Bill Gates says he was never in Steve Jobs’ league

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 Surprising Insights About Steve Jobs’s Management Style.

(CNN) — When Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs came out in October 2011 — less than three weeks after Jobs’ death — it crystallized many popularly held perceptions of the Apple co-founder. The new book about Steve Jobs coming out on Wednesday is being positioned, with the active support of the people who now run Apple, as a more nuanced and accurate portrait of the entrepreneur than Walter Isaacson’s best-selling 2011 biography.”Becoming Steve Jobs,” a new biography about the late Apple CEO, sheds new light on his conversations with peers, colleagues and friends during the last weeks and days before he died. The book aims to debunk the notion that the characteristics typically ascribed to Jobs—petulant, cruel, visionary—were static attributes, when in fact his evolution as a leader occurred over a lifetime.

The book, in stores Tuesday, is based on in-depth interviews by authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli with leaders in the technology and entertainment business and Apple (AAPL, Tech30) executives who worked closely with Jobs. Cook recalls that he and Jobs discussed what it would be like for Cook to be CEO while the notoriously controlling Jobs would become chairman of the board. ”I tried to pick something that would incite him. The criticism for Walter Isaacson’s official biography, which was rushed to press following Jobs’ death in 2011, has flowed steadily from Apple’s inner-sanctum in the weeks preceding the new book’s release. Isaacson’s book contained numerous examples of Jobs’ cruel behavior, such as verbally abusing employees whose work didn’t meet his exacting standards. So I said, ‘You mean that if I review an ad and I like it, it should just run without your okay?’ And he laughed, and said, ‘Well, I hope you’d at least ask me!’ ” Jobs was so closely identified with Apple that it was hard to imagine the company under any other CEO.

First, there was Jony Ive in the New Yorker, saying his regard for Isaacson’s book “couldn’t be any lower.” Then, we heard from Apple exec Eddy Cue, who tweeted that Becoming Steve Jobs was the “best portrayal” of his former boss and “first to get it right.” Finally, there’s Tim Cook, in the pages of Becoming Steve Jobs itself, saying Isaacson’s tome did Jobs a “tremendous disservice.” “It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality,” Cook is quoted as saying. “You get the feeling that he’s a greedy, selfish egomaniac. I’m friendly with all three authors, so the fact that I really enjoyed both books may not count for much, and I’m in no position to give a no-holds-barred critical review. According to the book, when Jobs was just 30 years old in 1985, new CEO John Sculley and Jean-Louis Gassée “were without question running Apple.” In a board meeting, Apple’s board of directors gave Sculley the authority to remove Jobs from all roles, except chairman, and to reassign him to an undetermined position (which Sculley delayed doing).

More than anything, it sets out to show how Jobs grew over the years, becoming both a more effective CEO and, at least in some ways, a gentler person. Schlender’s and Tetzeli’s book is more of a business biography, much shorter than Isaacson’s, with the most careful attention paid to the years between Jobs’s ignominious departure from Apple in 1985 and his strange return in 1997 (it only became triumphal a few years later), when his main endeavors were unsuccessful computer-maker NeXT and successful-but-only-after-a-long-wait computer-animator Pixar. Cook says in the book that he watched a movie with Jobs the Friday before he passed away. “We watched Remember the Titans [a sentimental football story about an underdog]. That last bit is debatable, but you could say this: The book convincingly traces a trajectory from a young man whose ego and monomania repeatedly thwarted his ambition to an older one who was occasionally a jerk but mostly just because he was burning to get things done.

Before his marriage to Laurene Powell in 1991, Jobs’s personal life was pretty weird, so Isaacson’s book contains more than a few lurid and loopy tales. Jobs said during a speech at Stanford in 1985 that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that ever happened to him. “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything,” he said. “It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life; I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple,” Jobs said. “It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.” After Jobs returned from the Apple II tour, he met with The Graphics Group, a team of 3D computer graphics technicians gathered by Star Wars director George Lucas. Isaacson also, in excerpting from his many long interviews with Jobs’s friends and colleagues (and former friends and former colleagues), gravitates toward the most shocking stories about Jobs’s behavior and the pithiest quotes about them.

He tends to balance these out with positive stories and quotes, but I’m guessing that it’s this incessant invoking of Jobs’s insufferable side that so grates on Jobs proteges such as Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook and design chief Jony Ive, who have both criticized the book. Jobs died, Frog Design, which had risen to fame for its work on the early Apple computers, dedicated its entire home page to a farewell message: “Thanks for everything, Steve.” For 72 hours, nobody new to the site could find links to get deeper into it, let alone contact anybody or buy services. Their objections—Ives’s in a recent New Yorker profile and Cook’s in a quote from “Becoming Steve Jobs” that I’ll get to in a few paragraphs—do bring to mind Victorian ladies in need of smelling salts, but are understandable.

I once spent an entire day watching him run through multiple rehearsals of a single presentation, tweaking everything from the color and angle of certain spotlights, to editing and rearranging the order of the keynote presentation slides to improve his pacing. Schlender and Tetzeli don’t ignore the man’s dark side—the second-to-last chapter of their book is titled “Blind Spots, Grudges and Sharp Elbows”—but they compartmentalize it more than Isaacson does. In one instance that day, he just sat silently onstage with his chin in his hand, staring at the floor for nearly 15 minutes, out of frustration with a wrong lighting cue.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.'” Lasseter goes on to describe an encounter a couple of years later with Cook at a birthday party for Jobs’ wife. His extended exposure to Jobs through his “wilderness” years and subsequent return to Apple informs the thesis of the book: The common formulation of Jobs as equal parts genius and asshole is simplistic. Even before that stage, he would call journalists like me or Steven Levy who wrote for Newsweek and later Wired, to try out metaphors and lines he was thinking about using, just to see if we thought they resonated.

Helping others fosters our emotional engagement with the world and lets us connect with something greater than ourselves,” he writes in his book The Business Romantic. It’s that Isaacson, whose interactions with Jobs were mostly confined to the last few years of the man’s life, necessarily sees that life through the lens of the middle-aged Jobs—and that Jobs didn’t see himself as dramatically changed from the guy who co-founded Apple at age 21. I said, ‘I’ll never be able to take that out.’ And Tim took out his iPhone and showed me—he still had Steve’s number in his phone, too.” Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) founder Bill Gates, whose company both competed and collaborated with Apple, also paid Jobs a visit one afternoon during those last days. The original Romantic period traces back to the early 1800s, and icons like Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the latter once replying to uber-rationalist René Descartes with the comment “I felt before I thought.” For them, subjective experience was more important than objective truth. They compare his impetuousness in negotiating with IBM when he was CEO of NeXT, for instance, to how deftly he sold AT&T on the benefits of signing an exclusive deal to carry the first iPhone, sight unseen, as Apple’s CEO years later.

Leberecht says vestiges of that era remain today in the craze for dashing vampires like Robert Pattison, star of the Twilight movies, and coolly rational rebels like Edward Snowden. He had always listened to them and often changed his mind, but in the early years he tended to infuriate those who disagreed with him by parroting their arguments back to them a few days later as if they were his own. As an example, the book points to how Jobs abandoned his initial enthusiasm for iMovie and consumer video editing when his executives urged that music would be a more popular play.

Famous figures tend to fall into one camp or another. “If James Bond is romantic, then the whip-smart deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes is not; Humphrey Bogart clearly Byronic; Tom Cruise not so much. He’d been humbled in California, but was having his ego stroked in Europe, where he was still thought of as a “revolutionary business figure.” But at the same time Jobs was in a lot of pain over being run off by the company that he himself had founded.

In business, you can argue that Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson or Apple’s Steve Jobs are romantic heroes while leaders such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or GE’s Jeffrey Immelt decidedly are not. By extension, any figure that stands apart from society, characterized by an aura of mystery and brooding emotion rather than lucidity and rational articulation, belongs in the family of romantic heroes,” he writes. Steve and the director would just go on a walk together, and Steve would lay out—in his own, unvarnished, crystal-clear way—exactly where the movie had gone off the tracks.

One is the notion of strong opinions, weakly held, derived from Bayesian statistics and recommended by both futurists and investors as the best way to make decisions in an uncertain world. We hear how Jobs not only described OS X’s visuals as “lickable,” but, at least on one occasion, actually licked a computer screen to get the point across. We also read that Jobs told Disney President Bob Iger his cancer had returned in January 2006, literally moments before they were to tell Pixar employees about the company’s sale to Disney. He encourages people “to have a romantic view of business, to act differently, but, first and foremost, to see, feel, and be different.” Perhaps fittingly, the path he outlines is fuzzy. Steve’s management style was very much in keeping with who he was, and that should probably be the first thing a manager asks himself—am I posing, or is this really me?

The Pixar deal was going to make Jobs Disney’s largest shareholder, and Jobs wanted to give Iger a chance to pull out of the deal, if he so desired. Yes, there is a funny moment in the Schlender-Tetzeli book where Catmull overhears Jobs calling his friend Larry Ellison (Oracle’s co-founder and a billionaire many times over) on the day of the Pixar initial public offering (IPO) that made him a billionaire for the first time—“Hello, Larry?” Jobs said. “I made it.” But it was what his companies created that mattered most to him. He was capable of quickly abandoning people—even long-time friends—whom he no longer thought could help Apple or his other companies achieve their goals. After initially rebuffing the Schlender and Tetzeli’s overtures, Apple executives eventually agreed to be interviewed, and the book quotes at length from conversations with Cook, Cue, Ive and others.

Ron Johnson, the former Target VP of merchandising brought in to shape Apple’s retail stores, offers evidence of Jobs’ eagerness to delegate during Apple’s most prolific period. When Cook made the offer at Jobs’s bedside, the response was “No, I’ll never let you do that.” To Cook, this was evidence of the “tremendous disservice” that Isaacson had done in portraying Jobs as a “greedy, selfish egomaniac.” Somebody that’s selfish doesn’t reply like that. There’s a certain snobbishness and elitism to this notion, but the second time around at Apple, Steve rarely failed to live up to the high standards he set for himself and others. He was more open to the talent of others.” The book, which spends considerable time on Jobs’ involvement with the animation company, gives a clear impression that Pixar was Steve Jobs’ happy place. Near the end of the book, Jony Ive offers an interesting take on what Apple’s eventual success really meant to his mentor. “I think Steve felt a vindication.

Nor do its writers; at one point, Schlender admits he’d “gotten close enough to Steve to see beyond his harshness and the occasional outright rudeness to the idealist within.” To some, presumably like Cook and Ive, this will make the biography a richer, more considered portrait than previous books. Eyal Winter, a professor of economics and director of the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, argues that our emotions are more rational than we think in Feeling Smart (Public Affairs, 262 pages, $30). Consultant Phil Simon looks at how business communication is broken and how to fix it – including how to cleanse the business jargon from your communications – in Message Not Received (Wiley, 236 pages, $42).

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