Steve Jobs: what’s love got to do with it?

When I first time heard  Steve Jobs’s commencement speech to Stanford graduates (you know, the “stay hungry, stay foolish” speech), I was thrilled – it sounded so true, like someone had finally said what I had always thought.

I was not alone – millions of other people around the globe shared the same feeling. His speech became an inspiration to many young people who step into life with great ideas and even greater expectations.

But was Jobs wrong? It’s the gist of a Forbes article, which is fueling a few discussions in LinkedIn groups that I’m a member of. Here’s a quote from the LinkedIn group:

[Linked #1  quote]

Steve Jobs’ ‘Bad’ Career Advice
Dear Group Members,

There was an interesting Forbes article by Frederick E. Allen (“Steve Jobs’ Bad Career Advice”) that caught our attention.
We think it somewhat unfairly singles out just a few paragraphs of what Jobs spoke at a graduation speech he gave a while back and overanalyzes it – but, it certainly kicks off a nice (maybe heated?) discussion.

Steve Jobs in his Stanford University graduation speech:
“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.”

“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. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Robin Hanson (Overcoming Bias Blog):
“Now try to imagine a world where everyone actually tried to follow this advice. And notice that we have an awful lot of things that need doing which are unlikely to be anyone’s dream job. So a few folks would be really happy, but most everyone else wouldn’t stay long on any job, and most stuff would get done pretty badly. Not a pretty scenario. . . .”

Will Wilkinson (Big Think):
“As an undergrad I was an art major. Frankly, few of my fellow art majors were talented enough to make a living at it, even after four (or more!) years of training. Sure they loved art, but in the immortal words of Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”

“Find what you love and never settle for less” is an excellent recipe for frustration and poverty. “Reconcile yourself to the limits of your talent and temperament and find the most satisfactory compromise between what you love to do and what you need to do feed your children” is rather less stirring, but it’s much better advice.”

Thanks and please leave a comment letting us know what you think?

Group Management
[end of quotation]

My first reaction was: of course must have love and passion for what you do, otherwise how can you make the things happen?

But is it enough? Can one equipped just with love and enthusiasm overcome the severity of nowadays circumstances? Then I started to analyze Jobs’ career accomplishments in the light of the advice he gave.

1. The Macintosch

With the Apple Macintosh, his aim was to make perfect personal computer, better than competitors’, hoping it would win the hearts of the customers and … the market.

He never wanted to make any compromise about its quality, nor about its visual aesthetic appearance. But in his passion to make a great product, he looked at it in isolation from the existing products on the market.

In other words he overlooked the importance of the compatibility of one product (even the best one) with the other products on the market. As a consequence he lost the war for standards with Microsoft. Both companies offered an operating system with graphical user interface. Microsoft Windows was designed to be compatible with the existing DOS, while the Apple Mac was not.

This “small disadvantage” accounted for Macintosh only 9% of the installed base of personal computers.

Fewer and fewer Mac-based applications were written, which made Apple Mac computers a bit demanding to use. If products are used as systems, then the availability of the complementary products and services depends of the number of the consumers for that particular system. Compatibility with the existing products is a critical issue in winning the market and establishing industry standards, if products are consumed as systems.

2. The iPod

The real success of Steve Jobs and Apple came latter with iPod and iPhone. They made Apple distinguishable from the competitors, branding the name Apple as synonym for quality, design and lifestyle. Apple didn’t invent these products. They just took the existing, poorly designed products and redesign them in a way that offer better user experience.

It is scholarly example of reverse engineering. When iPod was launched in 2001, Apple was a straggling company in PC market with market share deeply eroded by Microsoft. Launching iPod as an upmarket accessory to Macintosh, Apple’s intention was to boost the sales of the latter.

Instead of that iPod would take over the portable music device market. The reason behind this success is its perfect fit to the modern lifestyle characterized by frequent outdoor activities and very often long commuting time. In same time it offers superior design, quality and functionality comparing  to competitor’s products like MP3 player. Along with iPod, Apple brought to the market iTune, online music store, as complimentary product to iPod, offering the customers closed loop solution.

What conclusion can we draw, based on this two cases?

Love is a necessarily ingredient in every great job, but by itself it is not sufficient for success. Sense and rational approach are attributes complimentary to love which will trace the road to your success.

You cannot be the sole winner of the complex and sophisticated market lake PC market in this example, where the other market players, products and users are mutually correlated and interdependent.

Advantage typically goes to the player who have allies on his/her side and choose for evolutionary approach rather than revolutionary. That  makes the switching cost of the customers minimal.

In both cases Steve Jobs did what he loved to do: to make great products and enrich the user experience. However the rate of success varies widely across the cases – and his life. Neither love nor a great product, could be a guarantee for success.

External conditions, the nature of the market in which you play have great impact on the outcome of the competition. Every market has different characteristics and requires different approach, different strategy. Attitude of the customers is different on different markets and you have to target them in different way. And that is a matter of business savvy, not love.

Love could be a motivator, love could make your life meaningful, but it could never be the crucial, single  factor which determines your eventual business success.

What do you think?

[via Forbes][photo: Flickr, Annie Bananie Angel soon]

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About the author

Cvetanka Jordanoska

I have always believed that the life should be fun and anything you do in your life, you have to enjoy it. My personal amazement are hard sciences. In short I hold MSc degree in Applied Physics, MBA in General Management and have few years experience in high tech industry. My interest is focused on the development of novel scientific solutions and their successful transfer into real world applications. As a high tech professional I was involved in the whole life cycle of new product development and became aware of the different aspects of technology commercialization. I am supporter of holistic approach and for me any technical development cannot be considered in isolation from the other factors like financial, environmental or customers' expectations. Being inventor myself, I am very curious about the innovation and how they change our lives and our perception of the world. I like to share my experience and thoughts and help entrepreneurs in their journey from idea to market.

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