Steve Jobs’s Innovation Leadership at Apple: My Lessons Learned

Posted by Dr. James Canton on August 25, 2011 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Steve Jobs is leaving Apple in great shape. His is exiting as CEO to retain the chairman position but leaves behind a innovation leadership legacy that is transformational. There is no leader in modern times that was more innovative, that broke more rules and invented more things that have transformed our world.

I worked at Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley in 1984 and was part of the team that launched the Macintosh computer. I worked in business strategy, strategic planning and managed global business markets, verticals like medicine were my passion and focus. I gave the first Mac’s to doctors and the National Institutes for Health for doing medical research on finding cures for kidney disease.

These were heady times. We knew we were igniting a revolution in how people used computing, information and culture. The Mac challenged that very idea of what a computer could be. Steve first evangelized the Mac to us, the employees well before he sold the world.

Lesson #1 Every Leader Must Be the Chief Evangelist
You have to sell the Big Vision first to your employees. If they don’t get it then customer will never. This seems obvious but too many leaders today have the right financial chops or seniority or even board support but don’t embody this lesson. Steve invented it.

Days before the Mac launch we sent around pictures of a Swiss Army knife, challenging ourselves that Mac was something else, not just a computer but a lifestyle appliance. Steve challenged us to think about the Mac as more then just a technology–it was a innovation in culture, lifestyle and learning.

Lesson #2 Think Different To Differentiate Your Company or Product

Steve was all about being innovative in marketing, product features, design, packaging, purpose—he knew that thinking differently was the key to differentiating Apple from the crowd of MeTo companies.

When we launched the Mac to the media and analysts we put a Mac in every room, with no manual. Other computers, like IBM came with huge manuals on how to operate. When the analysts came into their rooms we expected and they did touch the computer. The Mac would turn on and they would hear from the computer HELLO. This blew their mind. Steve was always blowing our minds with innovation ideas.
Lesson #3 Take Smart Risks, Fail Fast and Don’t Give Up
People forget that Apple tried and failed at many things before succeeding. You learn more from mistakes then successes. Edison’s light bulb took 40,000 mistakes to get it right. Before the Mac computer the Lisa failed. Apple had a run at a at an early iPad called Newton, it did not make it. Taking risks and persevering is important.

Lesson #4 Enjoy the Journey

We all are here on the planet for a limited window. Make the most of it.
Steve would remind us all that you have to enjoy the journey. Or don’t do it. He challenged us all to make a commitment to ourselves to do something big, important and meaningful. These lessons are as true today as in 1984.

Lesson #5 Invent the Future

This is the big one. Being bold, being future-ready, this is what life and business is all about. If your going to invent the future you have to be willing to brake rules, take risks, make mistakes but most important–Think Big Ideas. Selling your big idea your innovation is what every leader needs to do everyday. Steve was and is a fearless leader who invented the future: Mac, iPod, iPad, ITunes, Apple TV, the mouse… and a software interface that everyone has adopted for 20 years.

We wish Steve well in his next chapter and thank him for the lessons learned. I know his next innovations he will inspire at Apple will continue to touch us all.

Add A Comment