I just finished recording one of my monthly "debates" with my industry colleague and friend, Mitch Joel. I had two topics I wanted to discuss - the first of which was #occupywallstreet. We had a really terrific conversation around the movement and right at the end of the conversation, Mitch innocently brought up my second topic, which we very briefly skirted.
So now I want to discuss further...
Steve Jobs. Legend. Icon. Visionary. Dreamer. Ideal Client. Over the past few weeks, we've said good bye to a business genius. To be sure, Steve Jobs grew, turned Apple around and then extended this leadership by transforming it into the world's most valuable company, taking over from Exxon Mobile (at least this was in August)
And then, as if by some grand design, Steve Job's commissioned Biography, aptly titled, "Steve Jobs," comes out days after Jobs passes away and rockets to number 1 on Amazon.com. Hot on these heels are a number of press appearances, including the book's author, Walter Isaacson, making an appearance on 60 minutes.
And as I'm watching Isaacson and listening to various accounts of Jobs' life, I'm deeply troubled. The fact remains, Jobs does not appear to be a very nice man at all. In fact, he comes across as a proper son of a bitch. Denying paternity rights to his child, refusing to give options to one of his long time colleagues and when a sympathetic co-worker offers to give some of his options if Jobs matches him, Job says, "good idea...I'll give zero and you give zero".
Jobs also critiques Bill Gates in the biography, calling him "basically unimaginative" and someone who "shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas". Not that we needed a book to see Mac vs PC commercials which did likewise. This to a man who has pledged to give away half his fortune to charity.
And in Jobs' corner? FoxConn, anti-suicide clauses and the like.
I'm confused. I see the iconic Apple commercial that talks about the people that are crazy enough to change the world and they are all good people.
Or maybe there weren't, but chose not to commission a biography.
I wonder if this commercial was briefed by Steve Jobs to be about Steve Jobs i.e. his future legacy.
I'm confused because I wonder if being a visionary genius and being a mensch are mutually exclusive.
I'm confused because I wonder why Apple doesn't bring all those jobs back to America as it continues to manufacture luxury products at bargain basement prices and charge a fortune to an endless sea of willing lemmings.
I'm confused because the same sea of lemmings are probably occupying wall street right now with a 110% incidence of owning at least 1 i-product.
...and I'm probably one of them as I have my iPad, MacbookAir, iPhone, iPod and about to make the permanent switch away from PC to Mac. And I bought the book as well.
So am I a hypocrite? Probably. A confused one, because I'm not sure if it's fair or right to mix personality with profits - or at the very minimum, a person's private life with their business leadership.
Was Steve Jobs a right ole meanie? Most likely, but the people around him adored him and look back on even the public displays of displeasure with pride. The honor of getting to work with a true legend...
So is all of this irrelevant? At the end of the day, isn't it just about manufacturing the world's greatest suite of products? Perhaps and perhaps not. The world is certainly blurring and younger consumers in particular are not separating the products the buy from the companies' ethics, morals and business practices that manufacture them.
Personally, I will choose to divide Steve Jobs the man, CEO, business leader and visionary into two buckets. I will discard the things about him that I don't identify or agree with, or approve and I will integrate the practices, principles and ideas which I can learn from.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
Steve Jobs was a complex man to be sure. I'm not sure it's fair to hold him to a higher standard, after all he was human. Very human. Sadly so. I also don't think it's right to worship him as an idol - false, American or otherwise. That too ends badly for all.
I guess I will continue to support the company, based on my - along with seemingly everyone else's - inability to "force quit" this addiction to design, functionality and sexiness in general. Although I'm not sure how long this may be the case if the company chooses not to adapt, evolve and be a better company in the wake and shadow of its creator, who might not always have been as such.
You can quote them.
Disagree with them.
Glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do it ignore them...