Articles: Wisdom Collected from Interviews, Books, and More

This page shares my best articles to read on topics like creativity, decision making, strategy, and more. The central questions I explore are, “How can we learn the best of what others have mastered? And how can we become the best possible version of ourselves?”

Humankind progresses by adding to our shared body of knowledge. We all benefit from the insights of our ancestors. I like the idea of leaving a great “intellectual inheritance” and I’m trying to add a little bit of knowledge to the pile by curating the best ideas throughout history.

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Daniel Scrivner

Interview with Steve Jobs: Insisting on Only the Best People, Products, and Purpose

The story of Steve Jobs is the story of a young college drop-out who sojourned to India in search of purity and enlightenment, returned to the U.S., and founded Apple Computer.

Was dabbling with Hinduism the key to success for a 20-year-old with little money and a modest technical background?

Perhaps. High school buddy Steve Wozniak—by all accounts a brilliant tinkerer and engineer—and Jobs collaborated on several "projects" during their adolescence, including hacking into phone company networks and making video games. Yet, over time, their individual responsibilities remained well-defined: Wozniak mainly designed and built the product, and Jobs scrambled to find customers, coworkers, and components. Eventually the projects became of value to others and Jobs persuaded Wozniak in 1976 to devote his energy to a partnership—Apple Computer.

Many would-be entrepreneurs, lacking money or strong business experience, become stymied by the challenges of obtaining financing and recruiting people to join in working for what is essentially an idea. Yet Jobs doggedly cajoled suppliers and retail outlets to provide Apple with low pricing and extended credit. His apathy for maintaining his outward appearance—he often showed up to meetings barefoot and bearded—didn't appear to lessen his zeal. Instead, his aggressiveness netted the help of several engineers, marketing firms, and venture capitalists.

The product of Wozniak's astounding engineering feats and Jobs' relentless ambition, Apple's mainstream computer, the Apple II, began selling like wildfire. The company mush-roomed, with the Apple Il bringing in huge profits. Media attention turned toward Silicon Valley, and Jobs, the master salesman, graced the cover of Time in 1982.

Jobs, however, is best known in the computer industry for leading the team that developed the boldly-designed computer used by millions today: the Apple Macintosh. During a demonstration of a prototype computer at the famed Xerox PARC, Jobs and other Apple employees were astounded by a computer that displayed graphical icons and pull-down menus in its operating system. The computer even allowed the user to issue commands from a small, wheeled device (a mouse). The demonstration's impact on the Apple team cannot be over-estimated—Jobs scrambled to rewrite Apple's plan for its next computer, the Lisa, in order to accommodate the revolutionary ideas and logic of the Xerox PARC prototype. In its most basic description, the Lisa was the mother of the Macintosh.

Targeted at corporate America, Lisa was a powerful computer destined to leapfrog its competition, but instead floundered in the marketplace mainly due to its hefty $10,000 price tag.

During this time, Jobs recruited Pepsi marketing executive John Sculley to join Apple as CEO. Jobs' management responsibility shifted to leading product development for a pint-sized version of Lisa, code-named Macintosh. Jobs zealousness and management style drove the Macintosh team to sustained levels of intense work: seventy-plus hour weeks for months at a stretch became the norm. When later asked to explain their incredible work ethic, Macintosh team developers spoke of a sense of importance to their work, a messianic belief that the Macintosh would not only change computing, it would change the world.

Yet, after an initial spurt of sales to early adopters and yuppies, Macintosh sales lagged behind forecasts. Dissension in the nine-year-old company grew. Jobs and Sculley, once partners, became bitter enemies and attempted various power plays to remove each other. Politically more astute and agile than Jobs, Sculley won the showdown and Jobs was forced to retreat.

Jobs soon left the company with several key Apple employees in tow and started NeXT, his bid to revolutionize computing a second time. After a string of disappointing hardware product initiatives, NeXT boasted an estimated $60 million in yearly revenues in 1996—very respectable for a software company, but disappointing perhaps to those who expected nothing less than another rabbit hat trick and billion dollar revenues.

However, Steve Jobs still does magic. In an ironic twist to this Silicon Valley soap opera, Apple Computer decided to purchase NeXT for $400 million at the end of 1996. Why?

Apple, by the end of 1996, was desperately struggling to revamp its own operating system and boost lagging sales. It needed a new vision, and chose NeXT—among several other potential companies—to fulfill that vision. Apple's reasons behind the purchase were widely speculated upon in the press, and many journalists had critical comments about Apple's strategy behind the acquisition-after all, NeXT only posted an annual profit once in the past four years, and was a market share laggard. Will NeXT—and Steve Jobs—be able to help save Apple? Only time will tell.

Fate rarely presents entrepreneurs more than one golden opportunity for commercial success. But Steve Jobs manages to defy the odds. Longing to enter computer animation, Jobs acquired the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, renamed it Pixar, and helped shepherd it to a successful launch of a computer-generated feature film (Toy Story) and a public stock offering that pushed Jobs' estimated wealth well over the $500 million mark.

Yet, in the final analysis, Steve Jobs built a team of tremendously motivated and talented people who were able to truly change the world. All from a small company that started out of a suburban California garage.

We met with Steve Jobs at NeXT's corporate headquarters in Redwood City, California.

Interview Transcript

What talent do you think you consistently brought to Apple and bring to NeXT and Pixar?

I think that I've consistently figured out who really smart people were to hang around with. No major work that I have been involved with has been work that can be done by a single person, or two people, or even three or four people. Some people can do one thing magnificently, like Michaelangelo, and others make things like semiconductors or build 747 airplanes—that type of work requires legions of people. In order to do things well that can't be done by one person, you must find extraordinary people.

The key observation is that, in most things in life, the dynamic range between average quality and the best quality is, at most, two-to-one. For example, if you were in New York and compared the best taxi to an average taxi, you might get there 20 percent faster. In terms of computers, the best PC is perhaps 30 percent better than the average PC. There is not much difference in magnitude. Rarely you find a difference of 2 to 1. Pick anything.

But, in the field that I was interested in-originally, hardware design—I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you're well advised to go after the cream of the cream. That's what we've done. You can then build a team that pursues the A + players. A small team of A + players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players. That’s what I’ve tried to do.

So you think your talent is in recruiting?

It's not just recruiting. After recruiting, it's then building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and that their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision—all of those things. Recruiting usually requires more than you alone can do, so I've found that collaborative recruiting and having a culture that recruits the A players is the best way. Any interviewee will speak with at least a dozen people in several areas of this company, not just those in the area that he would work in. That way a lot of your A employees get broad exposure to the company, and—by having a company culture that supports them if they feel strongly enough—the current employees can veto a candidate.

That seems very time-consuming.

Yes, it is. We've interviewed people where nine out of ten employees thought the candidate was terrific, one employee really had a problem with the candidate, and therefore we didn't hire him. The process is hard, very time-consuming, and can lead to real problems if not managed right. But it's a very good way, all in all.

Yet, in a typical startup, a manager may not always have time to spend recruiting other people.

I disagree totally. I think it's the most important job. Assume you're by yourself in a startup and you want a partner. You'd take a lot of time finding the partner, right? He would be half of your company. Why should you take any less time finding a third of your company or a fourth of your company or a fifth of your company? When you're in a startup, the first ten people will determine whether the company succeeds or not. Each is ten percent of the company. So why wouldn't you take as much time as necessary to find all A players? If three were not so great why would you want a company where thirty percent of your people are not so great? A small company depends on great people much more than a big company does.

But, what about the need for speed when taking your product to market? Wouldn't recruiting in this manner take away time from getting your product to market quickly?

You'd better have great people or you won't get your product to market as fast as possible. Or, you might get a product to market really fast but it will be really clunky and nobody will buy it. There are no shortcuts around quality, and quality starts with people. Maybe shortcuts exist, but I'm not smart enough to have ever found any.

I spend 20 percent of my time recruiting even now. I spend a day a week helping people recruit. It's one of the most important things you can do.

If finding the A players is so important, how can you tell who is an A player and who isn't?

That's a very hard question. Ultimately there are two paths. If a candidate has been in the workplace for a while, you have to look at the results. There are people who look so good on paper and talk such a good story but have no results behind them. They can't point to breakthroughs or successful products that they shipped and played an integral part in. Ultimately the results should lead you to the people. As a matter of fact that's how I find great people. I look at great results and I find out who was responsible for them.

However, sometimes young people haven't had the opportunity yet to be in a position of influence to create such results. So here you must evaluate potential. It's certainly more difficult, but the primary attributes of potential are intelligence and the ability to learn quickly.

Much of it is also drive and passion-hard work makes up for a lot.

When you recruit you're rolling the dice. No matter what, you're rolling the dice because you've only got an hour to assess the candidate. The most time I spend with somebody is an hour and I must then recommend whether we hire the person or not. Others will recommend, too, so I won't be the only one but I'll still have to throw my vote in the hat. Ultimately it comes down to your gut feeling. Your gut feeling gets refined as you hire more people and see how they do. Some you thought would do well don't and you can sense why. If you study it a bit you might say, "I thought this person was going to do well but I overlooked this aspect," or "I didn't think this person would do well but they did and here's why." As you hire people over time your gut instinct gets better and more precise.

Over time, my digging in during an interview gets more precise. For example, many times in an interview I will purposely upset some-one: I'll criticize their prior work. I'll do my homework, find out what they worked on and say, "God, that really turned out to be a bomb.

That really turned out to be a bozo product. Why did you work on that?" I shouldn't say this in your book, but the worse thing that someone can do in an interview is to agree with me and knuckle under.

What I look for is for someone to come right back and say, "You're dead wrong and here's why." I want to see what people are like under pressure. I want to see if they just fold or if they have firm conviction, belief, and pride in what they did. It's also good every once in a while to really piss somebody off in an interview to see how they react because, if your company is a meritocracy of ideas, with passionate people, you have a company with a lot of arguments. If people can't stand up and argue well under pressure they may not do well in such an environment.

You mentioned how important it is to find good people, regardless of the time to market issue. Yet, when you first started Apple it seemed as if you were just hiring people as fast as you could.

In the early days of Apple we were just trying to hire people that knew more than we did about anything and that wasn't hard because we didn't know a lot. The problem was not that we could find people who knew more than we did. That was easy. The problem was that we were pretty quick studies and before too long, we knew more than they did and we'd ask questions that they couldn't answer because they never really thought about it.

That was tough because we'd sometimes hire good people and they didn't have the ability to grow as fast as we needed them to grow, because in any young company your perspectives are changing monthly as you learn more. People have to be able to change and adapt and really be able to see things from new points of view. If they get stuck in their own points of view, it gets very difficult.

What do you mean by getting stuck in their own points of view?

I'll give you an example. One of the reasons why Apple was successful was because we built the [computer] dealer channel. The dealer channel did not exist before Apple built it. And, one of the things Apple did to build the dealer channel was to finance it by extending dealers credit when they were really not creditworthy.

So, we were extending credit, and when dealers were going broke, we ate the cost of goods—that's part of the cost of building the channel. We quickly realized that we would have a lot less credit exposure if we could get our product to the dealer very fast because then they would not have to stock a lot of inventory. So, we created big distribution centers in several places around the country and dealers could get product shipped to them within twenty-four hours. This way, the dealer wouldn't have to stock much inventory, and we wouldn't have to extend them much credit.

After this system was established, I once asked Fred Smith [the CEO of Federal Express] how much would it cost to ship a Mac anywhere in the country directly from Apple to the customer within two days. He thought about it, did his calculations, and said about $27.10 went back to Apple and analyzed our current distribution system which by this time took about three weeks from the factory to the customer. And, even worse, we found out that it cost us $57.

So, I proposed to our people that we completely eliminate the distribution warehouses, have FedEx just pick up Macs at the back of our factories, and have our computers link into Federal Express' tracking systems in order to eliminate paperwork and get the product from the factory to the customer within 48 hours. This way we would eliminate several hundred jobs and tons of computer systems, tons of bricks and mortar, while still getting the product to the customer three weeks sooner. But, I got my head shot off because people couldn't change their perspective.

Explain that a little more. What do you mean by "people couldn't change their perspective?"

Well, generally it's because people never know or forget what they're really doing—that is, what the benefit is to what they're really doing.

Our distribution centers forgot that what they were really all about was getting product from Apple to its customers really fast. They thought they were about a whole lot of other things like personal relationships with the customer. They had taken over some sales functions, and it became a real mess. Eventually, the industry went the way of mail-order. Dell Computer was built on that model. Apple could have done what Dell did much sooner.

But, usually, people never think that much about what they re doing or why they do it. They just do it because that's the way it has been done and it works. That type of thinking doesn't work if you're growing fast and if you're up against some larger companies. You really have to out-think them and you have to be able to make those paradigm shifts in your points of view.

In addition to finding the right people, you also stated that building the environment of the company is important. What things can management do to create the right environment and culture of a young company?

Hewlett and Packard, of course, set the tone for the modern intellectual property-based company. They did such a good job of it that the rest of us have only built on their foundation. I'll explain this in a different way than they did. Most of the companies here create intellectual property. They are pure intellectual property companies. Some are different: Intel, for example, has billions of dollars in factories, but most companies don't.

Most of the companies in Silicon Valley succeed or fail based on their ability to have breakthrough ideas and implement those ideas. The implementation is primarily intellectual property—writing software and figuring out designs of one type or another. When your primary product is essentially bits on a disk or on a wire, your primary assets are human capital, not financial capital. And, since demand for people is greater than the supply, you must offer those people something more than a paycheck and stock options. You must offer them the ability to make larger decisions and to be a part of the core company. That involvement is what drives much of this fun.

For example, you want people to make key company decisions without you even knowing it. They'd better have access to most of the company's information, so you'd better have an open communication policy so that people can know just about everything, otherwise they will make important decisions without the right information. That would be really stupid. Generally technology companies are very open. Generally they are driven by the meritocracy of ideas, not by hierarchy.

If there is someone really good four levels down—and you don't listen to them—they'll go somewhere else that will listen to them.

Hierarchy takes on a different meaning when people you work for are your coaches, not your bosses. If you're in Silicon Valley, you're your own boss because you don't have a contract. Silicon Valley does not work on contracts the way some industries do. If you don't like the way things are at one company, and if you're good, then you can leave anytime and go anywhere else. In fact, headhunters are calling you every week. All you have to do is take one of those calls and you're out of there. The whole power structure of an intellectual property-driven enterprise of good people is turned upside down. The CEO has the least power and the people with the most power are the hotshot individual contributors. They work as pure individual contributors and have more power than anybody because they come up with product.

Now, I'm exaggerating a little because middle managers are extraordinarily important—they hire and nurture these talented hotshots.

Fundamentally, though, it would not be too distorted to say that the traditional corporate pyramid is completely inverted. That's the way it ought to be. Silicon Valley has pioneered the way that many businesses will need to be run as we enter the next century, where more and more companies are pure intellectual property interests.

That's nice from a theoretical standpoint. But from a practical stand-point, what does that mean? Does having access to information and "knowing just about everything" mean that a talented programmer can walk in your office and open your file cabinet whenever he wishes?

No. That wouldn't be appropriate because that's not showing respect for individuals and I'm an individual too. What it means is that employees can know things. We get the whole company together once a month and tell everybody everything that's going on. More companies are doing that but many don't.

And you also ask for suggestions and inputs.

Sure. That happens constantly. We'll stand up and say, "We just lost this order and here's why." Or, "We just won three orders and this is how the new product's coming, and this is how another product is slipping."

Whatever it might be: good news or bad news. And we talk about strategies. Once a year we go offsite for two days and bring the whole company, even the receptionists—we figure they might as well know what's going on too. We discuss company strategy: where we're going, where we're screwing up, and our plan for the coming year. We refocus and resynchronize everything once a year. We have heated discussions at those meetings, too. It costs a lot of money, but is incredibly valuable.

We've talked about the talent that you bring to companies. What do you think your weaknesses are when it comes to management?

I don't know. People are package deals; you take the good with the confused.

In most cases, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. A strength in one situation is a weakness in another, yet often the person can't switch gears. It's a very subtle thing to talk about strengths and weaknesses because almost always they're the same thing.

My strength probably is that I've always viewed technology from a liberal arts perspective, from a human culture perspective. As such, I've always pushed for things that pulled technology in those directions by bringing insights from other fields. An example of that would be—with the Macintosh-desktop publishing: its proportionately spaced fonts, its ease of use. All of the desktop publishing stuff on the Mac comes from books: the typography, that rich feel that nobody in computers knew anything about. I think that my other strength is that I'm a pretty good judge of people and have the ability to bring people together around a common vision.

Well then, when are your strengths-judgment of character and liberal arts perspective-your weaknesses?

In certain cases my weaknesses are that I'm too idealistic. Realize that sometimes best is the enemy of better. Sometimes I go for "best" when I should go for "better," and end up going nowhere or backwards. I'm not always wise enough to know when to go for the best and when to just go for better. Sometimes I'm blinded by "what could be" versus "what is possible," doing things incrementally versus doing them in one fell swoop. Balancing the ideal and the practical is something I still must pay attention to.

In terms of going for the best, you have a widely held reputation of being extremely charismatic-someone who is always able to draw out the best in other people. How have you been able to motivate your employees?

Well, I think that-ultimately, it's the work that motivates people. I sometimes wish it were me, but it's not. It's the work. My job is to stretch beyond their best. But it's ultimately the work that motivates people. That's what binds them together.

Yet, in the case of the Macintosh you got tremendous output from people. Regardless of the type of work, not everybody can elicit that type of commitment.

Well, I'm not sure I'd chalk that up to charisma. Part of the CEO's job is to cajole and beg and plead and threaten, at times-to do whatever is necessary to get people to see things in a bigger and more profound way than they have, and to do better work than they thought they could do.

When they do their best and you don't think it's enough, you tell them straight: "This isn't good enough. I know you can do better. You need to do better. Now go do better."

You must play those cards carefully. You must be right a lot of the time, because you're messing with people's lives. But that's part of the job. In the end, it's the environment you create, the coworkers, and the work that binds. The Macintosh team, if you talk to most of them—a dozen years since we shipped the product—most will still say that working on the Mac was the most meaningful experience of their lives. If we'd never shipped a product they wouldn't say that. If the product hadn't been so good they wouldn't say that. The Macintosh experience wasn't just about going to camp with a bunch of fun people. It wasn't just a motivational speaker. It was the product that everybody put their heart and soul into and it was the product that expressed their deep appreciation, somehow, for the world to see.

So, in the end it's the work that binds. That's why it's so important to pick very important things to do because it's very hard to get people motivated to make a breakfast cereal. It takes something that's worth doing.

Let's shift gears here. What should be the role of venture capitalists in starting new businesses?

In the old days venture capitalists helped a company a lot. They were mentors.

More so than today?

Yes. The reason is very simple. In the old days venture capitalists were people who had run businesses or major parts of businesses. Don Valentine was the vice-president of marketing at National Semiconductor when he became a venture capitalist. Venture capitalists were people that had done substantial work in successful startup companies and were bringing their expertise and experience as much as their money.

But the industry grew so fast that it outstripped the ability to grow people of that caliber. Many VCs [venture capitalists) don't have that experience. They just bring money. Not that there's anything wrong with money, but it's unfortunate because things are very different now. I hear VCs sitting around arguing about whether to change CEOs or not. That's not what they ought to be talking about. They ought to be helping the companies make it.

So, if you were a young entrepreneur without money today, would you still go to them?

If you want to start a company and you're young, the best thing in the world is to find someone who's done it-who has experience and expertise and is looking to invest a little money. If that person happens to be a venture capitalist, so be it. If that person happens to be a private investor, so be it. If that person happens to be someone from a successful company that cashed in their stock options and is willing to invest a little bit, so be it. It doesn't matter what they call themselves. It matters who they are. It matters that they've had the experience.

What advice would you give someone interested in starting their own company?

A lot of people ask me, "I want to start a company. What should I do?" My first question is always, "What is your passion? What is it you want to do in your company?" Most of them say, "I don't know." My advice is go get a job as a busboy until you figure it out. You've got to be passionate about something. You shouldn't start a company because you want to start a company. Almost every company I know of got started because nobody else believed in the idea and the last resort was to start the company. That's how Apple got started. That's how Pixar got started. It's how Intel got started. You need to have passion about your idea and you need to feel so strongly about it that you're willing to risk a lot. Starting a company is so hard that if you're not passionate about it, you will give up. If you're simply doing it because you want to have a small company, forget it.

It's so much work and at times is so mentally draining. The hardest thing I've ever done is to start a company. It's the funnest thing, but it's the hardest thing, and if you're not passionate about your goal or your reason for doing it, you will give up. You will not see it through. So, you must have a very strong sense of what you want.

Whether it's baking bread or—

It doesn't matter what industry it is. There are very successful bakeries. There are very successful semiconductor companies. You name it, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that you feel very, very strongly about it. You have to need to run such a business and know you can do it better than anyone else. You have to really want it because it's going to take a lot of work, especially in the early stages.

What keeps you doing it? You could spend more time with family.

I come to Pixar and I come to NeXT every day. I come to them for two reasons: one, because what each company does is really great; and, two, because of the extraordinary people. I get to hang around many incredible people all day. That's why I do what I do.

I am, however, trying to lead a more balanced life. Since I have two kids, I certainly work much fewer hours and I've reduced my travel. If you don't find the balance, you won't have a family or you will miss it. Keeping things balanced is always a challenge.

Speaking of Pixar, how do you think the two industries—software and motion pictures—are similar? And how do they differ?

Well, the product life cycle is different.

Other than Pixar, almost everything else I've worked on in my life—an Apple II, for example—you can hardly find anymore. You won't be able to boot up a Macintosh in ten more years. Everything I've worked on in technology becomes the sediment layer for other things to build on top of. The Macintosh, for example, just advanced the culture at that time. Now, Windows has grabbed the baton and is running its leg of the relay. Later something else will.

In contrast, Pixar is putting something into culture that will renew itself with each generation of children. Snow White was rereleased on video two years ago and sold over 20 million copies. It's sixty years old. I think people will be watching Toy Story in sixty years just the way they're watching Snow White now. The fact that the same movie will be watched 60 or 100 years from now is intriguing.

Speaking of the Mac, I wanted to talk a little bit about John Sculley. You've expressed, both privately and publicly, your dissatisfaction with him, and have even gone so far as to state that he destroyed Apple.

He did, yes.

If so, then what would have Steve Jobs done differently? What would Steve Jobs have done differently from John Sculley? Are we talking about not licensing its operating system, or allowing others to make compatibles?

No. It was much more profound than that.

For many years, Apple was about bringing a computer to everybody. It was about the personal computer revolution. It was about the products and the user's experience with those products. I was taught by some wise people that if you manage the top line of your company—your customers, your products, your strategy—then the bottom line will follow. But if you manage the bottom line of the company and forget about the rest, you'll eventually hit the wall because you'll take your eyes off the prize.

At Apple, the top management basically got very corrupt—starting with John—in several ways. They got corrupt about their purpose and became very financially driven instead of product- and customer-driven. They became financially corrupt and started self-dealing: there were a lot of company Mercedes, company planes, and company houses. Who am I to say, but my guess is that if somebody plowed through that stuff it would border on criminal. Previous to that, Apple had been a very democratic, egalitarian place. No one had palatial offices. There weren't fat cats at the top.

The most important part of this corruption was that the values of the company changed. They changed from the conviction of making the best computers in the world to the conviction of making money—a very subtle thing, really. This, and the fact that most of the people who made the breakthrough products soon left the company, was what destroyed Apple.

Many new people joined Apple. But, it was as if they boarded a rocket ship as it was leaving the launch pad and they thought they made the rocket ship rather than having just been passengers, which is all they really were. All these passengers were convinced that they made the rocket ship. That was fine until the company needed a new rocket ship. Yet, Apple has, up to this point, not been able to make one. They tried with Newton. That was a fiasco and they're still on the same rocket ship. They needed a new one years ago, but the culture doesn't exist to know how to build rocket ships.

I'll try to muster it in one sentence. Apple had a wonderful set of values that was based on, in many ways, what Hewlett-Packard did.

We copied a lot and tried to build upon it. Our values were about building the best computers in the world and when those values changed to the value of "the reason we make computers is to make a lot of money," many things started to change, subtly and not so subtly. The kind of people that flourished in the old value system didn't flourish in the new one. A different set of people flourished The biggest manifestation of these changed values was that before we wanted as many people as possible to use our products. We didn't call it market share in those days, but it was.

Apple's greatest mistake, in my opinion, is not that it did or didn't license their technology in the late '80s. Apple's biggest mistake was that it got immensely greedy. Apple priced the product so high that it didn't go for market share and left a giant umbrella for the PC industry. We originally weren't on that trajectory. The reason we built the Mac factory was to get the Mac down to $1,000 someday, but instead they sold it for much, much more. I think Apple could now have a 35 percent market share had management cared about people using Apple computers instead of making $400 million a year in profits.

It's what you care about. An organization with talented people will definitely adjust itself to the value structure expressed at the top.

People who were better for one value structure, when it changes, will leave. And other people will come in. You can change an organization in a big way in five years. That's part of what happened at Apple. They hired a stream of mediocre people, just one after another after another.

Speaking of great products, what do you think the next great products of this industry are going to be? What's its future?

To be honest, I have no idea.

All you can see are the plate tectonic trends. The trend is that computers will move from primarily being a computational device to primarily a communications device. We've known that was coming. The internet is certainly doing it on a larger scale than some people had imagined. But what this all means yet I don't know. The internet was around for a long time before the World Wide Web made it more approachable, and yet the World Wide Web is still a very simplistic thing. I think there's room for a lot more breakthroughs. I think when they happen they might spread very quickly, much like the World Wide Web did, meaning that in a period of five years things could be very different. But it's hard to say exactly what they're going to be. It's very hard.

For more, order a copy of In the Company of Giants: Candid Conversations with the Visionaries of the Digital World.

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See Also

Find more from Steve Jobs and others related to this lecture:

Learn more about Steve Jobs: Who was Steve Jobs? Wisdom From The Man Who Built Apple and Pixar →

About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer and angel investor. He's led design work at Apple, Square, and now ClassDojo. He's an early investor in Notion,, and Anduril. He founded Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Mar 3, 2024

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