Guy Kawasaki at the Innovation Live! event in Dubai

Six things I learnt from Steve Jobs

Guy Kawasaki at the Innovation Live! event in Dubai

As one of the individuals responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer line in 1984, Guy Kawasaki is an expert in his field. A self-proclaimed "evangelist", he gained enormous insight on the art of innovation through his work with leading minds. Drawing on his experience at Apple, under Steve Jobs, he shares strategic insight with Natasha D'Souza

“We don’t know any more than those of you entrepreneurs here in Dubai do. You may think that those of us in Silicon Valley know precisely what might be the future trends in technology or the next big start-up business model, but trust me, we don’t. There is nothing magical or infallible about Silicon Valley,” shared Guy Kawasaki in a candid session at Innovation Live! earlier this week.

Kawasaki - an Apple Fellow and Silicon Valley-based author and investor - is best known as the former Chief Evangelist for Apple and part of the core team originally responsible for marketing their Macintosh computer line in 1984. One of America’s foremost marketing gurus, he popularised the concepts of “evangelism marketing” and “technology evangelism”, and several of his best-selling books form part of the curriculum at some of the world’s top business and marketing programmes.

He added: “In Silicon Valley, we do however suffer from the delusion that anything is possible and I think it has mostly worked in our favour,” citing the examples of YouTube and Google.

“There were already a number of relatively popular search engines in the world, did the world need another one at that point in time? Probably not. But they built it anyway!”

In a special afternoon talk, Kawasaki distilled the top six things he learned from his boss Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple during his tenure at the now iconic technology company.

1. Only competence matters: “Steve was a total perfectionist which often made him a difficult person to work for. You were either incredible or terrible, nothing in between. A lot of people feared him. But he was also incredibly fair and impartial towards his employees, long before political correctness was the order of the day in American society. Steve didn’t care what race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion you were. What mattered was that you were good at what you did.”

2. Customers cannot tell you what they need: “Don’t expect your customers to know exactly what they need. Imagine if Kodak asked their customers what they wanted, they’d probably say film that captures color better, is cheaper, more pictures per roll. They wouldn’t have said move away from chemical technology and go digital!” 

3. Aim high: “Steve Jobs believed in epic and seemingly-impossible battles. His mission was to prevent IBM from controlling computing and the flow of information. It wasn’t easy but he believed in his lofty vision and was always challenging himself and his team to keep pushing.”

4. Less is more: “Whether it was design or employee headcount, Steve Jobs believed in keeping it minimal while maximising on efficacy. The best example of this, besides Apple’s products of course, is what I call ‘The Steve Jobs’ slide. If you look at any of Steve Jobs presentations, his slides rarely had more than five to six words on there. He conveyed his message with powerful simplicity.”

5. Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence: “For many people changing your mind means you’re wishy-washy. They see it as a sign of weakness and stupidity. But not Steve. He famously changed his mind in the  late 2000s, when he realised that making the iPhone a closed system, impenetrable to standalone applications was a no-go. That was a very public reversal and the right way to go for the product and for consumers overall. When you realise you’re wrong, change your mind and if you need to, change your path.”

6. Some things need to be believed to seen: “This is the story of Apple. Think about the mid-90s when Apple was in serious turmoil. Steve Jobs had been fired and the future of the company was murky. Who would’ve believed then that Apple would have become the first US$700bn company? But in Silicon Valley, over the decades we’re learned to believe that anything is possible, just like the leaders and people of Dubai do. You believe in a promising future for Dubai and you have grand ambitions for your city, and you work towards it and it will materialise, it will happen.”