Voices Of Innovation: Steve Jobs
What can we learn from Apple's struggle to innovate during the decade before your return in 1997?
You need a very product-oriented culture. Apple had a monopoly on the graphical user interface for almost 10 years. How are monopolies lost? Some very good product people invent some very good products, and the company achieves a monopoly. [But] what's the point of focusing on making the product even better when the only company you can take business from is yourself? So a different group of people starts to move up. And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy. Then one day the monopoly expires, for whatever reason...but by then, the best product people have left or they are no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn't.
How do you systematize innovation?
You don't. You hire good people who will challenge each other every day to make the best products possible. That's why you don't see any big posters on the walls around here, stating our mission statement. Our corporate culture is simple.
So the key is to have good people with a passion for excellence.
When I got back, Apple had forgotten who we were. Remember that "Think Different" ad campaign we ran? It was certainly for customers, but it was even more for Apple. That ad was to remind us of who our heroes are and who we are. Companies sometimes do forget. Fortunately, we woke up. And Apple is doing the best work in its history.