Today I gave a talk on creativity and branding, as I so often do.
I arrived at the venue early, it was 6.15am. As usual in waiting situations, I picked up my iPhone and looked on Twitter. This is what I read:
“There have been three apples that have changed the world: the one that Eve ate, the one that fell on Newton’s head and the one that Steve Jobs created.”
I don’t know who originated that quote, but I had to open my talk with it as soon as more tweets confirmed the sad news. I had to change the direction and tone of my talk too as it sank in. The vision of a man who had died that morning, a man whom, I had never met, had, in fact changed the way I live and work by providing the tools that made my business possible and enjoyable.
Apple is now the most valuable business in the world. It has more cash in the bank than the USA (around $76 billion). It was Steve Job’s vision and creativity that got it there.
Certainly there were and are thousands of brilliant people involved in invention, in design, in engineering, in production and in marketing that all contributed to that success. But the fact that we know who Steve Job is shows how important he was. It’s rare that an industry leader gains so much respect, both from within their company and their industry and from their customer base.
To the dissenters, dismissers and envious critics out there: you don’t get it do you? Millions upon millions of people gave their hard earned cash to a company that provided tools that they love to use. It really is that simple. Steve Jobs wanted to change technological tools and gadgets from things that got in the way of enjoyment, expression and lifestyle to things that enhanced them.
Not only was his vision of customer satisfaction unique, his marketing powers were second to none. But perhaps his greatest talent was as a showman and raconteur. If you ever saw the unveiling of a new Apple product by him, live on stage, you come close to seeing why so many admire him to the point of cult status.
Steve Jobs’ lifetime contribution to our civilisation matters. It has impacted you if you’ve ever used a computer post 1976. It matters if you’ve ever used a mobile phone post 2007. It matters if you’ve ever listened to music that didn’t come off a spinning disc or magnetic tape. Whether you own or have used Apple products is irrelevant, the technology industry has been transformed by their influence like no other. Just look at how many me-too iPhone like devices are on offer now. The iPhone raised the game. What mobile phones offered before was just no longer good enough.
Although they didn’t invent them, we have Apple to thank for computers that have graphics on the screen to operate them instead of just text. Desktop publishing, graphic design, printing and music production have Apple to thank for the methods of their use in business. For many years, Apple equipment was the domain of ‘creatives’ because they provided tools that did the job without dictating a way of using them that interfered with your creativity. Now, the products are for all, making the complex easy, allowing more and more people to be creative in ways unimagined just a few years ago. And doing it all in such a cool way.
As readily as Apple incorporated new techniques and invention, they weren’t afraid of dropping them for something better. We call that innovation. Other companies were scared to do it and missed the boat. The first iMac in 1998 shocked the industry by daring not to have a floppy disc drive. The MacBookAir doesn’t have a CD drive. The iPad doesn’t need a mouse or stylus. Our children’s children will find the idea of a ‘mouse’ unusual and quaint thanks to Steve Jobs taking the concept of ‘multitouch’ and making it work, making it easy and making it intuitive.
Steve Jobs personified the idea of the modern creative genius in a way few others do. It’s not too outrageous to say, as some have, that he represents a modern Leonardo Da Vinci by the way he, like Leonardo, recognised that true and powerful creativity is about bringing many disciplines together and getting them to work together.
Will Apple survive and thrive without Jobs? I think the answer is ‘yes’ and the reason is, something that Steve Jobs said a few months ago when asked, what was his greatest product? Was it the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, the iPad or something else? He reply was that the greatest product was in fact Apple itself. I believe he was right.
If Steve Jobs was Apple then the innovation and creativity died with him. But because Apple is Steve Jobs, his vision lives on in the company and we can, as Steve said a few weeks ago, look forward to its greatest moments that are yet to come…
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
– Steve Jobs
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