WWSD? (What would Steve do?)
He would change!
Since the passing two weeks ago of one of the world’s greatest thinkers, we have had a media deluge of information about Steve Jobs, his life, his words and his brilliance. As a student of great thinkers and a lover of quotes, I have compiled in this post many of my favorites and some food for thought as you contemplate what we can learn from Steve.
Most of all, it is not about trying to imitate his thinking! The irony, I believe, is that what is happening—in a way, making him a thinking “God,” as we strive to push our own innovation and thinking by studying him to replicate what he did— is the last thing Steve would have wanted. As he said in the Stanford commencement address:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
As a thinker, Jobs was a leader who could “see around corners”—a trait I hear many are working to develop in this increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” (Inc. Magazine)
His thinking epitomized the future-oriented, conceptual, design-focused thinking preference (Yellow D-quadrant thinking in our Whole Brain® parlance.) Yet his ability to serve all needs of the business while still honoring his core tenants, great design, usability and user friendly technical innovation showed how his thinking actually served a Whole Brain® outcome.
I believe this contributed to what made him the truly remarkable business person he was: his ability to drive the top and bottom line, create a culture of extreme change and project the needs of the customer before the customer knows what they are. In addition, his obsession with quality and execution rounded out his thinking approach:
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
Most of all, like most great leaders I have observed, Steve understood what he was good at and where he struggled:
“My model for business is the Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They believed in each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts.” (60 Minutes interview, 2008)
One of the most important lessons we can learn from Steve is this: The secret is leveraging the thinking of others who complement your thinking. Steve’s “islands of brilliance” were more oriented to those traits we often associate with the right brain. COO Tim Cook complemented him as more of the traditional left. The 2009 Harvard Business Review article Innovation in Turbulent Times noted:
Apple may have the best-known both-brain partnership. CEO Steve Jobs has always acted as the creative director and has helped to shape everything from product design and user interfaces to the customer experience at Apple’s stores. COO Tim Cook has long handled the day-to-day running of the business.
Ironically, I understand that much of Steve’s net worth was actually in Disney assets. Steve was acutely aware of what happened after Walt Disney passed. If people would ask, “What would Walt have done?” Steve knew the answer: Walt would have changed! The last thing Steve would have wanted is for people try to think like he did to solve problems we will face in the future.
Those who knew him personally as a friend are grieving a great father and family man. May he rest in peace.
And for us, instead of trying to figure out what Steve would have done, we should follow one of his key messages: Celebrate your own thinking. Be inspired. Take action. Live!
What can you learn from Steve Jobs that will help you celebrate your thinking? Which of his quotes that follow are your favorites, or are there others that inspire your thinking? Share them with us in the comments.