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A Masterclass for Product Managers. Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

Updated: Aug 14, 2023



I recently delved into a full-length 1995 interview of Steve Jobs, having only seen snippets before. I was astounded. How could he, even before the internet boom, foresee technology's trajectory and offer such timeless wisdom on product development? It was truly a testament to his visionary prowess.


Steve Jobs on Running a Successful Company:

Throughout his time in business, Steve Jobs frequently questioned why certain things were done. He often received the answer, “That’s just how it’s done.” He found that many in business didn’t question their practices deeply. For example, during the Apple II days, accounting used the concept of standard cost, but Jobs realized that this approach was due to inadequate information systems. When designing an automated factory for the Macintosh, he eliminated many of these traditional practices. Jobs believed that many business operations are simply "folklore," practices carried forward without understanding why. He emphasized that if one is curious, persistent, and willing to ask questions, they can understand business quickly.


Steve Jobs on Wealth and Money:

By the age of 25, Jobs was worth over $100 million. However, he felt that money was not the primary motivator for him. While he acknowledged that money facilitates innovation and long-term investment, his primary focus was on Apple, its products, and the potential impacts of these products on the world.


Steve Jobs on Xerox’s Failure:

Jobs reflected deeply on the reason behind Xerox's downfall. He realized that in some companies, sales and marketing people end up running the show, especially if the company has a monopoly. As a result, the emphasis on quality products diminishes, and the company loses its essence. At Xerox, the sales and marketing individuals became dominant, sidelining product designers and developers who truly understood the customer's needs.


Steve Jobs on Implementing Vision:

Jobs faced challenges when trying to integrate new ideas, especially from those who had previously worked at Hewlett-Packard. He believed that companies, as they grow, mistakenly prioritize process over content. This thinking leads them to lose touch with what made them successful in the first place. He emphasized that content, not process, is the key to a great product. The people who understand this are often difficult to manage but are essential for creating outstanding products.


Steve Jobs on Team Dynamics and Execution:

Steve Jobs believed in the power of teamwork and the importance of refining ideas collaboratively. To him, a team is similar to stones rubbing against each other, refining and polishing one another to produce something beautiful. He emphasized the importance of candid feedback, ensuring that it's constructive without undermining confidence. For Jobs, being right wasn’t the goal; success was.


Steve Jobs on Passion and Creativity:

Steve Jobs shared a profound lesson he learned from an article in Scientific American. The piece discussed the efficiency of movement across various species. While humans weren't initially impressive, a human on a bicycle surpassed all, emphasizing humanity’s unique ability to create tools. Picasso’s saying, "Good artists copy, great artists steal," resonated with Jobs. He was proud that the Macintosh team comprised individuals from diverse backgrounds, from artists to historians. They were united by a vision to integrate the best of their respective fields into computing. Jobs believed that this broad, liberal arts perspective is invaluable and often missing in narrow fields.

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