Note: The following passages are all direct quotes from the book. I didn’t want to completely litter this summary with parentheses so I left in ambiguous pronouns that obviously refer to Jobs. All italics are Issacson’s, all bold sections were highlighted by me.
“He was more philosophical than the other people I worked with,” (Atari boss Nolan) Bushnell recalled. “We used to discuss free will versus determinism. I tended to believe that things were much more determined, that we were programmed. If we had perfect information, we could predict people’s actions. Steve felt the opposite.” (43)
Jobs’s father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. (74)
(Apple partner Mike) Markkula wrote his principles in a one-page paper titled “The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points. The first was empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer. “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” The second was focus: “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.” The third and equally important principle, awkwardly named, was impute. It emphasized that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys. “People DO judge a book by its cover,” he wrote. “We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.” (78)
Throughout his career, Jobs liked to see himself as an enlightened rebel pitted against evil empires, a Jedi warrior or Buddhist samurai fighting the forces of darkness. IBM was his perfect foil. He cleverly cast the upcoming battle not as a mere business competition, but as a spiritual struggle. “If, for some reason, we make some giant mistakes and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter sort of a computer Dark Ages for about twenty years,” he told an interviewer. “Once IBM gains control of a market sector, they almost always stop innovation.” (136)
On the day he unveiled the Macintosh, a reporter from Popular Science asked Jobs what type of market research he had done. Jobs responded by scoffing, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?” (170)
Jobs had latched onto what he believed was a key management lesson from his Macintosh experience: You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. “It’s too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and they then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players,” he recalled. “The Macintosh experience taught me that A players like to work only with other A players, which means you can’t indulge B players.” (181)
His diet obsessions reflected a life philosophy, one in which aestheticism and minimalism could heighten subsequent sensations. “He believed that great harvests came from arid sources, pleasure from restraint,” (Jobs’s daughter Lisa) noted. “He knew the equations that most people didn’t know: Things led to their opposites.” (260)
(Jobs and ex-girlfriend Tina Redse) had a basic philosophical difference about whether aesthetic tastes were fundamentally individual, as Redse believed, or universal and could be taught, as Jobs believed. She accused him of being too influenced by the Bauhaus movement. “Steve believed it was our job to teach people aesthetics, to teach people what they should like,” she recalled. (265)
In (Jonathan) Ive, Jobs met his soul mate in the quest for true rather than surface simplicity. Sitting in his design studio, Ive described his philosophy:
Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential. (343)
“When I went to Pixar, I became aware of a great divide. Tech companies don’t understand creativity…On the other hand, music companies are completely clueless about technology…I’m one of the few people who understands how producing technology requires intuition and creativity, and how producing something artistic takes real discipline.” -Steve Jobs (397)
Like many companies, Sony worried about cannibalization. If it built a music player and service that made it easy for people to share digital songs, that might hurt sales of its record division. One of Jobs’s business rules was to never be afraid of cannibalizing yourself. “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will,” he said. (408)
His desire to delight the user led him to resist empowering the user. (563)
There were many times when he reflected on what he hoped his legacy would be. Here are those thoughts, in his own words: (567-570)
My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary.
Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’ why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.
I hate it when people call themselves “entrepreneurs” when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on. They’re unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business. That’s how you really make a contribution and add to the legacy of those who went before.
“(Firing people) was hard. But somebody’s got to do it. I figured that it was always my job to make sure that the team was excellent, and if I didn’t do it, nobody was going to do it.
What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us. I didn’t invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food, none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how – because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.