Steve Jobs [abridged]

Steve Jobs [abridged]

Synopsis

Introduction

In a clear, elegant biographical voice, Walter Isaacson provides an unflinching portrait of the most important technological and innovative personality of the modern era: Apple’s founder and chief thinker, Steve Jobs. Through a series of unprecedented interviews with Jobs—as well as interviews with more than 100 friends, family members, colleagues, adversaries, admirers, and imitators—Isaacson documents the transformation of an ambitious Silicon Valley whiz kid into one of the most feared and respected business leaders of his generation and quite possibly of all time; arriving at some hard truths about a man who defined the intersection of art and technology for the digital age and the future to come. 

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1.  Discuss Jobs’ harsh binary system of appraisal. Why do you think it worked so well in tangent with his style of leadership? Do you think there is merit in living to such high standards? Is it unrealistic or ultimately impractical?

2.  Which do you think is more beneficial for the future of technology: end-to-end hardware and software integration or open and customizable systems? Do you agree with Jobs that good products can only come from closed, centralized environments? Why or why not?

3.  Chapter 11 is titled “The Reality Distortion Field: Playing by His Own Set of Rules.” Discuss this term and how it is used to both compliment and criticize Jobs. How did Jobs’ “reality distortion field” influence those around him? Do you think this kind of denial or warping of expectations should be used to motivate employees?

4.  Do you view Apple as representative of the alternative counterculture Steve Jobs originated from, or part of a techno-corporate “Big Brother” that he so ardently railed against? 

5.  Discuss Apple’s revitalization after Jobs’ return, particularly the distillation of Apple’s offerings from a slew of products to only a handful. Is there some inherent risk in limiting your projects and “trimming the fat?” Do you think this is a business model other technology companies should follow? Why or why not? In your opinion, does it afford greater focus or limit a company’s potential?

6.  Consider the core tenets of Jobs’ vision: poetry connected to engineering, bold and simple design, the intersection of technology and liberal arts, and ease of use through end-to-end integration. How does Apple and its products exemplify these ideals?

7.  Isaacson writes, “The theory, shared by many, is that the tough love made him wiser and more mature. But it’s not that simple. At the company he founded after being ousted from Apple, Jobs was able to indulge all of his instincts, both good and bad. He was unbound. The result was a series of spectacular products that were dazzling market flops. This was the true learning experience. What prepared him for the great success he would have in Act III was not his ouster from Act I at Apple but his brilliant failures in Act II.” Do you share this opinion?  Discuss Jobs’ time with NeXT and his involvement with Pixar in your answer. How did these ventures ready him for a powerful return to the company he founded?

8.  Jobs’ is quoted as saying, “I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the company, the way you organize a company.” Can a streamlined company spawn innovation more so than a single creative individual? Is Jobs’ greatest legacy his operational approach or Apple as a larger corporate entity?

9.  How did Jobs approach industry competitors? Consider the statement he made at the 1997 Macworld conference: “‘Apple lives in an ecosystem…It needs help from other partners. Relationships that are destructive don’t help anybody in this industry.’” Did he always adhere to this principle of partnerships and existing within an ecosystem?

10. Discuss the merits and pitfalls of Jobs’ obsession with design—from Apple products, to paint color in its factories, to retail spaces, and even the look of Lee Clow’s advertisements. Consider the following quote from Jobs in your response: “Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers.”

11.  Consider Apple’s approach to brand marketing and advertisement. What is the ultimate goal in Apple’s advertising? Discuss the “Think Different” campaign of 1997. What was the campaign’s message? How did it position Apple’s products and corporate identity? Consider the following quote in your response: “It was designed to celebrate not what the computers could do, but what creative people could do with the computers.” Why is this an important distinction?

12.  Jobs held closely to Mike Markkula’s edict that a good company must “impute”—that everything from packaging to marketing must convey a product’s value and concept. How does Apple accomplish this? Can you think of any other products that you consume or interact with that also “impute”?

13.  Jobs was convinced that a consumer did not know what they want—that often it was up to innovators to predict what the next great necessity or commodity would be. Do you agree? How can this basic principle be applied to all forms of business? What do you envision the “next big thing” to be?

14.  How has your perspective of Apple as a corporate entity and of Steve Jobs as an individual changed after reading this biography? Would you ever want to work for someone like Steve Jobs? Why or why not?

15.  Jobs had a penchant for taking his passion to the smallest levels, going so far as to trade barbs with bloggers and interact with consumers. Should a CEO be involved on the ground level of the corporation? How did Jobs’ personal commitment to defending his products and his company’s contribute to his iconology?

Enhance Your Discussion 

1.  Visit a local Apple store and note the design and layout of the space. Is the store successful in “imputing?” Is each function of the store’s sections intuitive through its design? What kind of emotional, visual, and intellectual response do you have when you enter an Apple store?

2.  Reflect on how Apple products have influenced your daily life. What Apple products do you own? How have these devices impacted how you work, how you communicate, or how you ingest media?

3.  Use your critical eye to consider the functions of furniture and appliances in your household. Is the product efficient? Isthere a connection between design and functionality? Do you see any room for improvement or innovation? How could Jobs’ principle of simplicity in design improve these everyday products?

4.  Watch one of Jobs’ Apple keynote presentations. How would you describe his presentation style? His communication style? How does he build excitement and intrigue? For the full archive of Apple keynote presentations and announcements, visit http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/apple-keynotes/id275834665.

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Chapters

  • SteveJobsABR 001 Open
    Duration: 33s
  • SteveJobsABR 002 ThePeople
    Duration: 13s
  • SteveJobsABR 003 Introduction
    Duration: 12min
  • SteveJobsABR 004 Childhood
    Duration: 08min
  • SteveJobsABR 005 SiliconValley
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 006 School
    Duration: 10min
  • SteveJobsABR 007 OddCouple
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 008 TheBlueBox
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 009 TheDropOut
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 010 ReedCollege
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 011 RobertFriedland
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 012 DropOut
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 013 AtariAndIndia
    Duration: 09min
  • SteveJobsABR 014 TheAppleI
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 015 TheAltairWasnt
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 016 AppleIsBorn
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 017 GarageBand
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 018 TheAppleII
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 019 MikeMarkulla
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 020 RegisMcKenna
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 021 ChrisannAndLisa
    Duration: 07min
  • SteveJobsABR 022 XeroxAndLisa
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 023 TheXerox
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 024 GreatArtistSteal
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 025 GoingPublic
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 026 TheMacIsBorn
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 027 TexacoTowers
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 028 TheReality
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 029 TheDesign
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 030 LikeAPorsche
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 031 BuildingTheMac
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 032 MachinesOfTheYear
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 033 LetsBePirates
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 034 EnterSculley
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 035 TheHoneymoon
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 036 TheLaunch
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 037 The1984Ad
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 038 PublicityBlast
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 039 GatesAndJobs
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 040 AfterAWhile
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 041 Icarus
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 042 Falling
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 043 ThirtyYearsOld
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 044 Exodus
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 045 Showdown
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 046 SevenDaysInMay
    Duration: 08min
  • SteveJobsABR 047 JobsSlipped
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 048 NEXT
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 049 ToBeOnYourOwn
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 050 PerotToTheRescue
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 051 BillGatesWas
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 052 TheLaunchOctober
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 053 PIXAR
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 054 TheDigital
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 055 ARegularGuy
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 056 FindingJoanne
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 057 TheLostFather
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 058 Lisa
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 059 TheRomantic
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 060 FamilyMan
    Duration: 07min
  • SteveJobsABR 061 JobsAgain
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 062 Instead
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 063 LisaMovesIn
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 064 Children
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 065 ToyStory
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 066 WasToyStory
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 067 TheSecondComing
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 068 SlouchingToward
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 069 TheRestoration
    Duration: 08min
  • SteveJobsABR 070 AtTimes
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 071 MacworldBoston
    Duration: 08min
  • SteveJobsABR 072 ThinkDifferent
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 073 AsHeWas
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 074 KillingTheClones
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 075 ProductLineReview
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 076 DesignPrinciples
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 077 InsideTheStudio
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 078 TheiMac
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 079 CarpingWas
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 080 CEO
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 081 FromiCEOToCEO
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 082 AppleStores
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 083 WoodStoneSteel
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 084 TheDigitalHub
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 085 iTunes
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 086 TheiPod
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 087 ThatsIt
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 088 TheWhitenessOf
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 089 TheiTunesStore
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 090 Microsoft
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 091 MusicMan
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 092 BobDylan
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 093 TheBeatles
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 094 Bono
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 095 YoYoMa
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 096 PIXARsFriends
    Duration: 08min
  • SteveJobsABR 097 TwentyFirstCentury
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 098 RoundOne
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 099 OneSideEffect
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 100 TheStanfordCommencement
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 101 ALionAtFifty
    Duration: 09min
  • SteveJobsABR 102 TheiPhone
    Duration: 04min
  • SteveJobsABR 103 GorillaGlass
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 104 TheDesign
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 105 TheLaunch
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 106 RoundTwo
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 107 Memphis
    Duration: 13min
  • SteveJobsABR 108 Return
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 109 TheiPad
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 110 Apps
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 111 NewBattles
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 112 TheAppStore
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 113 HereComesTheSun
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 114 ToInfinity
    Duration: 13min
  • SteveJobsABR 115 iCloud
    Duration: 03min
  • SteveJobsABR 116 By2010
    Duration: 07min
  • SteveJobsABR 117 ANewCampus
    Duration: 06min
  • SteveJobsABR 118 RoundThree
    Duration: 07min
  • SteveJobsABR 119 PresidentObama
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 120 ThirdMedicalLeave
    Duration: 02min
  • SteveJobsABR 121 Visitors
    Duration: 05min
  • SteveJobsABR 122 ThatDayHasCome
    Duration: 12min
  • SteveJobsABR 123 TheBrightestHeaven
    Duration: 18min
  • SteveJobsABR 124 AndOneMore
    Duration: 10min
  • SteveJobsABR 125 Coda
    Duration: 01min
  • SteveJobsABR 126 Closing
    Duration: 01min

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