If I close my eyes and picture Steve Jobs, it is always him wearing a black turtleneck, doing a reality distorting pitch to unveil a revolutionary new Apple product. But, who is Jobs really? How does he create such exquisite products? How does he manage time and get things done? How is he as family, boss and a human being? It is for such questions that I was interested in his biography. The biography of Steve Jobs is written by Walter Isaacson and was released soon after his demise. I picked up the book after learning that the ultra-secretive Jobs had done a tell-all in the book and it would be balanced in covering both his great and not-so-great traits.
Jobs was a genius and visionary. If not for him, the world of computers, software and gadgets would be much less beautiful or useful. With the Apple II, the iPod and the iPhone, he created products which had been envisioned before, but had not been created with such detail and simplicity. He had an unwavering focus on how his products looked, felt and were experienced. Everything had to be just right: the shape, color, texture and weight. At Apple he created a culture where design drove engineering. He was a pathfinder, understanding what users wanted without having to rely on user studies, but instead on his legendary intuition and taste.
Despite having created some of the most popular digital products ever, Jobs used old-world habits and tools for his creation. He regularly took long walks to think and to talk about ideas. He used sketchbooks all his life to write, draw and thrash out ideas. In his team meetings, he insisted on using whiteboards to formulate and simplify thoughts. He believed that sparks and ideas were formed when random interactions happened between people and he built workplaces that encouraged this. He delivered products on time by resolving issues by meeting or calling people immediately, instead of email.
Jobs was also extremely hard to work with. He was highly opinionated, judging anyone or anything as either great or crap, even if he had no idea about the subject. A lot of his friends, partners and employees left him, not being able to bear his mercurial attitude. All his life, he regularly screamed at and insulted people whose work he did not like. He was a hard dictator, never interested in working for or with others, his orders had to be followed. With his authoritarian style of management he drove away all leaders and independent thinkers from his organization. He routinely lied and took credit for ideas of his employees. Despite being an excellent judge of human taste, it remains a mystery why he treated his fellow humans so badly. Isaacson attributes this to him being abandoned by his biological parents. But, that does not really explain why he did not accept his own daughter Lisa for more than a decade.
From his college days, Jobs was deeply influenced by Eastern spirituality, philosophy and habits. He took to veganism and followed it all his life. He also practiced weird diets of fruits and juices. Even after being diagnosed with cancer he did not undergo surgery, but instead went for quack medicines. His stubbornness in sticking to his belief despite all evidence to the contrary ultimately led to his early demise.
I recommend picking up this book to examine the greatness and the failings of Steve Jobs. Every reader is sure to benefit from the lessons of his life.