Sunday, April 21, 2013

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

by Drew Martin
I am not an Apple fanatic or a Steve Jobs fan, but yesterday I watched a fascinating interview with him, Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview. It was discovered in 2012 and features Jobs in 1995, a year before he returns to Apple. At the conclusion, a text screen reads: What followed was a corporate renaissance unparalleled in American business history. With innovative products like iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Stores, Jobs turned an almost bankrupt Apple into the most valuable company in America.

When Jobs speaks about Apple standing still after his departure, and that it is slowly dying without him, it is hard not to think he is speaking from the grave with all of the negative press about plummeting Apple stock and much criticism over its behemoth new headquarters construction project.

This interview is fascinating because he digs deep to reflect on the previous successes of Apple. He returns many times to the concept that there is a lot of craftsmanship between a good idea and a good product.

When asked about his vision, "How do you know what is the right direction?" Jobs gives one of his most thoughtful answers:

Ultimately it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done. And then try to bring those things into what you are doing. Picasso had a saying, he said 'good artists copy, great artists steal.' We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas. And I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world. But if it hadn't been for computer science, these people would have been, you know, doing amazing things in life in other fields. And they brought with them - we all brought to this effort - a very liberal arts air, a very liberal arts attitude that we wanted to pull in the best that we saw in other fields into this field. And I don't think you get that if you're narrow.

I love the simple influences he mentions that shaped him. One example is of an article he read in Scientific American when he was much younger about the locomotive effectiveness of all creatures on Earth. Humans scored poorly, in the lower third of a study that ranked the condor above all other animals. But, as Jobs marvels, someone had the brilliance to include a human on a bicycle, which blew away the condor. He used this as a metaphor to promote computers as the amplification of our mental abilities. An early advertisement for the company referred to Apple as the bicycle of the mind.

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview is a must-see for all designers, start-up entrepreneurs, and business leaders. There is a lot of advice and warning in his responses. He says people and companies get confused when they get bigger because they try to replicate their initial success; they think the magic is in the process, so they institutionalize the process. Process is mistaken for content, but it is the content that makes a great product.