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On Steve Jobs

I recently finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” he said. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” It was as if he were suggesting themes for his biography (and in this instance, at least, the theme turned out to be valid). The creativity that can occur where both the humanities and the sciences combine in one strong personality was the topic that most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein, and I believe that it will be a key to creating innovative economies in the twenty-first century.”

2- “His wife also did not request restrictions or control, nor did she ask to see in advance what I would publish. In fact she strongly encouraged me to be honest about his failings as well as his strengths. She is one of the smartest and most grounded people I have ever met. “There are parts of his life and personality that are extremely messy. and that’s the truth,” she told me early on. “You shouldn’t whitewash it. He’s good at spin, but he also has a remarkable story, and I’d like to see that it’s all told truthfully” I leave it to the reader to assess whether I have succeeded in this mission. I’m sure there are players in this drama who will remember some of the events differently or think that I sometimes got trapped in Jobs’s distortion field.”

3- “Jobs said that his appreciation for Eichler homes instilled in him a passion for making nicely designed products for the mass market. I Jove it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said as he pointed out the clean elegance of the houses. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.””

4- “The Blue Box adventure established a template for a partnership that would soon be born. Wozniak would be the gentle wizard coming up with a neat invention that he would have been happy just to give away. and Jobs would figure out how to make it user-friendly, put it together in a package, market it, and make a few bucks.”

5- “Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”

6- “Jobs is a complex person, he said, and being manipulative is just the darker facet of the traits that make him successful. Wozniak would never have been that way, but as he points out, he also could never have built Apple. “I would rather let it pass,” he said when I pressed the point. “It’s not something I want to judge Steve by.””

7- “Apple. It was a smart choice. The word instantly signaled friendliness and simplicity. It managed to be both slightly off-beat and as normal as a slice of pie. There was a whiff of counterculture, back-to-nature earthiness to it, yet nothing could be more American. And the two words together—Apple Computer—provided an amusing disjuncture. ”

8- “Jobs’s father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design because the lines were not straight enough. This passion for perfection led him to indulge his instinct to control. Most hackers and hobbyists liked to customize, modify, and jack various things into their computers. To Jobs, this was a threat to a seamless end-to-end user experience.”

9- “Markkula would become a father figure to Jobs. Like Jobs’s adoptive father, he would indulge Jobs’s strong will, and like his biological father, he would end up abandoning him. “Markkula was as much a father-son relationship as Steve ever had,” said the venture capitalist Arthur Rock. He began to teach Jobs about marketing and sales. “Mike really took me under his wing,” Jobs recalled. “His values were much aligned with mine. He emphasized that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.””

10- “Was Jobs’s unfiltered behavior caused by a lack of emotional sensitivity? No. Almost the opposite. He was very emotionally attuned. able to read people and know their psychological strengths and vulnerabilities. He could stun an unsuspecting: victim with an emotional towel-snap, perfectly aimed. He intuitively knew when someone was faking it or truly knew something. This made him masterful at cajoling, stroking, persuading, flattering, and intimidating people.”

11- “But even though Jobs’s style could be demoralizing, it could also be oddly inspiring. It infused Apple employees with an abiding passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish what seemed impossible.”

12- “The best products, he believed, were “whole widgets” that were designed end-to-end, with the software closely tailored to the hardware and vice versa. This is what would distinguish the Macintosh, which had an operating system that worked only on its own hardware, from the environment that Microsoft was creating, in which its operating system could be used on hardware made by many different companies.”

13- “Their differences in personality and character would lead them to opposite sides of what would become the fundamental divide in the digital age. Jobs was a perfectionist who craved control and indulged in the uncompromising temperament of an artist; he and Apple became the exemplars of a digital strategy that tightly integrated hardware. software, and content into a seamless package. Gates was a smart, calculating, and pragmatic analyst of business and technology; he was )pen to licensing Microsoft’s operating system and software to a variety of manufacturers.”

14- “I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I’m not there, but I’U always come back. If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times. artists have to say. “Bye. I have to go now. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.”

15- “Jobs sometimes avoided the truth. Helmut Sonnenfeldt once said of Henry Kissinger, “He lies not because it’s in his interest. he lies because it’s in his nature.” It was in Jobs’s nature to mislead or be secretive when he felt it was warranted. But he also indulged in being brutally honest at times, telling the truths that most of us sugarcoat or suppress. Both the dissembling and the truth-telling were simply different aspects of his Nietzschean attitude that ordinary rules didn’t apply to him.”

16- “For all of his willfulness and insatiable desire to control things. Jobs was indecisive and reticent when he felt unsure about something. He craved perfection, and he was not always good at figuring out how to settle for something less. He did not like to wrestle with complexity or make accommodations. This was true in products, design, and furnishings for the house. It was also true when it came to personal for the house. It was also true when it came to personal commitments. If he knew for sure a course of action was right. he was unstoppable. But if he had doubts, he sometimes withdrew, preferring not to think about things that did not perfectly suit him.”

17- “Ever since he left the apple commune, Jobs had defined himself and by extension Apple, as a child of the counterculture. In ads such as “Think Different” and “1984,” he positioned the Apple brand so that it reaffirmed his own rebel streak, even after he became a billionaire, and it allowed other baby boomers and their kids to do the same. “From when I first met him as a young guy, he’s had the greatest of the impact he wants his brand to have on people,” said Clow. Very few other companies or corporate leaders—perhaps none— could have gotten away with the brilliant audacity of associating their brand with Gandhi, Einstein, Picasso, and the Dalai Lama. Jobs was able to encourage people to define themselves as anti-corporate, creative. innovative rebels simply by the computer they used. “Steve created the only lifestyle brand in the tech industry,” Larry Ellison said. “There are cars people are proud to have—Porsche, Ferrari, Prius—because what I drive says something about me. People feel the same way about an Apple product.”

18- “One of his motivating passions was to build a lasting company. At age twelve, when he got a summer job at Hewlett-Packard, he learned that a properly run company could spawn innovation far more than any single creative individual. “I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the company, the way you organize a company,” he recalled. “The whole notion of how you build a company is fascinating. When I got the chance to come back to Apple, I realized that I would be useless without the company, and that’s why I decided to stay and rebuild it.”

19- “Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products. we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a -visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. X involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

20- “Despite his autocratic nature—he never worshiped at the altar of consensus—Jobs worked hard to foster a culture of collaboration at Apple. Many companies pride themselves on having few meetings. Jobs had many.”

21- “”From the earliest days at Apple, I realized that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software, we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected, there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to disappear, creative companies will disappear or never get Started. But there’s a simpler reason: It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.” He knew, however, that the best way to stop piracy—in fact the only way—was to offer an alternative that was more attractive than the brain-dead services that music companies were concocting.”

22- “But Sony couldn’t. It had pioneered portable music with the Walkman, it had a great record company, and it had a long history of making beautiful consumer devices. It had all of the assets to compete with Jobs’s Strategy of integration of hardware, software, devices, and content sales. Why did it fail? Partly because it was a company, like AOL Time Warner that was organized into divisions (that word itself was ominous) with their own bottom lines; the goal of achieving synergy in such companies by prodding the divisions to work together was usually elusive. Jobs did not organize Apple into semi-autonomous divisions; he closely controlled all of his teams and pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company, with one profit-and-loss bottom fine. “We don’t have ‘divisions’ with their own P&L,” said Tim Cook. “We run one P&L for the company.””

23- “Despite being- a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.” So he had the Pixar building- designed to promote encounters and unplanned collaborations. “If a building doesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” he said. “So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.””

24- “Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time. “There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him,” Cook said. “That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things. Few people are really good at that.” In order to institutionalize the lessons that he and his team were learning. Jobs started an in-house center called Apple University. He hired Joel Podolny, who was dean of the Yale School of Management, to compile a series of case studies analyzing important decisions the company had made, including the switch to the Intel microprocessor and the decision to open the Apple Stores. Top executives spent time teaching the cases to new employees, so that the Apple style of decision making would be embedded in the culture.”

25- “”Steve has a particular way that he wants to run Apple, and it’s the same as it was twenty years ago, which is that Apple is a brilliant innovator of closed systems.” Schmidt later told me. “They don’t want people to be on their platform without permission. The benefits of a closed platform is control. But Google has a specific belief that open is the better approach, because it leads to more options and competition and consumer choice.””

26- “The nasty edge to his personality was not necessary. It hindered him more than it helped him. But it did, at times, serve a purpose. Polite and velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective at forcing change. Dozens of the colleagues whom Jobs most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible. And he created a corporation crammed with A players.”

27- “The saga of Steve Jobs is the Silicon Valley creation myth writ large: launching a start-up in his parents’ garage and building it into the world’s most valuable company. He didn’t invent many things outright. but he was a master at putting together ideas, art, and technology in ways that invented the feature. He designed the Mac after appreciating the power of graphical interfaces in a way that Xerox was unable to do. and he created the iPod after grasping the joy of having a thousand in your pocket in a way that Sony, which had all the assets and heritage, never could accomplish. Some leaders push innovations by being good at the big picture. Others do so by mastering details. Jobs did both, relentlessly. As a result he launched a series of products over three decades that transformed whole industries…”

28- “Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead. Steve Jobs thus became the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now. History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford. More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now. the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Steve Jobs

On Only The Paranoid Survive

I recently finished reading Only The Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove.

Below are excerpts from the book that summarize the key points presented by the author:

1- “Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction. The more successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business and then another chunk and then another until there is nothing left. I believe that the prime responsibility of a manager is to guard constantly against other people’s attacks and to inculcate this guardian attitude in the people under his or her management.”

2- “We all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change. We need to expose ourselves to our customers, both the ones who are staying with us as well as those that we may lose by sticking to the past. We need to expose ourselves to lower-level employees, who, when encouraged, will tell us a lot that we need to know. We must invite comments even from people whose job it is to constantly evaluate us and critique us, such as journalist and members of the financial community. Turn the tables and ask them some questions: about competitors, trends in the industry and what they think we should be most concerned with. As we throw ourselves into raw action, our senses and instincts will rapidly be honed again.”

3- “A strategic inflection point is when the balance of forces shifts from the old structure, from the old ways of doing business and the old ways of competing, to the new. Before the strategic inflection point, the industry simply was more like the old. After it, it is more like the new. It is a point where the curve has subtly but profoundly changed, never to change back again.”

4- “Of all the changes in the forces of competition, the most difficult one to deal with is when one of the forces become so strong that it transforms the very essence of how business is conducted in an industry.”

5- “When an industry goes through a strategic inflection point, the practitioners of the old art may have trouble. On the other hand, the new landscape provides an opportunity for people, some of whom may not even be participants in the industry in question, to join and become part of the action.”

6- “When a strategic infection point sweeps through the industry, the more successful a participant was in the old industry structure, the more threatened it is by change and the more reluctant it is to adapt to it. Second, whereas the cost to enter a given industry in the face of well-entrenched participants can be very high, when the structure breaks, the cost to enter may become trivially small.”

7- “I suspect that the people coming in are probably no better managers or leaders than the people they are replacing. they have only one advantage…the new managers come unencumbered by such emotional involvement and therefore are capable of applying an impersonal logic to the situation.”

8- “As these questions to attempt to distinguish signal from noise: 1) Is your key competitor about to change? 2) Is your key complementor about to change? 3) Do people seem to be “losing it” around you?”

9- “I call the divergence between actions and statements strategic dissonance. It is one of the surest indications that a company is struggling with a strategic inflection point.”

10- “Ideally, the fear of a new environment sneaking up on us should keep us on our toes. Our sense of urgency should be aided by our judgement, instincts and observations that have been honed by decades spent in the business world. The fact is, because of our experience, very often we managers know that we need to do something. We even know what we should be doing. But we don’t trust our instincts or don’t act on them early enough to take advantage of the benign business bubble. We must discipline ourselves to overcome our tendency to do too little too late.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Only The Paranoid Survive

On Authentic Leadership

I recently finished reading Authentic Leadership – Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value – by Bill George. I selected this book based on its appearance on Martha Heller’s blog posting entitled Leadership Books Recommended by CIOs and Technology Executives: http://blog.hellersearch.com/Blog/bid/124393/Leadership-Books-Recommended-by-CIOs-and-Technology-Executives . Authentic Leadership was recommended by both Paul Hanson and Dan Wakeman.

As best summarized by Bill: “Its (the book) message is simple to state but challenging to realize: we need authentic leaders to run our organizations, leaders committed to stewardship of their assets and to making a difference in the lives of the people they serve.” The book is structured as follows:  “First, I will describe authentic leaders and how they develop. Next, I will look at how authentic leaders build authentic companies, because that is the crux of leading. Third, I will show how authentic companies compete more effectively in the market, and, finally, how authentic leaders look beyond the bottom line.”

What sets this book apart is its call for authenticity in leadership (“discover and cultivate that authentic self”) – as opposed to being prescriptive, as is the case with most books in its category. Bill brings corporate America back to its root – authentic, genuine, worthy of trust, reliance, and belief. A highly recommended read that stresses the need for new leadership – authentic leadership!

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “We need authentic leaders, people of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations. We need leaders who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society.”

2- “I believe that leadership begins and ends with authenticity. It’s being yourself; being the person you were created to be. This is not what most of the literature on leadership says, nor is it what the experts in corporate America teach…They describe the styles of leaders and suggest that you adopt them. This is the opposite of authenticity. It is about developing the image or persona of a leader.”

3- “There is no doubt that  CEOs have tremendous influence on the results of corporations. However, if we examine more closely the great success stories of the past twenty-five years…we see that each was built by a team at the top, not by a single person.”

4- “The key is having people around you who complement your weaknesses and make up for your lack of experience.”

5- “To become authentic, each of us has to develop our own leadership style, consistent with our personality and character. Unfortunately the pressures of an organization push us to adhere to its normative style. But if you conform to a style that is not consistent with who we are, we will never become authentic leaders.”

6- “Dimensions of Authentic Leaders: 1) Understanding their purpose 2) Practicing solid values 3) Leading with heart 4) Establishing connected relationship 5) Demonstrating self-discipline”

7- “The medium for developing into an authentic leader is not the destination but the journey itself – a journey to find your true self and the purpose of your life’s work.”

8- “…For each of the dimensions, a developmental quality is required for leaders to be effective: 1) Purpose: Passion 2) Values: Behavior 3) Heart: Compassion 4) Relationships: Connectedness 5) Self-Discipline: Consistency”

9- “Balanced leaders develop healthier organizations. By appropriately delegating their work, balanced leaders are able to make more thoughtful decisions and lead more effectively. Their employees make higher levels of commitment to the organization. In the end they achieve better results on the bottom line.”

10- “These five characteristics of the authentic company parallel closely the five dimensions of the authentic leader: 1) Purpose: Mission and vision 2) Values: Company values 3) Heart: Empowering employees to serve customers 4) Relationships: Enduring and committed organization 5) Self-Discipline: Results for all stakeholders”

11- “Articulating an organization’s value is straightforward, but gaining alignment of all employees throughout the company is much more difficult…Inculcating values throughout an organization starts with the leader, who sets the standard of behavior for everyone in the organization. The leader has to work hard every day to gain alignment with the company’s values, reinforcing positive actions and swiftly taking action with employees who do not emulate these values.”

12- “Companies that devote themselves to maximizing shareholder value will ultimately fail to do so. It is true that a sharp eye to cutting costs can result in significant improvements in a company’s short-term position, but unless the cost cuts are followed by  much larger long-term investments, the company is bound to lose its way. Shareholder value will stagnate and eventually decline.”

13- “Some executives mistakenly believe serving all stakeholders results in trade-offs and compromises shareholder value…In serving all the company’s stakeholders, the company’s sustained success makes shareholders the ultimate beneficiaries.”

14- “Pitfalls to Sustainable Growth: 1) Working without a clear mission 2) Underestimating the core business 3) Depending on a single product line 4) Failing to spot technology and market changes 5) Changing strategy without changing culture 6) Going outside core competencies 7) Counting on acquisitions for growth”

15- “(On Acquisitions)…The key is the integration process. Acquired companies can bring great creative and technical capabilities with them and challenge the existing organization to sharpen its innovative skills. They can also strengthen the management team with new talent and new approaches to serving customers. As the result of an effective process of integrating acquired companies, companies develop more enduring organizations.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership