Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I am a bit of an Apple fan, so when my good pal Andy Hanselman bought me this giant book as a gift, I was looking for the right time to sit down and get started on this 600 page monster. As it happened, this time didn’t seem to be materialising, so I sat down to read it anyway and I’m extremely glad I did as it is completely brilliant and inspirational, if not a little sad. You can buy it here. I recommend you do.
What it does is go through the history of the way the business developed as well as give a real warts and all account of the man himself. there’s no doubt he was a completely obsessive and extraordinarily odd man, but he was also driven by passion for detail and a search for quality like we’ve never seen before.
I advise anyone who ever asks that you have to focus on quality to build a brand, but this is what Jobs did everywhere – throughout every single aspect of the business. And, I’m convinced that this is why Apple has been so successful. That and the fact that he had an amazing design partner in Jony Ives and between them they had incredible vision too.
A few highlights for me.
1. As an understanding of why differentiation is critical – “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy”. Most products that come to the market do so in flocks, following a market leader. Apple deliberately and methodically went the other way.
2. On having an enemy for the whole team to focus on – “Throughout his career, Jobs liked to see himself as an enlightened rebel pitted against evil empires, a Jedi warrior of Buddhist samurai fighting the forces of darkness. IBM was the perfect foil. He cast the battle not as mere business competition but as a spiritual struggle”
3. On why the little things matter too – Jobs father had taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship, even for the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design as the lines weren’t straight enough”. This point is again critical. Most businesses do the big things just fine. The ones that go onto become great brands care about the little things too, as this is where differentiation and ultimately, perfection lies.
Anyway, enough from me. read it. It’s an amazing and beautifully written book.