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article imageOp-Ed: Innovation insights from the master, Steve Jobs

By Paul Sloane     Oct 22, 2015 in Business
Steve Jobs was adopted at birth in 1955. He grew up in California. He dropped out of college but voluntarily took a course in calligraphy. He found it beautiful and fascinating. The marriage of aesthetics and technology became his life-long obsession.
Jobs led a company which embodied the combination of art and science. He was an eclectic revolutionary. Computers, cell phones, tablets, films, animation, music and retail all felt the effects of his lateral thinking.
At the age of 21 Jobs founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in order to market the Apple I personal computer. It was followed by the Apple II which was one of the first commercially successful mass produced PCs. Jobs saw the potential of the graphical user interface and he introduced it in 1983 on the Apple Lisa which flopped and then in 1984 on the Apple Macintosh which was a breakthrough success. But he had a prickly personality and in 1985 he was forced out of the company in a power struggle.
After leaving Apple, Jobs founded NeXT, a computer platform development company. He went on to fund the launch of a new company, Pixar, which became the leader in animation and visual effects for movies. It produced the first fully computer-animated film, Toy Story.
In 1997, Apple purchased NeXT, thereby enabling Jobs to again become Apple’s CEO. At the time the company was close to bankruptcy. Jobs worked with designer Jonathan Ive to develop a stunning sequence of new product blockbusters: the iMac, iTunes, Apple Stores, the iPod, the iTunes Store, the iPhone, the App Store, and the iPad.
In 2005 the iPod portable music player was Apple’s best-selling product. It represented 45% of their revenues. But CEO Steve Jobs was uncomfortable. He foresaw a looming threat. According to his biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs said, ‘The device that can eat our lunch is the cell phone.’ Because Apple lacked the technical skills in this field he sought to collaborate with a dominant player in mobile telephony, Motorola.
However, this did not work well so Jobs made the decision to go it alone. He empowered his team to design something radical and they did. They eschewed the keyboard as used by the then market leaders Blackberry and Nokia. Instead they developed the touch screen. The Apple iPhone was launched in 2007 and became the market leader in the mobile phone market. By 2015 iPhone sales were 63% of Apple’s turnover while the iPod was down to less than 1%.
Jobs was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour in 2003 and after a long struggle he died in October 2011.
Lessons for innovators
Technical excellence in your product is not sufficient. It is the combination of form and function which matters. Jobs understood that customers would love high-tech products if they were beautiful as well as functional.
Jobs famously disdained focus groups. He believed that if you asked customers what they wanted they would request bland incremental improvements. He was convinced that the innovator should create something so different and wonderful that it would attract customers who never knew they wanted such a thing. The Apple iPad is a classic example.
Never be happy with your current successes. Each is temporary. Just like the iPod. Start planning your next great innovation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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