Sunday, February 24, 2013

“Let me tell a story…”

This article was first published in Jhankaar 2012, the annual printed literature of MBICEM in February 2012. The reason for this being put up on the blog today? Well, today is Steve Jobs's birthday and a year ago on this day, the crazy achievement called Jhankaar 2012, had been successfully achieved by the inspiration of the late Apple co-founder.

On October 5th 2011 when Steve Jobs, one of the most iconic men in the field of technology, breathed last, I was busy preparing my own broadsheet as a part of my college assignment. Influenced by the gravity of the big news that took the world by storm, my team-mate inquired, “Shouldn’t we take Steve Jobs news as our lead story?” I did not take a second to turn down her suggestion. I responded, “Every other team would be doing the same thing with their newspapers, and so let’s not do it. It would set us apart”. What I didn’t know then was, two months later I would be looking for a chance to preach this icon’s ideas and his ‘Think Different’ thought-processes to an extent that all my talks would begin with something or the other from the life of ‘my’ icon.
The ferro printed copy of the Steve Jobs article page on Jhankaar 2012
When I gave a presentation in my class recently, I was dumbstruck at the fact that only few were aware of the wonderfully inspirational life of Steve Jobs. Adding woe to it was the fact that although we all are so familiar with some of the Apple products- the iPhone, iPod and iPad- we know almost nothing about the creation of these magical products; starting right from the full-form of the small italicized ‘i’!

Having read the official biography of Jobs by Walter Isaacson, I am tempted to quote a few lines from the introduction of the book. Isaacson’s book gives us a look at “the rollercoaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing”.
               
Steve Jobs was a crazy man. That’s the word I would use to describe the extraordinary personality. His friends and colleagues tagged his unexpected moods and unpredictable conduct- which most of the time was abusive- as the ‘Reality Distortion Field’.
               
One day you come up with an idea and present it to Jobs and he would reject your proposals down the throat of dustbins as “rubbish” and “waste of time” for him. The next day he would come up to you and say that he has come up with a “brilliant” idea and would wait for applause. The idea would be the one you had told him the previous day. Probably he employed the same thinking behind the iPod shuffle’s tag line: “Embrace Uncertainty”. You never know which song comes up next!
               
Jobs once said, “Everyone thinks I’m a tyrant. I am a tyrant. But I’m usually right.” And he almost always was right!
               
Apple Computers made a humble beginning at the garage of Steve Jobs’s parents’ house. It shifted to various locations over Cupertino in the first few years. When the present Apple Campus was being designed, Jobs took a different approach towards it. He wanted the place to be more than a workplace. Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or may be because he knew all too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. He said, “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow.’ And soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas”.
               
Jobs had another strange approach at Apple. He was ready to ‘cannibalize’ his own products so as to make way for another and better one. “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will,” he said. So even though an iPhone might cannibalize sales of an iPod, or an iPad might cannibalize sales of a laptop, that did not deter him.
               
He did not want that the customers, who have no idea regarding the internal functioning of the hardware of any Apple product, should open up the device when something goes wrong and try to fix it themselves. He wanted to have ‘end-to-end’ control on the customer experience. And so, however you might try, you would never be able to locate a screw on your Apple device. You might break it in the quest to open it! If you actually get a chance to see an opened-up Apple product, you would find a furnished interior with the signatures of all the engineers who designed each part! Jobs made sure that the right persons get the recognition at the right places.
               
Apple products are manufactured in China. To retain the original identity of the Apple Headquarters, Jobs changed the ‘Made in China’ tag. All Apple products now have the tag ‘Designed in Cupertino’.
               
Jobs was a charismatic personality, he had an air about him, which continues to float even after he has left us. He had the power to influence people and make them work the way he wanted them to. The biggest example of this was probably the entry of Pepsi Co.’s CEO John Sculley to Apple in 1983. Steve bluntly asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” Sculley couldn’t refuse and Jobs had his own way through.

Nobody is eager for a lecture, but everyone loves listening to a story. That’s the approach Steve Jobs adopted and probably that’s what has kept you reading this article till the end. Jobs loved to have end-to-end control on everything. But one thing was beyond his control: his cancer. It slowly took his life away from him. When he was about 22, he used to say, “Life is short and we are all going to die really soon.” The ‘soon’ turned out to be very soon for this legend.
               
Apple’s ‘Think Different’ commercial of 1997 is one of the most famous ad campaigns in the history of advertising. It said, “The people, who are crazy enough to change the world, are the ones who do.” And Jobs did indeed change the world.
               
By the way, if you are still wondering what the small italicized ‘i’ means, it is the ‘internet’!

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