Steve Jobs on Innovation, Intuition, & Life


October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs has passed away leaving behind an unparalleled legacy in American innovation. As my friend and fellow marketer, Bob Abbate, fittingly summed up, “His vision inspired me. His products are the tools of my trade. He was a master marketer. I have lost my mentor.” As we remember Steve Jobs, I thought I would compile a list of ways that Steve has inspired me in business and in life. Rather than try to thread together a heady narrative, I thought I’d take a form cue from the icon himself and go with a simple curation of some of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes by theme.

INNOVATION

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”

“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

“Real artists ship.”

“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient. But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea. And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

QUALITY & DESIGN

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.”

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

INTUITION

“For something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”

“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

AND ONE MORE THING …

For all of the talk about the legendary “1984” ad, for my money “The Crazy Ones” is the best Apple ad because it’s not about their product at all. It’s a little Valentine to the Apple community — ironically at a time when they needed it most. A never-aired version of the ad is posted below that replaces Richard Dreyfuss’ famous voiceover with Steve himself. The portrait above is by Dylan Roscover and is made up of the ads’ iconic words. Do yourself a favor and check out the full-size image.

Steve changed the way we compute, consume and create information and media, start businesses, run businesses, create culture, define CEOs, launch products, deliver keynotes, design just about everything, and much more. He did all of this while reminding us to follow our passions each day, with each breath. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Here’s to the crazy ones. Here’s to you, Steve. You were insanely great.

Got a favorite Steve Jobs quote? If it’s not above, please add it in the comments below.

Photo via Flickr user Brett Jordan
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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.