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‘I lived in complete and utter fear of Steve’: Guy Kawasaki

‘I lived in complete and utter fear of Steve’: Guy Kawasaki

A former Apple employee outlines the 10 lessons he learnt from Steve Jobs

"He [Steve Jobs] would not hesitate to tell people, in front of the whole division, what a bozo, clueless person you were": Guy Kawasaki

"He [Steve Jobs] would not hesitate to tell people, in front of the whole division, what a bozo, clueless person you were": Guy Kawasaki

Apple’s former chief evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, gave a rundown of the 10 lessons he learnt from the late Steve Jobs in his keynote speech at CeBIT yesterday.

“He was a fantastic person – a difficult person to work for, very mercurial, very demanding. All the great HR practices that you’ve all learnt about meeting with your employees and developing goals and helping people reach their goals – Steve did none of that,” he told the audience.

Kawasaki, who worked at Apple twice, initially marketing the Macintosh in 1984 before returning in 1995, admitted that he lived in “complete and utter fear” of Steve Jobs.

“He would not hesitate to tell people, in front of the whole division, what a bozo, clueless person you were and I just lived in terrible fear of that. Having said that I would not trade working for Steve Jobs for anything in my past,” he said.

Kawasaki is now chief evangelist at Sydney start-up, Canva.

Below are the 10 lessons he learnt while working for Steve Jobs.

1. Learn to ignore naysayers

“If you’re an innovator, you’re a revolutionary and you want to build a great tech company, you need to ignore naysayers,” Kawasaki said.

These are the clueless, pessimistic people who say things can’t and should not be done.

“Many people told Apple that when we created the Macintosh. Many people told Apple that when we created the Apple stores,” he said.

“Naysayers is a form of ‘bozosity’, when you’re clueless, you’re a clown.”

An example of bozosity, he said, was when Western Union wrote off the potential of telephony in 1876.

2. Customers can’t tell you what they need

Customers in the mid-1980s told Apple they wanted a bigger, faster, cheaper Apple II, Kawasaki said. He believes Apple would have died if it built the next Apple II.

“Great innovation occurs when you don’t listen to your customers – when you use your passion and your vision and insight and you create what you believe they will need, or they will come to need or that you can convince them they need, which is what Steve [Jobs] did,” he said.

3. Innovation happens on the ‘next’ curve

“If you are a typewriter business, it’s not about making better typewriters. If you are a letter quality printer company, it’s not about adding more typefaces,” said Kawasaki.

It’s about making the leap to the next curve of innovation. He used the example of the once thriving ‘ice harvesting’ industry in America.

“During the winter months, people would go to frozen lakes and ponds with saws and horses and cut blocks of ice. In 1900, 9 million pounds of ice was harvested,” he said.

Kawasaki called this Ice 1.0. Around 30 years later, during Ice 2.0, ice factories froze water, a major technological breakthrough because ice could be produced anywhere and at any time of year.

“30 years go by and we have the refrigerator curve, this is Ice 3.0, now everybody has a personalised factory, a PC or ‘personal chiller."

“None of the ice harvesters became ice factories and none of the ice factories became refrigerator companies because most companies start on the curve and die on the same curve. It’s because they define their business as what they currently do.”

4. Design counts

“Apple computer is successful because of great design,” he said, before describing the Apple MacBook Air as looking like a solid block of aluminium carved by Tibetan monks.

“This is a work of art. Design counts,” he said.

5. Democratisation is a good thing

When all the dust settles, Apple is in the business of ‘democratising’ technology, Kawasaki said.

He said during the very early days of the PC, people would need to drive to university, a large company or a government department to use a computer.

“Apple changed all that. Democratisation is a great thing, that’s what Apple stands for. When IBM joined the personal computer business, Apple welcomed it.”

6. Less is more

Kawasaki compared a typical PowerPoint slide produced by Steve Jobs with large graphics and only seven words in large type to a confusing text and image-heavy slide presented by Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates.

“In design, in presentations, just about everywhere you communicate, less is more,” he said. “The optimal number of slides in your PowerPoint presentation is 10.”

7. Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence

In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and said: “Our innovative approach using Web 2.0-based standards lets developers create amazing new applications, while keeping the iPhone secure and reliable.”

Kawasaki translated this as Jobs saying there will be no standalone apps for the iPhone – if developers wanted to create an app for a iPhone, it needed to be a Safari plug in.

A year went by and Apple issued a media release saying that it would showcase Mac OS X Leopard and OS X iPhone development platforms at the World Wide Developers conference.

“A year later, he said ‘we are opening up iPhone, now you can create standalone apps’, completely reversing himself,” said Kawasaki.

“That was part of the genius of Steve Jobs. When he found out he was wrong, he did not hesitate to change his mind. It takes a lot of courage and intellectual power and he did it.”

8. Value is not the same as price

Value is the total impact of a computer, the total impact of software – it’s not just the purchase price, it’s support, it’s service, virus checking and training, Kawasaki said.

“Nobody ever bought anything from Apple because it was the lowest price. Apple sells connectors for $30 that cost 50 cents to make.”

9. A players hire A+ players

Kawasaki advised entrepreneurs, and company CEOs with engineering backgrounds to hire sales, finance and marketing people that are “better than you.”

“Everybody that you hire should be better than you, including your VP of engineering and your CTO.

"You want to be the second best person of all your direct reports because if you have a team like that they will carry forth the battle for you,” he said.

“By contrast, B players hire C players, C players hire D players. If you start hiring B players, you are going to wake up one day and you are going to be surrounded by Z players. That is what we call in Silicon Valley, the 'bozo explosion.'"

10. Create something valuable and unique

Creating a product or service that is valuable and unique is the most important message of marketing, said Kawasaki.

“That’s where Apple made money, made margin, made history,” he said.

As an example of a valuable and unique product, watchmaker, Breitling sells a watch that sends a signal users can broadcast to emergency services if they are in trouble, he said.

“If you are a sailor, hiker or skier and you might go off course, alone and dying, that watch can save your life,” he said.

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