it seems like the eulogy count for steve jobs is approaching the numbers of people who own an apple device (i've got 2 sitting 8 inches to the right). and the commencement speech he gave to stanford university, back in 2005, is seeing record numbers of hits (and worth seeing if you haven't yet). praise for his genius, scorn for his flaws - love or hate him, it's impossible to deny he made the kind of 'dent' that great people strive for.
what gets lost so often, though, is the fact that he was an all time great ceo - autocratic? probably. demanding? absolutely. a genius of design? probably - certainly a consummate perfectionist and large scale visionary.
but take a few steps back - whether you condone every action of his (or apple's) is besides the point. it's nitpicking in the grand scheme of apple's accomplishments. his greatest gift was to not only create one of the best company cultures (of any size or industry) but to connect that ethos to so large a strand of the culture itself. really, you can count the companies who've done this that successfully (ever) on less than one hand. apple was different than microsoft precisely because no one in the broader culture really loved windows (or office, or project or xbox.... ok. maybe xbox. maybe).
'It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
i've never understood his quote to mean that steve was smarter than everyone in the room (probably), nor that he was more attenuated to the human experience than everyone else but to mean that he had made the connections between the lines of code and how most people experience beauty in this world. there was a limitless world of possibility between those two abstractions and he knew - fundamentally and wholly - how he could make it manifest in a profound way. what drove steve - what has ultimately sustained the entire corporate culture of apple - was creating the best human experience possible. not just interaction - experience.
he had a vision. an utterly, devastatingly beautiful vision.
but what separates steve from every other ceo who's had an equally compelling vision was his ability - the second time around no less - to communicate that vision in as holistic a way as any corporate executive ever has. it's impossible to overstate just how good steve was in this regard - his ability to envision whole new territories was impressive enough. that he could distill that vision into something my mother could understand is even more so.
all of it -having the vision, translating it, communicating it in a way that rallies throngs of people to support and develop it (just think about how many developers have staked their own companies on the apple ecosystem) - how does one communicate how fragile the whole thing is? 10 years from now, apple as we know it may be floundering and adrift again (see microsoft from 1995 on for reference).
taken together, steve was able to transfer his own obsession into an immensely complex company whose utter focus and commitment to 'design' as a humane endeavor is as impressive as any i've ever seen. doing that while becoming the most valuable corporate entity in the world is.... well, magic.if that kind of vision can't inspire you or me in how we run our own practices... well....
so, thanks steve. for everything. the world just got a little less interesting without you.
Central to the blog is a long running interest in how we construct practices that enable and promote the kind of work we are all most interested in. From how firms are run, structured, and constructed, the main focus will be on exploring, expanding and demystifying how firms operate. I’ll be interviewing different practices – from startups to nationally recognized firms, bringing to print at least one a month. Our focus will be connecting Archinect readers with the business of practice.