This past week the business world, tech community and general population lost a great leader and even greater “thinker.” Steve Jobs took Apple from his garage to your everyday life. How does a man take a small computer company from nothing to almost everyone in the world? Simply. He ran his company by a simple slogan: “Think Different.”
The way Steve Jobs ran and grew his company should be examined and studied by any small business. He did it with grace and thought but also had struggles. He encouraged his employees to think outside the box and held them accountable for this. Specifically, he kept his employees engaged.
From the beginning, employees learn the Apple way: Think Different. It is obvious that an engaged and lively work force will out perform a non-engaged counter part. Apple employees believe that they are part of something bigger than themselves and bigger than Apple. They believe (and rightfully so) that they are changing the world when they come to work. This is because Steve encouraged this thought process and encouraged his people to be different, be bigger and think bigger.
When writing this blog I came across an article by Steve Tobak, “10 Ways to Think Different,” and wanted to share some relevant points:
- Empower employees to make a difference. When I asked one source why Apple employees always seem so empowered, he replied, “It sounds corny, but it’s Steve’s reality distortion field. He says they can make a difference, and in a cult-like way, they believe it.” Changing the world is grandiose and far-fetched. But for Jobs and company, “making a dent in the universe” is somehow an entirely realistic goal.
- Value what’s important, not minutiae. According to one associate, “It’s a really fun place to work with loose rules. Employees mostly come and go as they please as long as they accomplish, not 100 percent of their goals, but 110 percent.” Freedom and flexibility, just get the job done. What a concept. I attended one meeting where an Apple manager showed up barefoot. Nobody cared or even noticed.
- Do everything important internally. It’s a throwback to the old days of vertically-integrated computer companies, but it’s a good thing that Apple never bought into the whole disaggregation thing. Everything important is under one roof: industrial design, operating system, hardware design, even the sales channel. Apple manages to do that by focusing on far fewer products than conventional consumer electronics companies.
- Control the message. Few companies truly get communications and PR the way Apple does. A big part of its formula for creating a buzz like no other company is its famous secretiveness. Considering the sheer number of people, companies and news outlets that would give anything for a tip, virtually nothing leaks until Apple’s ready to spill it – the occasional iPhone prototype left on a bar-stool notwithstanding.
- Don’t make people do things, make them better at doing things. In an interview, Steve Jobs revealed, “My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to … take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.” Apple employees I’ve known are either operating at the top of their game, or think they are. Either way, it works.
- When you find something that works, keep doing it. The way Apple operates today is not some grand design by Jobs or his management team. They found their way one step at a time. The difference is that, the way Apple’s organized, it can rapidly adapt to a new idea or process that works. After decades of single-digit market share, the iPod / iTunes breakthrough provided a winning formula that Apple’s replicated with the iPhone and iPad.
Steve Jobs ran a company that as an employee you felt part of. He did it his way, not always the conventional way, but it worked. I think we can all take a few notes on business, not from a businessman but a thinker.
Upbeat Marketing, Account Manager