Please meet my latest guest blogger, Joe Ruiz  of Strategic Marketing Solutions. It’s been my pleasure to get to know Joe through the Twitter chat, #UsGuysChat. He brings such warmth to that chat and recently joined the #kaizenblog community. His background includes, being an Epsilon alumnus and former Vice President of Strategic Services at Brann Worldwide. Throughout Joe’s 27 years in marketing, he has worked heavily in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and financial services industries.

Many things have been said about Steve Jobs the past few weeks.  He has been compared to Edison, Disney, Einstein and countless others for his creativity and innovation.  There is little doubt our lives are different today because of his insight, intuition and marketing acumen.

“Life Changing”

Recently my wife started using an iphone.  Prior to this she had no interest in anything other than a basic cell phone.  Lately she has discovered the world of apps and photos (to name a couple of obvious phone features).  She is constantly exclaiming “This is life changing!” She is not engaging in hyperbole, she means it!  For her, this is a new discovery of an expanding universe; a new world beyond itunes and ipod.

All of us have felt the impact of Steve Job’s innovative touch in some form or fashion.

As I was reviewing tributes for this post, I found many common descriptive characteristics.  Steve was a leader, salesman, artist, and an evangelist.  He was passionate and persistent.  He had an ability of turning imagination into reality. Steve had a completely different way of looking at the world.  He approached technology from the users’ perspective rather than the programmers’.  When responding to an interviewer’s question “Why would you rather spend time tutoring a 9-year-old boy on how to use a Mac than with two famous artists?” he replied, “Older people sit down (in front of a computer) and ask ‘What is it?’ but the boy asks ‘What can I do with it?’”.

Steve created more than products; he created great experiences, platforms, and even entire industries.  His disruptive innovations changed the way we buy and consume music and listen to talks (podcasts), to name a couple of the more significant innovations.

Although Jobs was a brilliant strategist, Apple’s culture is by most standards difficult.  Steve was demanding and difficult, over-berating colleagues publicly.  According to Guy Kawasaki, there was secrecy between Apple divisions.  Jobs had a reputation for being controlling and very detail-oriented.  When Steve was dismissed, the company floundered and it was only his return that set the company back on course.

Here is a summary of some of the lessons learned:

  • Keep it simple and clean.
  • Sweat the small stuff.
  • Think ahead of your customers.
  • Create engaging and creative interfaces with the technology.
  • Design for lifestyle and application, not efficiency or functionality.

Finally, a quote from a 1985 interview best illustrates Steve’s ability to look ahead and see what few others could:

“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people – as remarkable as the telephone.” Playboy, Feb 1, 1985

Questions for discussion:

Q1 – Is there a difference between a Visionary and a product innovator? If so what is it?

Q2 – What can we learn from visionaries?

Q3 – Are visionaries truly unique or is there element of “right time, right place” at work?

Q4 – How would you compare Jobs to Gates or Zuckerberg?

Q5 – Do you think Apple’s innovation will be sustainable in the future? Why?

*Consider yourself invited to discuss this topic of “Steve Jobs: Visionary or Product Innovator” on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, October 14th at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT so I hope you can join us. If not, please add your thoughts below.