I happened to be in the Apple Store in Clarendon, Virginia buying an iPad2 when Steve Jobs picture appeared on a computer screen. Throughout the store, we experienced the slow, startling understanding that Steve Jobs had passed away. It was an unsettling moment, but now I consider it to be a precious coincidence that my lifetime memory will include such a direct connection with his incredible impact and legacy.
Many memories have been flashing through my mind: That unforgettable commercial in 1984; a personal encounter at an Apple reception in the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC; the iPod – and the iPod commercials, which really did make you want to dance
But what I want to share most are two episodes I keep coming back to – two episodes that for me, capture the essence of why Steve Jobs was the greatest innovator of our time:
The question he posed to John Sculley, when he was recruiting Sculley to come to Apple:
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
Richard Rumelt’s description of an encounter with Steve Jobs in 1998 from an interview with McKinsey Quarterly, published in November 2007:
After giving Jobs his assessment of Apple’s long-term chances in the personal computer market, he posed he question, “So what are you trying to do? What’s the long term strategy?” And Steve Jobs reaction? “He just smiled and said, ‘I am going to wait for the next big thing.”
Rumelt goes on to explain why this response was so powerful:
“…He (Steve Jobs) was waiting until the right moment for that predatory leap, which for him was Pixar and then, in an even bigger way, the iPod. That very predatory approach of leaping through the window of opportunity and staying focused on those big wins…”
There is so much to learn from Steve Jobs. The characteristics expressed in these episodes are of a visionary, passionate man who kept his eye on extraordinary possibilities. He is and will continue to be an Inspiration to all of us who aspire to be innovation leaders.