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Steve Jobs: The Renaissance Man Who Changed Our World

Posted on Thursday, Aug 25th 2011

All over the world, all across the Web, tributes to Steve Jobs are flowing in. The man who has created a future no one else envisioned is stepping down from the helm of Apple. It’s a sad, sombre moment. A moment of concern for his health. A moment of reflection for most of us in the industry.

I haven’t written much on the topic yet, but I have had some private conversations with my husband Dominique Trempont, who worked closely with Steve for five years running NeXT.

In this post, I will offer you an edited collection of some of what I have read this morning, along with some commentary.

I’ll start with Om Malik’s Steve Jobs and the sound of silence:

Jobs (and by extension, Apple) has taught me (and I am sure others) a big lesson: If you want to change something, you have to be patient and take the long view. If Apple and Steve’s incredible comeback teaches us something, it’s that when you are right and the world doesn’t see it that way, you just have to be patient and wait for the world to change its mind.

Today, we are living in a world that’s about taking short-term decisions: CEOs who pray at the altar of the devil called quarterly earnings, companies that react to rivals, politicians who are only worried about the coming election cycle and leaders who are in for the near-term gain.

And then there are Steve and Apple: a leader and a company not afraid to take the long view, patiently building the way to the future envisioned for the company. Not afraid to invent the future and to be wrong. And almost always willing to do one small thing — cannibalize itself. Under Steve, Apple was happy to see the iPhone kill the iPod and iPad kill the MacBook. He understands that you don’t walk into the future by looking back. If you do, you trip over yourself and break your nose. Just look at Hewlett-Packard, and you know what I am talking about.

Om has been a longtime fan of Steve, and his emotional piece spells out one of the greatest secrets to Steve: the strength of his conviction, and his patience to stay with his ideas against all odds.

Vic Gundotra’s Icon Ambulance tells a charming story of Steve’s legendary attention to details, especially when it comes to design and aesthetics.

In My Experience with Jobs and Apple, Allen Paltrow shares some unique, charming, and ultimately moving photographs of a childhood experience that Steve formulated.

And now, on to some analysis of Steve as a CEO. I received some of the articles below from Harvard Business Review, and they are good perspectives.

While many are asking, What will Apple do without Steve Jobs? James Allworth, Max Wessel, and Rob Wheeler, fellows at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School, say that everyone is missing the point. In their blog, Why Apple Doesn’t Need Steve Jobs, they argue that “Jobs has managed to perform the ultimate feat of leadership — he’s embedded himself so deeply within the cultural fabric of Apple that the company no longer needs him.” They says that after 1998, Jobs was no longer interested in simply building great products. Instead he focused on making sure everyone else at Apple was able to build great products too. “In short, he focused on building a robust culture — a Steve-infused culture — within his company.”

I have often thought that benevolent dictatorship, not democracy, is the more effective model for building an effective organization (including a nation). Steve is one of the best benevolent dictators the world has seen in recent times.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, analyzed the power that Steve Jobs’s seemingly wields as he left for his third medical leave in January. In his blog post, Without Steve Jobs, Can Apple Stay Powerful? he says, “Just as we can all learn from his qualities as a product visionary, we can take lessons from his remarkable ability to have his way, and therefore make those visions reality. If doing your job well depends on accruing and wielding personal power, there are few careers more worthy of study than Steve Jobs.”

Horace Dediu, founder of Asymco.com, blogged about the legacy that Steve Jobs has left with the world in Steve Jobs’s Ultimate Lesson for Companies. He proclaims that Jobs’s ultimate creation isn’t a specific Apple product— it is Apple itself. “Apple’s violent success should serve as a powerful beacon that others should follow,” he says. “Rather than copying its products other companies should copy Apple’s processes – it’s way of thinking. They should copy how Apple harbors the creative process and the technology processes under the same roof.”

Horace quotes Steve as having said about Apple’s DNA after the iPad launch:

“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.”

This might, for the readers of this blog, invoke my recent Silicon Valley: The Next Decade piece and the discussion of the Renaissance man, of which, Steve Jobs is a classic example:

What was striking about the various renaissance movements were the extraordinary degree of intellectual, artistic, and social achievement, and the tremendous cross-pollination among the leaders of those different disciplines.

Leonardo da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance man – an engineer, a painter, a scientist – with a mind capable of assimilating ideas from multiple disciplines and pushing the envelope in multiple. That same capacity for acute observation, experimentation, and smart synthesis that is the hallmark of a Renaissance mind is in part the secret of Steve Jobs’s success. Steve has drawn from art, architecture, design, sociology, and computer science to build Apple into the most innovative and exciting company in Silicon Valley and perhaps even the world.

I believe in the decade ahead that the style of thinking that will have the maximum impact is this ability to assimilate ideas from across domains and disciplines and apply them to innovation and entrepreneurship, instincts already deeply woven into Silicon Valley’s fabric. In other words, it is the Renaissance mind that is likely to create the most important companies in Silicon Valley.

I think, that is my final thought today. Steve has shown us what a true Renaissance mind can accomplish. I look forward to hearing about other Steve Jobs–inspired Renaissance thinkers and their works in the upcoming decades.

Further reading: Steve Jobs’ Best Quotes

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Nice post

deaz Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 9:39 PM PT

Steve Jobs is a genius. All Apple products are a piece of art. I feel shame that such people may leave this world at some point.

max7x Monday, August 29, 2011 at 9:38 PM PT

While I may not agree with the all the decisions Jobs' has made or the names of some their products (iPad in particular though I'm glad the iPod Touch was not called the iTouch), I admire his ability to see the big picture and take the long, sustainable route. Not just earning his cash and burning a company, the Apple culture and knowledge has become well ingrained in the company, which should be a model for other companies to follow.

AEM Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 12:16 AM PT

Steve Jobs was a great man, he will be remembered for his innovations and good entrepreneur. He was inspirational human being. His soul rest in peace.

file recovery Friday, October 7, 2011 at 4:41 AM PT

Seriously we lost a great personality !! People will recall his Saga for sure in the time to come !!

Vinod Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 9:33 AM PT