Sunday, October 16, 2011

Steven Jobs Legacy

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on......................"

Considering what Steven Jobs may have left us:
Steven Jobs certainly left a mark on the world and fundamentally impacted the lives of virtually everyone. While he wasn’t a generous philanthropic supporter of the arts, or much else (in fact his reputation was decidedly that of the Scrooge as far as doing anything for nonprofits), nonetheless his legacy of the critical importance of creativity for business, of design in the packaging of products, of art in marketing, and of championing the aesthetic experience of end users did as much, if not more, over the past two decades to spur support for creativity in all aspects of our lives as anything else I can think of.

I ran across this on Yahoo -- Camile Gallo’s take in Entrepreneur on Jobs’ principles that “drove his success”. As Gallo says: “Over the years, I've become a student of sorts of Jobs' career and life. Here's my take on the rules and values underpinning his success. Any of us can adopt them to unleash our "inner Steve Jobs."

I have no idea if Jobs himself would embrace Gallo’s conclusions as ‘his’ operating principles, but they do seem to reflect his actions.

Here is Gallo’s list with my comments in italics as to how I think it applies to our field:

1. Do what you love. Jobs once said, "People with passion can change the world for the better."
This is the most universal advice handed down over the past half century. It is really so basic, that it hardly need be included in any list of life principles anymore. It is clearly at the heart of the artistic spirit and my guess is that it is the governing principle for most people who work in the arts sector. It is clearly one of the things that attracts people to work in the field and to become artists in the first place.

2. Put a dent in the universe. Jobs believed in the power of vision. He once asked then-Pepsi President, John Sculley, "Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?"
While I think this one too is universal, I think perhaps many of us get so caught up in the daily grind that sometimes we forget that this was our motivation when we started. Sometimes I think perhaps we confuse concepts like ‘sustainability’ for belief in transformation. The arts can put a dent in the universe, and we need to consciously think about that.

3. Make connections. Jobs once said creativity is connecting things. He meant that people with a broad set of life experiences can often see things that others miss. Don't live in a bubble. Connect ideas from different fields.
I like this one very much, and think it worthy of some discussion within our ranks, particularly as we go about the ‘business’ of the arts. I think we are underachievers in making connections.

4. Say no to 1,000 things. Jobs was as proud of what Apple chose not to do as he was of what Apple did. When he returned in Apple in 1997, he took a company with 350 products and reduced them to 10 products in a two-year period. Why? So he could put the "A-Team" on each product. What are you saying "no" to?
I am virtually certain this is one we have failed yet to master, or even fully comprehend as to its value and application. I think we identify it when we talk about focus, but we would do well in the arts to say “no” more often - to ourselves as well as those we interface with.

5. Create insanely different experiences. Jobs also sought innovation in the customer-service experience. When he first came up with the concept for the Apple Stores, he said they would be different because instead of just moving boxes, the stores would enrich lives. Everything about the experience you have when you walk into an Apple store is intended to enrich your life and to create an emotional connection between you and the Apple brand. What are you doing to enrich the lives of your customers?
Jobs and Apple seemed to love the word “insanely” as descriptive of one of the goals of the organization. I think what he meant in using the word, was that ideas need to not just be out of the box, they need to be way, way out of the box. They need to reach to be different; not just to be fun and cool, but to be on the very edge of fun and cool. We would do well to set our sights higher and to shoot for the moon as it were on a regular basis as our standard operating premise.

6. Master the message. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can't communicate your ideas, it doesn't matter. Jobs was the world's greatest corporate storyteller. Instead of simply delivering a presentation like most people do, he informed, he educated, he inspired and he entertained, all in one presentation.
I am aware there was a kind of ‘cult’ around Jobs and he had a messianic presence at Apple launch events, but I’m not sure he was that exalted a “storyteller”. I do think though that he was exceptionally perceptive and gifted at understanding what the message was – and that he knew instinctively that, at least in part, self-perception of his customers was the message. And beyond that, that how his products made people feel was as important a message as their utilitarian use.

7. Sell dreams, not products. Jobs captured our imagination because he really understood his customer. He knew that tablets would not capture our imaginations if they were too complicated. The result? One button on the front of an iPad. It's so simple, a 2-year-old can use it. Your customers don't care about your product. They care about themselves, their hopes, their ambitions. Jobs taught us that if you help your customers reach their dreams, you'll win them over.
I think Jobs understood that he needed to play to people’s dreams, and that if he could help them feel as though his products helped enable them to perceive their own desired images that they would want them. I think we are moving towards that same realization in that the arts play to people’s self images and to what makes them ‘feel’ good.

To Gallo's above principles, I might add three more that it seems to me Jobs embodied:

8. Packaging and design are as important as the content. Jobs seemed to understand the value and importance of design in the appeal of the base product. It has to do with the customer’s “experience” of using an Apple product, and how that customer feels in the process of that experience. I think this applies to the arts in the obvious way that look and feel have always been integral to an artistic experience. I think it may also apply to how we package and market the ultimate art as our product. The ‘experience’ of engaging art is probably as critical as the art itself, and likely an integral part thereof. And I think we have a lot to figure out in this area. 

9. Excellence is the only acceptable standard. Jobs and Apple seemed to adhere to this maxim. Every product had to be the penultimate version of technology at a given time. Part of that standard of excellence was, of course, defined in the experience of the end user with the product. As we in the arts begin to grapple with the ultimate experience of the individual in relationship to art, we are embarking on a journey to define “excellence” as a concept beyond content, and applicable as well to interaction with content. That is a complex and ambitious undertaking, but one I think not only essential for us at this time, but one which may pay handsome dividends as we progress.

10. Don’t Quit. Finally I think Jobs embodied the notion of never giving up. Throughout his whole career from Apple to Next to Pixar and back to Apple he found other ways to continuously move forward. That is a trait I have always admired in our sector. People in the arts are nothing if not adaptable, flexible and able to roll with the punches. Simply put, we are pretty damn good at not quitting.