget deficits are threatening museums, libraries and other "non-essential" services. Apple delights that their products are used to create, display and mash-up science and art. We need to look beyond obvious value or use to avoid falling into a purely utilitarian world that has forgotten how to dream and how to appreciate beauty and human creativity.

  • iphoned

    The reason Apple suceeded is that it had a selfless genius WITH authority of a founder running it.

    The combination, almost by definition of a corporation, is not something that can be institutionalized. Even if replaced by an equal genus equally selfless (unlikely), that person will not have Steve Jobs authority…add to that the imperative for maximizing personal wealth/job security by pretty much everyone in the company, and the post-Jobs onset of corporate mediocrity at Apple is as inevitable as old-age. But given the miracle that Steve Jobs built, effects will likely be slow in coming…

  • Andrew

    Thanks once again to the Horacle for a new insight …

    What surprises me is that, on one hand, we have Apple and Steve Jobs working hard on producing products that meet people's needs, while on the other we have journalists saying that this is all magic, no-one could possibly have foreseen that and we are all being deluded by a "Reality Distortion Field".

    The Horacle "gets it", Apple and Jobs "get it", I "get it", so why do so many journos and bloggers keep telling us over and over again that the latest Apple wheeze is doomed to fail? Why do we let them get away with saying their totally wrong predictions were the result of magic, marketing or some kind of deluded Apple customer frenzy? and then let them get away with making even more mistaken predictions all over again?

    If Steve Jobs is right, and if clear vision and hard work are what produces the results for Apple, then his contribution and legacy are safe and Apple can continue to innovate and delight customers for many years to come.

    If the lazy journalists, bloggers and disparagers of Apple's success continue to believe that the success of Steve Jobs and Apple is merely a marketing delusion, and Steve's absence will remove that delusion and bring on the impending doom of Apple so long predicted, then I hope they sign their names to all of the wrong-headed predictions, and resign when they are proved wrong, because any rational observer of the technology industry and its future must surely base their views on a real understanding of Apple and its potential.

    • David

      Don't hold your breath. The goal posts will move. What you'll now hear is "Apple fans are loyal to Job's baby." combined with "In 2 years, Apple is doomed."

      Doom will always be 2 years away and when, inevitably, Apple makes a mistake, the "Told ya so's" will be flying fast and furiously. "Jobs never would have allowed that."

    • Horace Dediu

      I would not be so hard on journalists. They are usually very busy and can't be rightfully called lazy. The problem with accuracy (or insight) is that they have jobs that require them to create output quickly and to appeal to a large audience. That's a recipe for what we are seeing published.

      The real question is why is written work only to be valued by the attraction of a large audience? Why should it not be possible to value (i.e. "monetize") a small but intelligent audience. If you figure that out, then you can disrupt the employer of the journalist and thus free her to be more thoughtful.

      • Horace Dediu

        I should say I based this opinion on the interaction with a large number of journalists.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

        "The real question is why is written work only to be valued by the attraction of a large audience? Why should it not be possible to value (i.e. "monetize") a small but intelligent audience. If you figure that out, then you can disrupt the employer of the journalist and thus free her to be more thoughtful."

        You should have this embroidered and framed and hanging on your office wall.

  • http://aaplmodel.blogger.com deagol
    • Horace Dediu

      Yes.That should be one of Asymco "favorites".

  • lesferdinand

    "A time when we came to reconcile the rational and spiritual."

    Don't really see what this conclusion has to do with the rest of the excellent article. There's nothing spiritual (in the sense of non-rational as it is obviously intended here) about ingraining a humanist approach, or the liberal arts, into a company's culture and philosophy in my opinion.

  • Walter Milliken

    I'm not sure I'd agree with the "spiritual" notion… rather, I see Apple's development mindset as more of a holistic approach, or somewhat more pedestrianly, a systems engineering approach that doesn't parcel out bits and pieces of the design into an assembly line process that makes it hard to make global tradeoffs, which is the common process in most tech companies that I'm aware of. (Okay, I'm a systems architect myself, so I have a bias to see it in those terms….)

    The drawback to holistic approaches is the complexity — there are just too many degrees of freedom for most people to cope with. I believe this is what drove the current tech industry design model — it's a way of limiting the complexity of each piece, but it trades off the potential for cross-optimization to a large degree, except for what can be done at the early architecture phase, or what can be retrofitted after the design stage.

    Horace's "Polymath" title on this article really strikes me as apt — this is exactly what is required to manage the complexity of the interactions of so many aspects to a product in a holistic design process. In my experience, polymaths are very rare, though perhaps not as unique as most of the world seems to see Steve Jobs. If Apple is finding and cultivating such people, and giving them the necessary authority to control (and not just manage or contribute to) a product design, then they may indeed perpetuate Steve's model.

    However, I'm not sure the model is reproducible at scale by others. In my own career, I've seen that the really smart engineers are pretty rare, many of the rest are just very good. Polymaths are even rarer. I doubt there are enough to go around, to allow many companies to successfully reproduce Apple's design process.

    Another thought on the complexity issue — I wonder if Apple is limited to producing so few products simply because the complexity of a holistic design approach doesn't leave enough headroom for one person to handle the complexity for any more. I.e., the product of number of products times their design complexity is bounded: you can have a lot of relatively simple-to-design products, or a very few complex ones. There's probably also a quality factor multiplier in there….

    I also wonder how any other company could get started with such a model… VCs are very old-school about how companies should be assembled and managed, and I can't see them buying into any company that espoused Apple's design model. It almost seems that any similar company would have to self-bootstrap, at least until the point where VCs saw a repeat success story, which they'd be happy to copy.

    Speaking of copying… Horace, are you aware of the recent social behavior research on copying and innovation? I ran across it here: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/04/imita… which summarize an article in Science.

    —Walter

    • Guest

      The link you posted led me here…
      four oh four
      There is no content at this address. We have a lovely form you can fill out if you were expecting particular content. The form is deficient, unfortunately, in that it doesn't default to the URL you're viewing now. We would like to get this fixed, interwebs willing!

      • jonshf

        Take the comma "," away from the end of the address. Walter included the comma by mistake.

        The right address is: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/04/imita

      • Walter Milliken

        I think I added the comma for grammatical reasons, and the auto-linker on the site included it inside the link tags for some strange reason.

  • brian

    Horace – a theory I would like your thought on: Now that Steve has resigned, would you expect the stock price to appreciate significantly? The health concerns have been priced in the stock already, does this transition unlock that potential?

    I have no stake in this (can't afford to invest) but it's been a common theme here that the stock is very much undervalued.

    Thanks for any insight.

    • Sacto Joe

      I can't answer for Horace, but the unexpected retrenchment of Apple's stock price from an overnight low of $350/share back up to nearly $374/share speaks volumes, IMHO. The old saw that the market hates uncertainty seems to be playing out.

      Before yesterday, if you'd asked investors what the worst thing to befall Apple would be, they'd have said losing Steve Jobs. And while it's true that he isn't completely gone, it's clear that his role will be decidedly more hands off than heretofor. In other words, for all intents and purposes, the worst fate possible has befallen Apple.

      And yet – it's apparantly a non-issue! Who in world would have predicted that?!!

      So back to your question; what happens now to Apple stock? Again, it's just my opinion, but with the issue of Steve Jobs removed from the equation, the only thing left to judge Apple's stock value on is its fundamentals. And what are those fundamentals? Thanks to earnings growing at a near exponential rate, Apple's P/E ratio is now 30% lower than it was a year and a half ago, and 50% lower than its average for the decade between 2000 and 2009. And since its growth does appear to be nearly exponential, then the only way to reverse further drastic erosion of the P/E ratio is to drastically increase the price of Apple stock!

      If we assume, as I suspect, that Apple's earnings for the present fiscal year (which ends in about two months) are in the neighborhood of $30/share, then if Apple were priced at the P/E of 20 it enjoyed a year and a half ago, Apple stock would have to grow to $600/share. And if Apple were priced at the P/E of 30 it averaged for the first decade of this century, it would have to grow to $900/share(!).

      So the real question is, with the albatross of Steve Jobs' health no longer hanging around Apple's neck, what will its new value be based on? I know what it should be based on, given it's incredible potential: It should be based on its hostorical average P/E of 30.

      But somehow I suspect that Apple stock won't be going to $900/share before the end of the year….

      • Horace Dediu

        > And yet – it's apparantly a non-issue! Who in world would have predicted that?!!

        Well, I did, sort of.

        In a comment I wrote on August 15th 2010: "…Since I've shown repeatedly that Apple is trading at a discount to its growth and to its historic value and to its peer group, and since the health of their CEO is an uncertainty which must be discounted, the possibility exists that the depressed value assigned to Apple is due to Steve Jobs's continuing presence in the company. If that is true then his departure should increase the stock price"
        http://www.asymco.com/2010/08/01/apples-valuation

        The stock out-performed the indexes on the day of the announcement by about 1%.

    • Horace Dediu

      I have written before that I believe the stock will rise more rapidly with Steve Jobs' departure. The expectation of a decline has kept some money out of the stock so the departure will likely bring more money in. But it may not be a perceptible change. Economic concerns, valid or not, exert much greater influence on the stock in the short term and earnings performance in the long term.

  • bossjet

    Steve Jobs has many exceptional talents including marketing and understanding of design, but his most important skill his incredible vision for products. Steve Jobs is so involved in the product development process that he has his name on patents for nearly all the major products that have come out of Apple in the past decade. He had the vision to know that the iPad, which was designed before the iPhone, was not ready for prime time and developed the iPhone first. This is an example of a situation where Tim Cook will not have the instincts to know what to do.

    A little bit more at: http://spankingnotions.net/spankingnotions/2011/8

  • Pragmatics

    Convenience is king. Whoever delivers true utility improvment succeeds. Bottom line is Apple products save time by making things easier and quicker to do. We should not be blinded by Apple business philosophy etc. combining technology, heart and soul. Those are only nice to have but its the productivity improvment that really gets you hooked. In Apples case tighter integration of sw and hw combined with ease of use. Hopefully Apple will not become complacent wih its success and will continue improving its products, such as the iPad which still suffers from too minimalistic functions like in Safari browser. Apples ecosystem interoperability with other devices and services ingeniously expands the utility beyond Apple devices while maintaining the control point of the value chain. The challenge now is to continue evolving seamless usability accross all user domains including the cloud. Incredible that Microsoft has almost totally missed this integration play despite its huge PC and XBox
    user base.

  • Ginger

    As a result of Steve Job's larger than life presence, I think the most under appreciated part of the Apple value chain he created is the iManagement-Team platform.

  • Pingback: Headhunting for more Steve Jobs-es | GlobalRencai.com

  • MOD

    I don't think there is much Apple DNA left. Cook wants to focus on printers instead of the Iphone 5:
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/new-apple-ceo-ti

    • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

      Printers do seem poised to be the next big thing. HP was going to put WebOS on printers, after all.

      • EWPellegrino

        The onion hasn't had a really good spoof since the kansas abortionplex story in my opinion.

  • Bazz

    Apple's culture should, as you show, be the goal of all Americans, not Wall St. and its vacuous gambling to be the best at gambling — a hollow success. What Jobs has shown is personal development in hardship — corporate, medical and id — is a Promethean striving that transcends the pettiness of money and its desire.
    Jobs the musical truly great art! Jobs the drama truly great art! Jobs the designer truly great art!

    And the ultimate accolade Jobs without regrets for all the strife that Olympus and its members have thrown at a mere mortal. Truly a role model for the rest of us!

  • EWPellegrino

    This article from Forbes is a rather interesting take on why Jobs is important, the author clearly has a book to push but he makes a good point nevertheless. I think he underestimates how important Jobs' taste has been when it comes to physical product design, but he's onto something when it comes to Jobs' commitment to the user experience.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/08/