Inside Steve's Brain

date Oct 11, 2008
authors Leander Kahney
reading time 4 mins
  • Book Title: Inside Steve’s Brain
  • Author: Leander Kahney
  • Year written/published: 2008
  • Some extracts:

always listen to what the customer wants?

“We have a lot of customers, and we have a lot of research into our installed base,” Jobs told Business Week. “we also watch industry trends carefully. But in the end, for something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

like Henry Ford once said…

If i had asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.

What is Jobs good at…

  • Developing new products
  • product presentations
  • cutting deals

what Jobs is not good at…

  • directing movies (@ pixar)
  • dealing with the Wall Street
  • Operations
  • Staying focused

design and excellence…

Job’s pursuit of excellence is the secret of Apple’s great design. For jobs, design isn’t decoration. It’s not the surface appearance of a product. It’s not about the colour or the stylistic details. For Jobs, design is the way the products works.

feature creep…

Jobs focused Apple on a small selection of products it could execute well. But the focus has also been applied to the individual themselves. To avoid “feature creep” - the growing list of features that is often added to new products during their design stage after their initial release 0 Jobs insists on tight focus. Many cell phones are shining examples of feature creep. They do everything under the sun, but basic functions are obscured by the devices’ overwhelming complexity. To avoid confusing the consumer with endless array of complex choices, one of Job’s favorite mantras at Apple is : “Focus means saying no.”


Jobs’ insistence on excellence sometimes delays products and he’s quite willing to kill projects that his team has worked on for years. But his unwillingness to compromise ensures that Apple products are never rushed out of the door until they are polished to his satisfaction.

industrial design…

… industrial design at Apple isn’t treated as the final gloss on a product that’s already been engineered, as it is at many other companies. Too many companies treat design as the skin slapped on at the last minute. In fact, at many companies design is outsourced altogether. A seperate firm will handle how the product looks - just as a seperate firm will likley handle manufacturing.

Jonathan Ive, the designer…

The foot of the iMac’s aluminium base is made from a special non-slip material to prevent the machine from shifting when the screen is tilted. Why a special material? Because Ive doesn’t like rubber feet. Rubber feet would have been trivially easy to add to the base, and few people would notice whether they were there or not. But to Ive, using rubber feet, doesn’t have the state of art. Ive also hates stickers. A lot of apple product have product information laser etched right into the case, even their unique serial number.

Small is beautiful

Jobs likes to work in small teams. He didn’t want the original Mac team to exceed 100 members, lest it became unfocused and unmanageable. Jobs firmly believes that small teams of talented employees run in circles around larger groups.

Jobs’s Job

“He didn’t create anything really, but he created everything,” wrote the former CEO John Sculley on Job’s contribution to the original Mac. According to Sculley, Jobs once said to him: “The Macintosh is inside of me, and I’ve got to get it out and turn it into a product.”

Debates with Jobs

A meeting with Jobs can be a trial by fire. He’ll challenge everything that is said, sometimes extremely rudely. But it’s a test. He is forcing people to stick up for their ideas. If they feel strongly enough, they’ll defend their position. By raising the stakes, and people’s blood pressure, he’s testing to see if they know thei facts and have a strong argument. The more firmly they stand, the more likely they’re right.

Secrecy at Apple…

Jobs’s Apple is obsessively secretive. It’s almost as secretive as a covert government agency. Like CIA operatives, Apple employees won’t talk about what they do, even with their closest confidants… Employees certainly will not discuss their work with outsiders… The company has a cell structure, each group isolated from the other, like a spy agency or a terrorist organisation…

Apple’s control freakiness

So obsessive secrecy is not a quirk of Jobs’s control freak tendencies; it’s a key element of Apple’s extremely effective marketing machine. Apple makes millions of dollars in free advertising every time Jobs steps onto a stage to reveal a new product.

On wooing John Sculley, then CEO of Pepsi to be the Apple CEO…

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?” It’s perhaps the most famous challenge in modern business history: it’s an insult, a compliment, and a soul-searching, philosophical challenge rolled into one question.