How Steve Jobs changed the World

Leadership make you own path by Richard Gourlay

Strategy: How Steve Jobs changes teh world by Richard Gourlay

Apple’s founder and talisman, Steve Jobs has finally had to step down from running the world’s most successful company.  It is probably overdue that the world recognises this brilliant strategist who changed the world.  Here’s how Steve Jobs changed the world.

Had Steve Jobs just set-up Apple he would have gone down in history as a great inventor.  But to have done it twice over with the same company, while in the process creating the world’s biggest company, surely makes him the greatest ever.  Possibly his most important contribution was that he created markets and then the best products possible for those new markets.  Steve Jobs understood that the technology needed to work for customers, rather than expect people to work the technology.   

A Brilliant Visionary

As a brilliant businessman and strategist, he more importantly created world class products and ran the company that delivered those products to market. Most superb inventors just invent, and most great directors’ focus on leading. To do both simultaneously to such a high standard is an outstanding achievement.

Steve Jobs is so unusual because he understands that great technology does not sell itself. That to have great technology you have to be passionate not only about what you produce, but also about the world in which your products exist.

Steve Jobs a brief history

  • 1976 started Apple with Stephen Wozniak to make and sell printed circuit boards
  • 1978 launched  a new disc drive which made the money to invest in whole computers
  • Launched the revolutionary Macintosh computer in 1984
  • Ousted from Apple in 1985 and returned after creating NeXT in 1996 which Apple bought
  • Created Pixar with $5 billion in box-office sales, sold for $7.4 to Disney in 1996
  • Created the i-generation with more to come such as iCloud and entering the TV market

While to many who did not understand his holistic strategy, they looked for and saw flaws. They tried to stab the ego and even removed him from his own company (to play safe with what he had produced as a single new product).  He played the long game recognising that the world would not be changed overnight. This was his strategic master-stoke.  He got the timing right by understanding the big picture and knowing when to strike.

A Difficult Man To Work With

He has been described by those who have worked with him as wilful, irascible, temperamental and stubborn, to name a few.  But can anyone do so much without at least those characteristics to change the world?  Other words, which people often use to describe him, include perfectionist, insistent and mesmerising. These words are the ones which the world will remember for. These drove him and describe how he has achieved such global success.

As a manager he had difficult dealings with many people at all levels, from investors and employees.  Management and human relationships was not Steve Jobs’ forte. These difficulties made him human. They were simple human failings which showed he was not perfect, but not issues which limited his vision or aspirations.

Steve Jobs Stanford Address

In his Stanford addresss (click here to see it here) in 2005 he explained what made him, drove him and continued to motivate him to become the person he was. This address is one of the few times he spoke of the huge success for which the world will remember him for.

Steve Jobs changed the world.

He saw a world revolution in technology before anyone else, and saw how he could drive that change. Great strategic thinking not only thinking about change, but also the impact of that change will have. That’s what makes him simply the best. Other owners and directors were working on improving their share price, or becoming number one with their new product. Focusing on the today, this month’s or this years priorities, not on changing the world. Steve Jobs looked beyond the single product to look at the whole picture of what a new world might look like.

Steve Jobs drove Apple to rethink the world and in doing so became its biggest player. His line in recruiting John Sculley from Pepsi “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world”. This sums up his strategic brilliance.

Steve Jobs Visionary

Evidence of this brilliant approach comes throughout his career. From using Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire music to launch the Macintosh, through to his unforgettable iPod launch where with a huge back screen shot he casually produced it from the back pocket of his jeans! Steve Jobs has learnt how to successfully engage with audiences. Every product is meticulously planned with product lined up to two years in advance, with innovative marketing from start to finish.

Moving From Technology to Retail

From a business which started out a just selling technology, it is now seen as having the best retail environment. That retail environment created places people actually want to visit.  Apple shops where the focus is on excellence, not on pedalling technology cheaper than the next retailer.

Steve Jobs has always had an eye for detail. His artistic flare turned geeky boxes into works of art. Steve want on a calligraphy course which led him to have a non standard font, Apple Garamond created rather than traditional New Roman Times font. Something he goaded Microsoft about at a high school speech some years later. That attention to detail is what demonstrated his perfectionist approach and left the competitors looking and feeling like they were in the dark ages.

Think Different Campaign

Apple’s “Think different” strategy has worked so well since 1997 because it touched people who felt there was no alternative to Bill Gates’ Microsoft monopoly of software. Think Different also drove change for both the 50,000 Apple employees and allowing his strategy to infect and spread globally.  It was not only technical people who bought into Macs but a whole new generation of users, who found that there was a credible alternative that did more than just be a glorified typewriter.

While Apple was never one man.  Steve Jobs legacy will be difficult to estimate for many years to come as the world’s most successful businessman. The old adage, it is not what one has done that counts but what one leaves to grow, that is the measure of a man’s success. It will take time for the world to see his true legacy, but the following puts some numbers behind this success.

Since Steve Jobs comeback in 1997 Apple has sold:-

  • 26 million iPhones
  • 60 million computers 
  • 200 million iPods
  • 1 billion iTunes songs   

Apple is currently valued at $356 billion ($2 Billion ahead of Exxon). Making it the largest company in the world. Last quarter alone Apple profits more than doubled to $7.3 billion. Sales rose by 82% to $28.6 billion by selling 20 million iPhones, 9 million iPads, 8 million iPods and 4 million Mac computers.

Steve Jobs announcement of his retirement wiped $17 billion *(5%) from its market share. But over his leadership he has increased its share value by 9000% since 1997.

By Richard Gourlay

Richard Gourlay, experienced management consultant, leadership development and strategic advisor, director and NED to high growth companies. Author of book:- Strategy: The Leader's Role by Richard Gourlay builds the skills which makes leaders successful in their business. #dumfries #galloway #scotland, #mentor, #castledouglas, #leadershipskills, #NED, #Director.