Disruption according to Steve Jobs
Apple cofounder Steve Jobs may no longer be around, but lessons from his life well lived have remained relevant, perhaps even more so as companies strive to adapt to a world gone increasingly digital.
Author, speaker, and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, also former “chief evangelist” of Apple, was in the country recently and shared some of the lessons he learned at Apple and from the legendary Jobs.
“My thoughts on disruption, changing the world, I learned from Apple, from Steve Jobs,” said the 63-year-old Kawasaki, current chief evangelist of online graphic design platform Canva.
Here are some of his recommendations for businesses preparing to take the roller-coaster ride to digital transformation.
1. Don’t ask the customers what they want
Kawasaki said businesses may find it counterintuitive at first because one does business to serve loyal customers.
“Your current customer would only describe what they want in terms of what they already know,” he said.
It is the duty of companies to come up with something that customers will need.
“Apple gave all its customers a completely different computer from what they probably would ask for (through Macintosh),” he said.
2. Jump to the next curve
The simple explanation for this is “sustained innovation.”
You should not stop when a product or company has established a market.
There will always be a better product and if companies fail to innovate, disruptors would eat them alive.
“Most companies define themselves in terms of what they already do as opposed to the benefits they provide,” Kawasaki explained.
Companies need to keep moving and create products that customers would eventually need.
“Think of all the taxicab companies that are being threatened by Lyft and Uber,” he explained. “Think of all the hotels that are threatened by Airbnb. Those things are the next curve. Airbnb is not a slightly better hotel chain. Lyft is not a slightly better taxicab company. You want to be on the next curve if you truly want to disrupt.”
3. Make an MVVVP
MVP stands for the Minimum Viable Product. It is not enough to have a viable product, according to Kawasaki. He added Valuable and Validating “if you want to dent the universe.”
A product must be able to validate the vision of the company, which is to disrupt.
“What you ship is disruption,” he said. “Does it reflect how you believe the world will evolve? I’m recommending to you that you ship not only what is viable, but also what is valuable and validating.”
4. Make design count
What separates Steve Jobs from every other tech CEO in Silicon Valley? The late cofounder of Apple believed that engineers were artists, Kawasaki shared during the recently concluded ACC 2017 (Asian Carriers Conference) hosted by telecommunications company PLDT and its subsidiary Smart Communications.
“It wasn’t about lines of code, it wasn’t that kind of productivity,” Kawasaki said. “It was about art. If you want to disrupt the market, you have to think of your engineers as artists. That they are making art and that’s an expression of their soul so make design count.”
5. Polarize people
Notice how iPhone gets flak every time it launches a new phone? iPhone has polarized people. “And it’s okay.”
“Some people would love what you do, some people would hate what you do and it’s okay,” Kawasaki said. “What’s worse than being hated is when people don’t care about what you’ve done—that you are irrelevant.”
“That great innovation, that disruption tends to piss people off” because it shakes the market and ups the ante on more great innovations.
6. Ignore naysayers
“The naysayers will tell you it can’t be done; it shouldn’t be done; it isn’t necessary,” Kawasaki said.
To illustrate this, Kawasaki cited as example IBM president Thomas Watson, who said in 1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
Fast-forward to this century, Apple has Macintosh.
When Apple decided to build its own Apple store, many people said there was no way it would work because a single brand could not possibly support a store.
“Yet today, per square foot Apple is the most successful retailer in the world,” he said. “Get to the next curve and don’t get the naysayers drag you down.”
7. Change your mind
Changing your mind does not necessarily mean you took the wrong turn.
According to Kawasaki, it doesn’t mean that you are stupid. “I think it’s quite the opposite.”
Initially, Apple wanted the iPhone to be a closed system where functionalities could only be added through Safari plug-ins, because it would keep it “secure and reliable.”
One year later, the tech giant decided to open the system where you can develop without SDK (software developers’ kit) native apps for the iPhone.
“Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence and not a sign of making a mistake. Changing your mind is a good thing,” he said.
8. “Niche thyself.”
“I think for the marketing of disruption, it comes down to a very simple point,” Kawasaki said. “If you are an engineer, you need to create a product that’s unique and valuable. If you are a marketing person, you need to convince the world that it’s unique and valuable. When the iPhone first came out, it was unique and valuable, it was the only way you could buy a song from the six major music publishers. Easily, legally, and cheaply.”
9. Let 100 flowers bloom
“Letting 100 flowers bloom for a disruptor means that you take your best shot at positioning and branding and figure out who you are unique and valuable for,” Kawasaki said.
“In the 1980s, we thought Macintosh would be a spreadsheet, database, and word processing machine,” he said. “We were zero. Large companies did not embrace Macintosh with all those three functionalities.”
However, companies started using Macintosh for desktop publishing.
“It is not something we anticipated,” he explained. “It’s not something we created. I think that desktop publishing—all those pagemaker, postscript—they were gifts from God to Apple computer.”
And they celebrated the “accidental victory” that made Macintosh what it is now: a most sought-after product in the market.
“What we can do in Silicon Valley better than other parts of the world is we know how to declare victory,” he said.
10. Churn, baby, churn
Kawasaki considers this the bookend to the MVVVP and is probably the most difficult thing for a disruptor.
“Once you’re in the curve (and the product) is now available to the public, you need to completely switch your mindset and churn,” he explained. “It means that v1 becomes v1.1, and 1.2, 2.0 (and so on).”
“The lesson here is jump to the next curve,” he continued. “When you jump to the next curve, that curve doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m not saying you should ship crap. Once you’ve shipped products, you need to churn baby churn. This is the toughest thing for a disruptor to do because you have to go from ignoring feedback to listening to feedback.”
In closing, the author of 13 books, and counting, said: “One of the most valuable lessons that I learned from Steve Jobs is if you want to be an innovator, if you want to be a disruptive force, if you want to dent the universe, if you want to change the world, you need to embrace this attitude that some things need to be believed to be seen.”