Seldom does an era come to an end so clearly as with Steve Jobs’s resignation as Apple’s CEO. His life’s work changed more than the fortunes of one California fruit company. He also showed us all how to infuse a brand with magnetic power through his three invisible contributions.
As a business decision-maker, how could you not be a fan of Steve Jobs? He launched the personal computer revolution, gave us the graphic interface and mouse now taken for granted. His iPod changed how we listen to music and the industry that creates it. The iPhone redefined the very idea of a smart phone. And then, he changed how we interact with information to begin the post-pc era with the iPad.
Along the way, one thing remained unaltered, undiluted, and undeterred.
Invisible contribution #1: Set a bold standard and stick to it
Apple today bobs atop of the ocean of company valuations, the biggest fish in the sea—worldwide. Product sales is just one metric, the magic is the result of Steve Jobs’ singleness of vision; he saw the invisible and pursued it without compromise.
Look past the Mac, or iPod, or even the iPhone and iPad. Job’s more significant contribution came in the hundreds and thousands of products we never saw. For every successful Apple product, there were hundreds to which Jobs said NO because they were merely great without hope of rising to his standard of insanely great.
Invisible contribution #2: See it bigger than anyone else
Apple has a penchant for going left when the world turns right. Some ideas were derided as mistakes along the way: Lisa, Newton, the MacCube, etc. But, how could they be mistakes when each left a DNA trail ultimately connecting to the products selling by the millions today.
Every step, even while seemingly making no sense at the time, later revealed a straight-line advance in pursuit of something that would ultimately make perfect sense—and money.
String theory of Steve
It’s a kind of string-theory leadership. Start by accepting there are patterns in the universe too big for our minds to see; parallel realities, possibilities. Except, Steve saw them for Apple. And, he led the company to them repeatedly.
Invisible contribution #3: Create a culture of belief
Apple’s successful boldy-going-where-no-computer-has-gone-before approach bred within the company a culture of belief that will live on long after Steve is gone. The media made it about Steve. Internally, he made it bigger. He made it about belief.
Knowing is good. You can get by with knowing. But, believing is knowing on steroids. Belief gives Apple its magnetic world-changing swagger.
What are you waiting for?
Success in business, branding, and life is the byproduct of intentional, consistent action over time. But, remember, time is finite; ours comes in limited supply.
Therein lies a fourth more personal contribution on Steve’s part: urgency. His do-it-now nature was only sharpened by the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He came to work every day with a sense of now.
“Death is very likely the single best invention of Life,” Jobs said in his Stanford University commencement address. “It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
What will be your invisible contribution today?