“Mr. Jobs said: “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer, that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
He could control how it works because Apple “makes the whole widget,” as Mr. Jobs repeatedly said — software and hardware.”
This quote is from the Washington Post story on the passing of Steve Jobs is poignant, the quote illustrates that technology design was at the heart of Steve Jobs success, he focused on what worked best for the customer, and made sure he had the best technology.
Steve Jobs’ legacies were the personal computer, the iPad, iPhone, iPad, and Pixar.
Those legacies were achieved in part, because in Steve Jobs’ view that as companies get increasingly more complex, it’s important to pair down what you produce and can manage, so that you focus on the innovations that will enable your company to compete in the marketplace.
Steve Jobs’ advice to Nike CEO Mark Parker is a good example of how to think about business and R&D strategy. From the Daily Tech blog.
“according to Nike CEO Mark Parker, it isn’t so much what Jobs did for the company that turned it into a success, but rather, it’s what he didn’t do. Parker recalls having a conversation with Jobs when he first returned to Apple as CEO, asking for advice regarding Parker’s Nike products.
“Do you have any advice?” Parker asked Jobs.
“Well, just one thing,” replied Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
Steve Jobs was a genius at R&D leadership and management. He solved problems before they happened by not partnering or letting loose the reins to outside partners, though even Steve Jobs was not above partnering where needed, for the iPhone, first AT&T, then Verizon, and now Sprint. As R&D has become increasingly complex, there’s been more outsourcing, and partnering. Part of Steve Jobs’ legacy for the R&D community is that you have to think carefully what you can control as an R&D leader, outsourcing is okay, but set yourself up to manage all importantly relationships carefully.
To me it’s not just that Steve Jobs was a pioneer and helped create many new industries, it was his approach to business, innovation and R&D that’s inspiring. He created what he did because he thought critically about what projects mattered, leveraged one technology to another to dominate whole platforms of technologies, and focused on the prize of designing products that worked for the customer.
I’m sad to learn of Steve Jobs passing, but I’m inspired by his example, and I think the rest of the world will be too, that perhaps is his greatest legacy, to see what can be done when good business and R&D strategy is implemented well.