It’s impossible to work in digital and not to write a bit about Steve Jobs this morning. I have a bit of a different take, as usual, and I want to put Steve in the middle of what’s going on with the demonstrations on Wall Street and elsewhere. You see, I think one of the big lessons Steve taught us is exactly at the root of what has pushed thousands of people into the streets and I’d love to know if you feel the same way.
This isn’t going to be a political diatribe since we don’t do that here. This is about business. I apologize in advance if it comes across that way. Then again, maybe you’ve got a guilty conscience?
I’ve been a computer user for many decades. One of the first computers I used (outside of dial-in terminals) was an Apple II, and I’ve only come back to Apple computers in the last year (no lectures from my tech friends, please) after a long time on Windows-based products. The most striking thing about my MacBook is that it just works. It doesn’t crash, software updates are intuitive and seemless, and when I add a new program or a piece of hardware, it does what I expect it to do without my having to find some web page that tells me how to fix it.
Steve was legendary about his attention to detail. There’s a story about how he called a Google executive to apologize about the yellow gradient in Google’s logo on the iPhone display and how he promised to get it fixed. On a Sunday. It was something no one but Steve saw. That attention to detail on something that might concern a partner was typical. He was even more attentive when it came to the look, feel, and performance of Apple’s products with consumers.
Fast forward to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. We can discuss the root causes but to me it’s about people being fed up – at government, at the financial community, and maybe even a bit at themselves for letting the economy and our political system get to where it is. I think that same stuff underlies the Tea Party movement – people are fed up at being ignored or taken for granted. They see no alternatives – there is no other economy or government.
So here is the thing. Steve Jobs recognized that consumers did have a choice – there were MP3 players before the iPod, cell phones before the iPhone, and obviously there were PC’s. He made what Apple produced better than anything on the market that had similar functionality. The products were magical and as perfect as he could get the company to make them. Although Apple claims not to do market research, Steve had what we used to call in TV a “golden gut” – he completely understood his customer and in designing for himself most of the time he’d hit the consumer mark as well. That was his gift – I’m not sure we can all do it quite that way. Unlike the people in the streets around this country, your customers probably have a choice so they won’t take to the streets to demand you fix what you’re doing. They’ll just stop buying.
When customers get fed up, they leave. If you’re not paying attention to detail, not listening to feedback, and propagating your own agenda over that of your consumer, your company is heading for trouble. That’s the big thing I take away from Steve Jobs and the point Wall Street and Washington seem to miss. They need to start listening and focusing on better solutions that serve their customers (that’s us, folks) with a strong attention to detail. Shouldn’t we all do the same?