Guy Kawasaki on lessons learned from Steve Jobs – “Jumping to the next curve”

Thu, Oct 13, 2011


Most Apple fans are familiar with the name Guy Kawasaki, the original Mac evangelist who began working at Apple in 1983. Over the next four years, Kawasaki was responsible for touting the benefits of the then fledgling Mac platform to software and hardware developers before leaving in 1987 to get into business for himself.

During his time at Apple, Kawasaki experienced first hand many of the lessons Steve Jobs would later became famous for embodying. A few days ago, Kawasaki enumerated many of them.

Here a few of the more pertinent entries.

“Experts are clueless.

Experts—journalists, analysts, consultants, bankers, and gurus can’t “do” so they “advise.” They can tell you what is wrong with your product, but they cannot make a great one. They can tell you how to sell something, but they cannot sell it themselves. They can tell you how to create great teams, but they only manage a secretary. For example, the experts told us that the two biggest shortcomings of Macintosh in the mid 1980s was the lack of a daisy-wheel printer driver and Lotus 1-2-3; another advice gem from the experts was to buy Compaq. Hear what experts say, but don’t always listen to them.

Jump to the next curve.

Big wins happen when you go beyond better sameness. The best daisy-wheel printer companies were introducing new fonts in more sizes. Apple introduced the next curve: laser printing. Think of ice harvesters, ice factories, and refrigerator companies. Ice 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Are you still harvesting ice during the winter from a frozen pond?

A players hire A+ players.

Actually, Steve believed that A players hire A players—that is people who are as good as they are. I refined this slightly—my theory is that A players hire people even better than themselves. It’s clear, though, that B players hire C players so they can feel superior to them, and C players hire D players. If you start hiring B players, expect what Steve called “the bozo explosion” to happen in your organization.

Real CEOs demo.

Steve Jobs could demo a pod, pad, phone, and Mac two to three times a year with millions of people watching, why is it that many CEOs call upon their vice-president of engineering to do a product demo? Maybe it’s to show that there’s a team effort in play. Maybe. It’s more likely that the CEO doesn’t understand what his/her company is making well enough to explain it. How pathetic is that?”


I find the last lesson particularly salient. Steve Jobs’ involvement with nearly everything Apple churned out during his tenure as CEO was legendary. From the type of wood used in Apple’s retail stores to the type of curves on the original iMac, Jobs had an opinion about everything. Jobs didn’t demo new Apple products just to get some stage time in, like some struggling actor. Jobs got on stage and demoed products because he believed in them, because he genuinely thought they were “insanely great”.

When a CEO is intimately involved in a company’s direction and products, he/she would demand to demo a new product on stage, if only because they should be excited about it.

Kawasaki concludes:

When you are jumping curves, defying/ignoring the experts, facing off against big challenges, obsessing about design, and focusing on unique value, you will need to convince people to believe in what you are doing in order to see your efforts come to fruition. People needed to believe in Macintosh to see it become real. Ditto for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Not everyone will believe—that’s okay. But the starting point of changing the world is changing a few minds. This is the greatest lesson of all that I learned from Steve.

Well said, and summing up Apple’s products over the past few years, no phrase seems more fitting than “jumping curves.”

You can check out Kawasaki’s full entry on Google+.


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