Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson - review pt. 2

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Ok I've finished reading Walter Isaacson's authorized biography Steve Jobs and what have I learned that I didn't already know. Jobs was more demanding and ruder than I thought; he frequently committed that cardinal sin of being really nasty and mean to waitstaff. You know there's no excuse for that behavior; they (usually) don't deserve to be treated without respect. I expect Jobs ate and drank quite a lot of other people's spit during his life - you really can't send a fruit smoothy back to the kitchen several times because "it's not quite right" and not expect some form of karmic retribution. It's constantly posited in the book that Jobs demanded perfection, that his high standards helped people around him excel and that his rudeness was just the flip-side of this - a "you can't have one without the other" thing. But, Jobs was deliberately rude to people he didn't respect, and there were certain people: Steve Wozniak, John Lasseter, Jonny Ive whom he was never (or at least rarely) nasty to, because he needed their creative genius to work for him.
   This gets us to Jobs true talents; he was very good at spotting people who had great gifts and who could be really useful to his plans: Steve Wozniak, John Lasseter, Jonny Ive again come to mind, along with the original Macintosh design team & the iPod design team. He nurtured them, gave them space, defended them and yes encouraged them to do great work, in many cases their best work for him. He also had a gift, because he wasn't a programmer or a very good electrical engineer, of seeing that tech gadgets: from the first PCs to early MP3 players and most mobile phones were horribly hard to use. He made them easier to use, but we'd be wrong in thinking we've reached the end of that road. Finally, Jobs was a really good negotiator most of the time. There are certainly examples where his rudeness and stubbornness soured a good deal, but most of the time, and several times spectacularly, he was a great negotiator for Apple and Pixar.
    In the end the flaws in his character sadly hastened his demise; had he taken his doctors' advice and had a quick operation to remove the tumor from his pancreas he may well still be alive - he really paid the ultimate price for believing he always knew better. [Part 1 of the review is here]