Coming soon to The Bank of Notes.
Good God this book looks amazing. Even the cover is beautiful.
Speed up your self-education
May 22, 2013
Coming soon to The Bank of Notes.
Good God this book looks amazing. Even the cover is beautiful.
May 11, 2012
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.
March 26, 2012
Linchpins do two things for the organization. They exert emotional labor and they make a map. Those contributions take many forms. Here is one way to think about the list of what makes you indispensible… (218)
“In great organizations, there’s a sense of mission. The tribe is racking up accomplishments, going somewhere. That mission doesn’t happen accidentally. A linchpin helps lead, and he connects people in the organization, actively and with finesse.” (219)
“If you want to create a unique guitar riff, it sure helps if you’ve heard all the other guitar riffs on record. Unique implies that the creativity is focused and insightful.”
The word “delivering” in this context means that you have to be passionate enough to overcome resistance and fear of rejection in order to ship.
The more complex something becomes, the more unlikely it is that there’s a perfectly appropriate manual to rely on.
Linchpins are extremely valuable for precisely this reason: they are able to make their own maps. Linchpins “allow the organization to navigate much more quickly than it ever could if it had to wait for the paralyzed crowd to figure out what to do next.” (220)
Usually, the mission and purpose of a company is something that only circulates internally, between its employees. But the Linchpin also expresses it through the way in which he interacts with customers.
In this sense, he sees marketing as an exercise in leadership.
Definition of “inspire”:
Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: “his enthusiasm inspired them”.
Since their environment is more dynamic, employees of modern organizations are usually more unclear about their responsibilities than a factory worker is. Not the linchpin. His focus is always to make something happen, and he inspires people to unleash their own art as well.
“Mapmakers often have the confidence to draw maps because they understand their subject so deeply.” (222)
“When you meet someone, you need to have a superpower. If you don’t, you’re just another handshake. It’s not about touting yourself or coming on too strong. It’s about making the introduction meaningful. If I don’t know your superpower, then I don’t know how you can help me (or I can help you). (222-223)
Both parts of the portmanteau “superpower” are key: “super” implies that it’s a unique skill; “power” implies that you’re one of the best in the world at it.
But no matter what, we all fail sometimes. Accept it, it’s okay.
December 1, 2011
For the past year and a half I was a semi-professional poker player. While this was not a remarkably productive period in my life, I did learn some valuable lessons about variance and expected value.
The tangible effect that these lessons have had on my life is that I was able to cultivate the ability to think long-term and not be at the effect of the external circumstances of the moment. When others have been panicked about some sudden, unexpected event, I have been able to stay focused and rational. It’s an invaluable skill, and it is without question one of the qualities that distinguishes successful people the rest.
What’s especially fascinating to me is that there’s many people in my life whom I admire that do not possess this skill at all. I was once asked by one of these people just exactly how I was able to stay so composed, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to articulate the concept as well as I would have liked at the time. Since then, I’ve given a lot of thought as to how I could best describe it.
This led to the creation of what I call The Law of the Equalization of External Events, or The Law of E3 for short. In my daily life it’s much more streamlined and internalized but now that I’m putting it out into the world I feel the need to explain it with as much precision as possible. Here it is:
“Since nature can have no bias in favor of or against any individual, the expected value of all external circumstances is precisely zero. Therefore, while many positive and negative events will happen to all living beings over any given short-term period of time, the overall account of fortune and misfortune will approach a neutral equilibrium as time progresses.”
I really dig it.
November 29, 2011
“In this groundbreaking book, Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist, shows us a new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives. When faced with complex situations, we have all become accustomed to looking to our leaders to set out a plan of action and blaze a path to success. Harford argues that today’s challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinion; the world has become far too unpredictable and profoundly complex. Instead, we must adapt.”
The failure of communist Russia was “a pathological inability to experiment.”
Companies need to de-centralize if they want to innovate. This way, there will be a wider variation of ideas among all the branches.
“Accepting trial and error means accepting error.”
Hierarchies can become a series of wastebaskets, keeping feedback from reaching the top.
“It is not enough to accept dissent, sometimes you must demand dissent.”
We can’t really estimate the ROI of big risks because the payoffs could be enormous (ie: The Spitfire, an experimental fighter-jet project, essentially stopped Nazi Germany from taking over Britain and winning WW2.)
“Uncertainty is an argument for action rather than inaction.”
“Success is defined as the number of experiments that can be conducted within 24 hours.”
“We compound our losses by trying to compensate for them.”
Healthy self-doubt mindset: “I am not a failure. But I have made a mistake.”