Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: Steve Jobs

I wasn't going to read the Steve Jobs biography. I figured I knew enough of his and Apple's history that I wouldn't pick up that much new. Still, so many friends recommended it, I figured I'd give it a chance.

So much has been said about it that I feel a lengthy review isn't going to add much. Instead I'll give some high level impressions and a few interesting points and leave it at that.

The biography is interesting, but overrated. Jobs was certainly an interesting, super-driven guy with a passion for well crafted product. He was also quite an asshole (which the book does admit) as well as selfish and childish (which the book touches on but less so).

While the book mentions that he was guilty of taking credit for others' ideas, it then credits him with many of others' ideas. That said, there's something to be said for recognizing good ideas from the many placed before him, and creating an environment that pushes those ideas to be better.

In the end, the lesson is that a passion for craftsmanship, perfection, and simplicity, and placing these before profit, can yield great results. We should all strive to emulate Jobs a little in this sense.

One of the best examples, I think, of that striving for perfection is glossed over at the end of the book when discussing the plans for Apple's new campus built on HP's former campus in Cupertino. The campus is going to be a giant donut-like structure that looks like this:

Given it's massive size, one could imagine that the windows, if they were say, 8' segments, would be very close to the perfect circle. However, Jobs called for *curved* glass to be made so that it would truly be a  perfect circle. Imagine the difference in cost over that size of structure.

Steve Jobs


Patrick said...

It would cost more for Apple but the vendor is making more revenue which will then be circulated on all the salaries and rents and so on, so in the big scheme of things it's not more expensive, just more awesome.

I wonder if the correlation between "greatness" and extreme personalities is based on anything fundamental, like you can't be a world-changing genius without being kind of a jerk.

Kim Pallister said...

On the latter point, I have a friend who's theory is that an overwhelming majority of founder-CEOs are sociopaths.

Not to say they all are, but that they have a better chance of making it work and doing what needs to be done to make a company succeed (working people hard; being ruthless about firing when it's necesary, etc.

I have no data but have seen enough anecdotal proof that I think the theory has some merit.