It has been four years since Steve Jobs passed away. But the Apple co-founder is far from forgotten. In fact, we suspect he is perhaps the most-quoted of all business founders, and remains a role model for thousands of entrepreneurs, not just because he was successful but also because of his ability to blend philosophy and art with technology. So what better way to remember the man than through ten his most memorable quotes?
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” – WWDC, 1997.
Jobs was notorious for stressing that consumer experience was the most important thing in any product – expecting a person to spend a lot of time trying to ‘learn’ or ‘adapt’ to a technology could be fatal for a product.
“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, 1989.
He did think that customer experience was experience but that said, Jobs did not have too much faith in consumer surveys as he often claimed that consumers did not actually know what they wanted and in many cases just wanted improved versions of what already existed instead of something revolutionary.
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – Wall Street Journal in 1993.
Out of Apple, not too successful at NeXT Computers and trying to make his way through Pixar, there is broad consensus that the nineties saw a mellowing in Jobs’ temperament. With fewer products to talk about, he spoke more of life and other things. Mind you, he still could not resist taking a jibe at rival Bill Gates, at whom the quote is believed to be targeted.
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” – Fortune magazine, 1998.
One of Jobs’ biggest strengths was playing up the role of sheer talent and human imagination, pitting them as valorous underdogs against money-laden opposition. When he came back to Apple in 1997, he was faced with a company that was written off and rivals that were well-entrenched. Small wonder he chose the moment to focus on human creativity rather than R&D (although we are sure Apple spent a pretty penny there too).
“I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.” – Newsweek, 2001.
By 2001, Apple was well and truly back in business and considered one of the most innovative tech companies in the world. Jobs, however, seemed to have developed a philosophical streak during his years away from Apple, a period where he seemed to have realised that there was more to life than just technology and products. This quote reflects that.
“It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – New York Times, 2003.
Apple has been known for its amazing design, but a point that has been less noted is that while Apple products have been good-looking, they have also been generally easy to use. And that is because as Jobs said in this statement while talking of the newly launched iPod, design was not just about look and feel, but also about functionality. The scroll wheel in the iPod was a perfect example of this – it looked cool, but it also made using the device easier as compared to fiddling with multiple dials.
“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient. But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realised something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea. And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.” – Businessweek, 2004.
One of Jobs’ key challenges in his second innings at Apple was cutting down a bloated product and yet still be seen as being innovative. His approach was to restrict the company to making a one or two products in a particular category every year but ensuring that they were innovative enough to grab attention. Of course, this demanded a mix of efficiency and insane levels of innovation – and the quote summed up just how Jobs went about it.
“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” – MSNBC, 2006.
The iPhone was being rumoured and Apple had already tried getting its software on phones in collaboration with Motorola. Many were wondering why Apple was moving away from its comfort zone and getting into a segment which had the likes of Nokia bossing the market. Little did they know…
“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith….You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.“ – Stanford University, 2005.
Delivering perhaps the speech that would define him, Jobs stressed the importance of passion and faith. Not just in life but in work too. And the need to keep moving ahead.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Stanford University, 2005.
Having survived a cancer scare, Jobs had a new sense of mortality. Did it spur him on to make the innovations he did in the years that followed (the iPhone and iPad would change phones and computing and the App Store would spur an app revolution like never before)? We are not too sure, but the man clearly had seen death in the face.
And one more thing… a final quote from that Stanford speech: “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 others’ 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.“