in Business Design

Steve Jobs on managing for innovation

From an interview in BusinessWeek

On motives:

…motives make so much difference. …our primary goal here is to make the world’s best PCs — not to be the biggest or the richest. We have a second goal, which is to always make a profit — both to make some money but also so we can keep making those great products. For a time, those goals got flipped at Apple, and that subtle change made all the difference. When I got back, we had to make it a product company again.

On creating a design culture:

You need a very product-oriented culture, even in a technology company. Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together. Otherwise, you can get great pieces of technology all floating around the universe. But it doesn’t add up to much.

…and losing it:

Some very good product people invent some very good products, and the company achieves a monopoly. But after that, the product people aren’t the ones that drive the company forward anymore. It’s the marketing guys…
And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy. John Akers at IBM is the consummate example. Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason. But by then the best product people have left, or they’re no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn’t.

On juggling:

I did everything in the early days — documentation, sales, supply chain, sweeping the floors, buying chips, you name it. I put computers together with my own two hands…. Not everyone knows it, but three months after I came back to Apple, my chief operating guy quit. I couldn’t find anyone internally or elsewhere that knew as much as he did, or as I did. So I did that job for nine months.

On systematizing innovation:

The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process… But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient. But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea… And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.

On the company story:

When I got back here, Apple had forgotten who we were. Remember that “Think Different” ad campaign we ran? It was certainly for customers to some degree, but it was even more for Apple itself.

You can tell a lot about a person by who his or her heroes are. That ad was to remind us of who our heroes are and who we are. We forgot that for a while. Companies sometimes forget who they are. Sometimes they remember again, and sometimes they don’t.