Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No Mumbo Jumbo from Steve Jobs

James Kwak just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and reached this conclusion:
Isaacson’s biography displays some of the traits that made Jobs such a successful businessman. He could have immense personal charm, when he wanted to. As Steve Wozniak said, “Steve could call up people he didn’t know and make them do things.” That ability, to get on the phone and talk someone else into do something that isn’t in her interests, is what I consider the most important skill in business.

Jobs was also incredibly opinionated about his products, and his opinions were usually right. He was a compulsive micro-manager who almost always got his way, and the result is the world of personal computing we see around us, from touchscreen phones to the rounded windows in desktop operating systems.

What you don’t see is any of the conventional management mumbo-jumbo that big-company CEOs spout to justify their fortunes—nothing about focusing on people, mentoring, creating a supportive work environment, giving people freedom but making them accountable, leading by following, etc. As I’ve said before, Steve Jobs violated just about every rule of generic company management. He succeeded because he had great product instincts, he was incredibly convincing, he was inspiring enough to get some great people to work for him, and he was a little bit crazy. In other words, he was the farthest thing you could find from the generic corporate executives who rule most of the business world.


  1. Typical producers' agreements/compromises with their corporate and bureaucratic partners overshadow the product. I think the bottom line is this: Steve Jobs went to bat for the consumer everyday for his own reasons and on his own terms.

  2. Those traits describe my boss. Oh, except for the ability to spot good product ideas.
    Ooops, I guess that just makes him an ordinary A@#$$ole.

  3. MyFirstNameIsPaulMay 1, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    The problem with companies that are very top-down is succession planning. I started working for a company a couple years after its last founder had left and it was pretty clear from the beginning that the company was on its way out. It was still the market leader when I started in 2002, but since then it has gone through two bankruptcies and is now 1/25th its peak size.

  4. Mumbo jumbo corporate speak is of course just mumbo jumbo.

    This kind of garbage is the natural style of communications in the Byzantine world of government. But it has also impacted corporate hierarchy land and much of the press as well.

    Why is this so?

    Because clear speaking and plain meaning leads to direct individual responsibility. You can be plainly right or plainly wrong. The bureaucrat, in contrast, wants to diffuse and disguise responsibility and never wants to be caught out wrong.