Today is a sad day as the world lost one of the most respected visionary and creative genius – Steve Jobs. Not only is he the guru for all folks who aspire to build great products, the impact that his innovations have had on the world is such that its hard to imagine what the world would have been without him.
I have always been fascinated by how simplicity can create magic and even define new markets that never existed before. Here are a few things that I have learnt over the years by watching Steve:
1. Less Is More
Steve was a master of the art of “minimal design” and this is something that is unique about all Apple products from the beginning. The first calculator they built did not have an “Off” button and that is a tradition that has been carried on to the iPod / iPhone / iPad series of products.
The underlying reason behind why this works is fairly simple – you need to understand your customer really well to identify a minimal set of features for your product. And since most people don’t want to go through the pain of understanding their consumers, they cram all sorts of features in the product in the “hope” that some of those will work.
2. Solve A Real Problem
One of the things that has always amazed me is how Apple has been able to launch new products where there was no “perceived need” and new markets emerged around each of these products.
Think iPod for a moment – who ever thought in 2001 that there would be such a huge market for a digital music player. And who would have thought in 2007 that you could get people to purchase a phone that has no keypad. I’m sure that if you did a customer survey asking users of mobile phones whether they would like to have a phone without buttons, the overwhelming response would have been “No”.
And yet he created these products and they not only succeeded but created new markets around them. But how?
If you look closely enough, you will realize that this is based on deep understanding of real problems. In 2001, Steve realized that people were sharing digital music through Napster, but did not have a way to play it outside of the desktops and he created the iPod. Similarly, in 2007, people had started watching rich media and videos on their desktops, but there was no mobile device capable of doing the same and he created the iPhone.
3. The Last Mile
Most companies specialize in one aspect of the business. Hardware companies are great at building hardware and usually partner with someone else for the software, and vice versa. Apple is unique in this aspect as it does the Hardware, the Software and the Middleware too.
The real reason for business success of the iPod, in addition to its great design was also the fact that you could easily load music on it through iTunes. Contrast this with other portable music players like Sony where the device is agnostic to how the music is loaded on to it. By making it so easy to load music, Steve created a real money spinner in a vertical that is struggling to make money because of rampant piracy.
But this is a line between focus and “I’ll do it all” that you should tread carefully here.
4. Think Big
One basic quality of an innovator is the ability to take a bet on future and then prove it right. Steve didn’t do that once or twice but several times during his lifetime.
Infact, from the time he audaciously declared that a computer should be able to perform all its duties with a mouse, to redefining animation with Pixar to changing the face of consumer electronics as we know it today, Steve has always made really BIG bets. This is why we so fondly remember him, don’t we?
Yes, some of them did not pay off, but that’s the law of averages.
5. Stay Hungry Stay Foolish
This one is my favorite and does not need much explanation. You will continue to move forward as long as you have fire in your belly and willingness to learn!