Steve Jobs You Are Not

By November 11, 2013Sports & Outdoors

Why companies (and specifically startups) need to put their customers first, and stop torturing themselves by emulating Steve Jobs. Here’s an excerpt of a post I wrote last week for Medium.

Steve Jobs

“Steve Jobs is an impossible act to follow — this type of human comet only comes around every 100 years or so.”

Full disclosure, I worked at Apple for four years. I now run my own UI/UX design firm that works primarily with startups and Fortune 50 companies.

Since leaving Apple, I’ve worked with many startups. I’ve found that people who run and work for startups are generally bright and hard-working. Passionate about their companies. You can’t help but admire these folks, and I absolutely love working with most of them. But, ever since Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs came out a trend has reared its somewhat ugly head. This trend deserves a Jesus-inspired hashtag: #WhatWouldSteveDo. My thinking is not new — some of my colleagues in the design industry are on record about how the Isaacson book has made our job both easier and more difficult at the same time. Easy, in that “design first” has become a practice that many startups now follow in earnest. Difficult in that “customer first” has fallen to benchwarmer status. On the team but no longer a starter.

Building A Faster Horse
I was witness to the beginnings of #WhatWouldSteveDo. At an Apple town hall meeting, Steve, in answering an employee’s question about involving customers, uttered the following Henry Ford saying,

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”

A poster-worthy saying if nothing else. Nonetheless, that quote vibrated out to the design and business world immediately. Many companies (and especially startups) took this quote literally: see, Steve Jobs doesn’t follow his customers, so we’re going to go with our guts as well, and MVP the hell out of our products. However, if I were ever asked by a startup founder what I thought about the “Faster Horse” quote, I would lead with a slight jab,

But didn’t Ford also manufacture the Edsel — the worst car failure ever?

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