Like everyone else in America who still reads I am deeply engrossed in Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs.
It’s a remarkably honest and thorough account. It introduces us to Steve’s early influences. It explains the genesis of his design obsession. It reveals his many flaws.
While the entire book chronicles the story of Steve’s life from childhood to the end, every chapter is a story in its own right. You probably have your favorite. The lost battle with John Sculley. The launch of Macintosh. The board trying to kill the best ever Super Bowl spot. (They failed because Chiat Day secretly refused to sell off the media.) Jobs’ questionably hesitant but triumphant return. The complex rivalry between Jobs and his sometimes nemesis, sometimes friend, one time savior Bill Gates. Or on another front, the confrontations with Michael Eisner that prompted Disney to back off its ill-advised attempt to re-write Toy Story.
Readers can cull endless lessons from these stories: how to simplify, how to believe in an idea, how to adhere to standards, how to trust your intuition, how not to back down. In some cases – personal hygiene, treatment of friends and family – we can also learn what not to do.
But one of my favorite lessons doesn’t come from Steve. It’s attributed to Mike Markkula. Upon his official return to Apple in 1997, Jobs fired Markkula from the board and then asked Mike to join him on one of his long walks. Jobs told the former chairman that his goal was to build a company that would endure. He asked Markkula’s advice. Markkula shared this.
“Lasting companies know how to re-invent themselves. Hewlett-Packard had done that repeatedly; it started as an instrument company, then a computer company. Apple has been sideline by Microsoft in the PC business. (by then Apple’s market share had plummeted from 16 percent to four percent). You’ve got to reinvent the company to do some other thing, like consumer products or devices. You’ve got to be like a butterfly and have a metamorphosis.”*
The language and the metaphor may not sound brilliant. But you sure can’t argue with the advice. According to Isaacson, Jobs didn’t say much that day in 1997, but clearly he agreed.
Lasting companies know how to re-invent themselves. I think the same might even be said for individuals.
Got a favorite story from the book of Jobs? Please share. And as always, thanks for stopping by.
Photo “borrowed” from Christopher Dernbach’s blog Mac History.
*Excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, page 320.