Lead Article (Self-help topic – VISION)

Is Apple going to survive without Steve Jobs? Why are people even asking this question? There are 49,399 other employees at Apple who can surely continue on the same as they did the day before Steve announced his resignation. Is Steve Jobs so singularly brilliant that Apple will fall apart without him?

As with many technical organisations, it is assumed that the leader of that company is technically brilliant. Everyone assumes that Bill Gates is one of only a few people in the world that actually uses a Pivot-table in Excel. Was Steve Jobs a great CEO for Apple because he was technically brilliant? There is some evidence to suggest that might be the case. Of the 3500 patents in the Apple portfolio, Steve Jobs is listed as a co-inventor on 313 of them. By contrast, Bill Gates only has his name on 9 patents (out of 15,000+ from Microsoft).

Despite the 313 patents, I personally don’t think technical genius was what made Steve such an influential figure in the world of technology. To back that claim up, have a look where Steve made most of his money. It was actually in the film industry. Steve has said that being fired from Apple when he was 30 was one of the best things that happened to him. He has 7.4 billion reasons to support this statement. In 1986 he bought a little animation company from George Lucas for $5M. Steve had a vision for what this company could become. It went on to be responsible for the first ever feature film to be made entirely with CGI (Toy Story) and in 2006, Steve sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4B. Steve was not necessarily a technical expert in the film industry but he was (and is) a visionary.

What made Steve so important to Apple – and why they will struggle to replace him – was the fact that he was a visionary. His leadership was built on the back of that vision. You know you have achieved excellence as a leader when people will follow you anywhere – sometimes it is just to see where you are going to go and sometimes it is blind faith in your ability to make it work.

Most importantly though, a true visionary can articulate a vision and communicate the excitement of that vision to every person in the organisation.

And this is something we can all learn from.

No matter the size of our organisation or the number of our employees, we need to communicate the vision that we have for our organisation. Talk to your staff, talk to your clients. Don’t have a vision? You better get one quick. The better you articulate what you want your organisation to be, the more people will believe it is achievable. The more interesting and dynamic you make this vision, the more people will want to be there for the ride.

Once you have employees believing in the trip and the destination, they then start to act like it is their company. Once they start thinking like they own the company, they become the quality control for the company. Some business ‘leaders’ will try and tell you that the way to achieve better quality control is to have written procedures for every process in the organisation. Rubbish! When every individual in the entire organisation treats the business as their own, there is no better quality control and no better customer experience. In fact I have seen organisations decrease quality control and decrease customer satisfaction by the process of stiff procedures being imposed on all the staff in the organisation. What happened in a heartbeat was that every staff member no longer felt in control of their organisation.

We don’t all have to be as influential in our sector as Steve Jobs but we can all learn a little from what he achieved. Apple is responsible for changing so many aspects of our daily lives – we might all still be walking around with a cassette in a Walkman and black headphones if Steve Jobs hadn’t driven Apple to lofty heights. We can all create our vision and we can all communicate it to our team.

My advice for this month is ensure that you have a clear and well defined vision for your organisation and ensure that every single employee in the organisation can quote that vision and ensure they truly believe that vision. If you don’t have a vision for your organisation then you are likely to lead your troops into oblivion.

Tell me your favourite Steve Jobs story at md@smallbusinessrules.com.

Business Tip of the Month

Rule 48: People Buy Emotionally And Justify Irrationally

I am sure you have heard the aphorism that people buy emotionally and justify rationally. I don’t agree with this. Once people have made their decision to purchase – which is largely an emotional decision – they become completely irrational in their justification to purchase. It is almost as if they are denying the right for a human to be emotional and they try to put logic and reason into the decision-making process. Blokes especially are guilty of this. A man’s man, a true blokey bloke, does not dare admit to having any capacity for emotion, so he has to try to explain a purchase with some logic. Imagine what his mates would think of him if he told the truth and said that he made a purchase because he trusted the salesperson or “connected” with the assistant and therefore trusted his or her advice. Price – within reason – rarely comes into the purchasing decision. Make sure you set up a structure within your business that allows people to make their emotional purchasing decisions and then give them as many illogical, irrational, specious reasons to justify their purchase.

Science Quiz Question

I have just made myself a cup of coffee and I am about to pour the milk in. As so often happens at the most inappropriate time, my wife calls out to me to help her for “just a minute.” From experience, I know that my wife has no concept of time and “just a minute” is usually a guarantee that it will be significantly longer than a minute. Before I run off to help my wife, I need to make a decision. I like to drink my coffee relatively hot. Do I pour the milk in now before I go off and be a dutiful husband and help my wife or do I wait until I finish my duties and then pour the milk in? For the sake of the experiment, I am ignoring the answers that relate to being brave and telling my wife that I am going to drink my cup of coffee first. I have no desire for a death wish just yet! For the scientific answer, think of Newton’s law of cooling.

Science Quiz Answer

Logically, we generally understand that a cup of coffee cools down because the surrounding environment is cooler than the cup of coffee (in the same way that a cold drink from the fridge slowly warms up as the room is warmer than the drink). Colloquially we call this the law of maximum inconvenience – cold items get warmer and warm items get colder. I previously mentioned Newton’s law of cooling. This law states that the rate of heat loss of a body is proportional to the difference in temperature between the body and its surroundings. In the scenario with a cup of coffee, if we don’t add milk immediately the difference between the coffee and the surrounding air is at its greatest therefore, using Newton’s law, the RATE of heat loss is greater. Therefore the cup of coffee will cool at a faster rate. If we add cold milk from the fridge, the cup of coffee will have an immediate drop as the milk and coffee mix but from then on the cup is closer to the room temperature therefore the RATE of cooling is slower. Scientists with very little to do actually conducted an experiment in controlled laboratory conditions to test the theory. They determined a temperature that was cool enough to drink coffee comfortably. They then timed how long a cup of coffee took to reach that temperature by adding milk immediately or at a later point. When the milk was added immediately, it took 425 seconds to reach a pre-determined temperature. However, when the scientists waited 310 seconds to add the milk the coffee took a total of 340 seconds to reach the pre-determined temperature.


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