Possible Lessons from Steve Jobs’ Entrepreneurial Journey

(p. 4) GOOD IDEAS TAKE TIME After he was ousted from Apple, Mr. Jobs founded NeXT in 1985. It produced a powerful desktop computer, a stylish black cube, and its initial market was going to be in education. The idea was that the machine would be more than hardware and software; it would also offer content, “a universe of wisdom,” recalls Michael Hawley, a computer scientist who worked closely with Mr. Jobs at NeXT and lived part time in Mr. Jobs’s house, as Mr. Hawley shuttled between California and his post at the M.I.T. Media Lab.
NeXT computers, in Mr. Jobs’s vision, would marry technology and the liberal arts by including digital books, music and art. Mr. Jobs began pursuing the rights to works that could be converted to digital form. He persuaded a few publishers that because they would save the expense of paper, printing and distribution, NeXT should pay a royalty that was a fraction of the cost of a printed book. Mr. Jobs, Mr. Hawley recalled, struck a deal with the Oxford University Press for the complete works of Shakespeare for a royalty of $1 a digital copy.
NeXT’s foray into education fizzled; its machines were too expensive for that market. But Mr. Jobs’s concept and business model for digital media were “the instinct that was translated to Apple with the iTunes store, 99-cents-a-song pricing and all the media offerings that have followed,” Mr. Hawley says.
“When Steve believed in an idea, he was both passionate and patient, scratching away over the years until he got it right,” says Mr. Hawley, a scientist, concert pianist and host of the EG Conference, an annual gathering for technologists, educators and people in media and entertainment.
DON’T DWELL ON MISTAKES Steve Capps, a computer scientist, describes creating the Macintosh, which shipped in 1984, as a constant process of making decisions — part experiment and part product development, with steps ahead mixed with many setbacks. “Steve kind of knew what he wanted, but he didn’t precisely,” says Mr. Capps, who designed software for Macintosh.
Mr. Jobs, Mr. Capps remembers, was the arbiter on countless hardware, software and design choices. “His combination of incisiveness and decisiveness, I think, really explained his success,” Mr. Capps says.
Mr. Jobs was also decisive in recognizing mistakes, even when they were his own. For example, he favored one model of a disk drive — for reading computer programs stored on small, removable so-called floppy disks — while other members of the team championed another design. They kept their disk project going surreptitiously. When they showed him the result, he embraced it. “He turned on a dime,” Mr. Capps says. “Don’t dwell on your mistakes. It’s a great lesson.”
PASSION COUNTS FOR A LOT The relentless intensity and total commitment that Mr. Jobs brought to his work, former colleagues and friends agree, had a simple explanation: he genuinely enjoyed what he did and found it worthwhile.
Andy Hertzfeld, a member of original Macintosh team who is now an engineer at Google, says: “The most important thing that I learned from Steve is to always follow your heart. He believed that the only way to do truly great work is to adore what you are doing.”
Mr. Jobs made a lot of money over the years, for himself and for Apple shareholders. But money never seemed to be his principal motivation. One day in the late 1990s, Mr. Jobs and I were walking near his home in Palo Alto. Internet stocks were getting bubbly at the time, and Mr. Jobs spoke of the proliferation of start-ups, with so many young entrepreneurs focused on an “exit strategy,” selling their companies for a quick and hefty profit.
“It’s such a small ambition and sad really,” Mr. Jobs said. “They should want to build something, something that lasts.”

For the full commentary, see:
STEVE LOHR. “The Power of Taking the Big Chance.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., October 9, 2011): 4.
(Note: bold in original.)
(Note: online version of the commentary is dated October 8, 2011.)
(Note: the same title, on the same page, was used as heading for two different articles on Steve Jobs–Lohr’s on the left side, and Stross’ on the right side.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *