I was thinking about the recent announcement of Steve Job’s resignation as CEO of Apple Inc. this morning on the way to work and why he is such an impressive figure to me. Here are some thoughts on what I learned from him:

  • It’s not just about having vision, it’s attention to details. Jobs has both. Not only does he drive the direction of the company at the highest level, his attention to details is demonstrated by the fact that his name is listed among inventors on 313 Apple patents, including desktop computers, laptops, product packaging, ipods, and operating system systems. The list includes design elements of the glass staircases you see in Apple retail stores.  These are the details and  innovations that set your company  apart and delight your customers.
  • There’s Power in Simplicity and Good Design. People are drawn to the design of Apple iPhones, iPads, iPods, laptops, iCloud and more. What attracts you is the experience, how you intuitively know what to do without struggling or resorting to the manual.
  • Don’t Believe in Commoditization. Jobs was the antithesis of commoditization in a world with many companies competing with similar products. As Michael Schrage writes in The Myth of Commoditization:  “Executives, entrepreneurs and investors are too ready to believe that commodity is destiny. The result is a dulling of strategic focus and a narrowing of the business mind.”

Instead of focusing only on operation issues – shaving costs, logistics, manufacturing – Apple focused on differentiating themselves. When desktop computers were all beige boxes, Apple released translucent plastic with the iMac. When all music was sold on disk, iTunes delivered the “bits”, and so on.

By innovating with the customer’s technical and aesthetic desires in mind, Apple remains unique and continues to inspire unparalleled customer loyalty.