On Lessons Guy Kawasaki Learned from Steve Jobs
Guy Kawasaki, the Iolani graduate from Hawaii, but known to the rest of the world as the Apple Evangelist, was the closing speaker for the inaugural Founder World conference in San Francisco. His job at Apple was to convince businesses to create software and peripherals for the Macintosh when it hadn’t yet been created. He then went on to author several business books, like How to Drive Your Competition Crazy. Kawasaki often draws ideas from his books for his talks, and with entrepreneurs making up the audience for this conference, his partner at Garage Technology Ventures thought the slide deck would be from The Art of the Start, Kawasaki, fine-tuned to the market’s appetite for Steve Jobs lately, with self-titled movie of his life, opted to present lessons he learned from Steve Jobs, using his signature top 10 list format (because “if you think I’m a crappy speaker, at least you’ll know when I’m on #5, you are half way through”).
Top 10 Lessons from Steve Jobs
- “A” players hire “A+” players
- Corollary is that B players hire C players, and because C players hire D players, you eventually get to Z players, so by hiring B players, you get what he called a “bozo explosion”.
- Customers can’t tell you what they need
- They can only tell you what they need based on what they have.
- Editorial comment: There is value in customer feedback, but Kawasaki’s point seems to be how one can’t rely on customer feedback to get to the next innovation, though you may get ideas for incremental improvements (see next point).
- Innovation happens on the next curve
- We’ve all heard the story of the ice harvester who became obsolete when ice factories came into the market. Making small improvements (increasing efficiency of the harvesting) didn’t lead to the innovation. You have to get to the next curve, or create it.
- Design counts
- Design does not count for everything, but it goes far.
- Big challenges begats big changes
- When Apple was working on the first Macintosh, it wasn’t about shipping the better computer, it had to be about something bigger. What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) had to be delivered to the people as if it were God’s gospel. Employers believed in Apple as if they were fighting a religious battle.
- Less is more
- Simplicity is best, and this lesson is à propos for entrepreneurs pitching to investors: read Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule on presentation here.
- Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence
- Jobs pulled some very public 180s, including declaring that Safari plugins will be closed to the developers in 2007 touting security concerns, and then creating a software development kit for the iPhones in 2008. If it’s the right thing to do, then it doesn’t matter if it contradicts what you did before.
- Engineers are artists
- Jobs, although not an engineer himself, respected engineers as artists rather than workers who simply followed orders to create something in a linear fashion.
- Marketing = unique value
- You have to differentiate yourself. In any competitive analysis charts, you want your product to be on the top right hand corner, where the x-axis maps out the value, and y-axis, the uniqueness.
- Kawasaki gave several examples for the graph: the top corner example would be Apple, Smartcar. The bottom right must compete on prices, and the top left is so unique there is no market for it. He called the bottom left, “the dot com corner”, where entrepreneurs pitched the investors that there is a huge market for their unique idea (e.g., Pets.com, where Kawasaki parodied the pitch that probably took place: 1 out of 4 has a pet, so x dogs market, eating y meals a day, 356 days a year, so even if you get z% of the market, at $ price per meal, that’s $$$$$.) Kawasaki went onto debunk that its failure was not seeing that it was basically a supply chain issue, and getting rid of the retail front didn’t provide any savings because the expense got replaced by shipping, for which people had to be home to receive.
- Innovators ignore naysayers
- Kawasaki is quick to note that it’s easy to ignore standard naysayers, but what if they are the ones who have the money, who have been successful? He went onto give quotes by business leaders of the time who were proven very wrong by history: e.g., “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” by the IBM president in 1943.
- Kawasaki felt that reminding yourself that smart, rich people can be wrong was the best vaccine. I’m not so sure. True innovators don’t really need to hear this lesson because they already know it, and practice it. I do believe surrounding yourself with people who might disagree with you on implementation but share the same value and vision is a good way to separate the naysayers from smart people whom you might want to listen to.
- BTW, for more catastrophically poor predictions in this vein, check these out.
- Somethings had to be believed to be seen
- Kawasaki promised a Top 10 list, but the 11th seems appropriate for this audience and for the conference where the theme was “let’s think big again”. Jobs certain did that.
You can find a video of his presentation by an audience member here.
For some “from the horse’s mouth” advice, check out the now famous commencement speech Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005, but also the less elaborate but more intimate speech he gave at Reed College which claims Jobs as one of its most famous alumnus.
Post script: I was privileged to have been at Reed College when he spoke. There was a black rhombus shaped sculpture outside the building where the ceremony was taking place. My friend (now my husband) and I adhered some colored letters on it to make it look like the NeXT logo. We waited for Jobs to come out of the building later to see if he noticed it. He did. He smirked, and he asked if we had decorated it. When we said we did, he smirked again, and said “nice”.
Photos: (1) View of the Bay Bridge from the Founder Conference site, (2) Guy Kawasaki on stage