The titular figure, played by Michael Fassbender, is preparing to walk on stage and expose the world to the Macintosh in a sequence towards the beginning of the film Steve Jobs. It’s a moment he thinks will usher in the point-and-click era of personal computing, forever altering the course of history.
Jobs, though, is fixated—absolutely obsessed—with a single, seemingly insignificant detail before taking the stage.
It’s something that will just take a few seconds out of the hour-long presentation he’ll be giving. He wants to make sure that the new computer he’s introducing can say “Hello” when he’s onboard.
Jobs scolds his subordinates. Some are threatened by him. Others are humiliated by him. He informs them that if the computer is unable to greet him, the entire presentation would be cancelled. He appears to be a spoiled brat.
The film, which is based on author Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography, is widely regarded as the most realistic and well-rounded portrayal of Jobs in film.
(There are two more films about his life: Pirates of Silicon Valley from 1999 and Jobs from 2013, both starring Ashton Kutcher.) Whether or not the real-life backstage encounter transpired like that, the scene captures something essential—and true—about Steve Jobs. Because that’s how he imagines it, he wants the computer to say “Hello.” That is how he sees things.
Jobs was known to have a notably acerbic disposition on occasion. It’s also not entirely apparent what he did from the outside. He wasn’t an engineer, after all. He didn’t write any code at all. As their careers progressed, he persuaded Steve Wozniak to do ostensibly all of the technical work.
He became an American hero and one of the most influential innovators in human history during the course of 35 years, from the 1970s to the first decade of this century. During that time, he famously co-founded Apple in his parents’ garage, was fired from the firm less than ten years later, and then returned to save Apple from extinction a decade later.
He turned the company into the world’s most valuable before dying in October 2011 from a recurrent pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour. Along the way, he also assisted in the founding of Pixar, a digital animation studio.
Naz Beheshti, an executive wellness coach and the creator of Prananaz, began her career as Jobs’ executive assistant while the iPod was under development. She refers to him as a “visionary” who persuaded everyone around him to believe in his visions.
“His team had doubts at times,” Beheshti adds, “but his confidence, passion, endurance, and focus enabled him to achieve the seemingly impossible.” That is exactly what he did. He had a fantasy. And he fantasised more vividly and passionately than anyone else.
After so much intense dialogue, one of the employees Jobs was cruellest to eventually works out a way to get the Macintosh to say “Hello” during the presentation near the end of the scenario in Steve Jobs. The scene serves to highlight not only Jobs’ impatience and perfectionism, but also the motor that propelled everything he did: his creativity.
Here are five things we may still learn from Steve Jobs’ creativity a decade after his death.
Lesson 1: Simplicity Equals Refinement.
The merits and elegance of making something simple were extolled in Apple’s first marketing brochure, published in 1977. The brochure’s headline said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Since this has been the company’s core axiom—and the idea guiding so much of Apple’s design.
Many of the simple notions that Jobs admired in the early days are still present in the products today. Simply point and click. Drag and drop are how it’s done. There are no visible screws. Visuals that are clutter-free on every level, including the walls of retail businesses.
Of fact, simplicity isn’t as straightforward as it appears.
To develop something truly simple and intuitive, you must have a thorough understanding of each component. “It was vital to grasp fully the role each element played in order to eliminate screws, buttons, or unnecessary navigational screens,” Isaacson stated.
The concept of simplicity, however, did not extend solely to the products or the user experience. The company as a whole needed to focus in order to clear out the conceptual clutter. Jobs notoriously cut the number of computers produced by Apple when he returned in 1997, arguing that the business should instead focus on a few products that were both amazing and astonishingly simple.
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Lesson 2: Consider Anything Other Than Money.
Jobs was, without a doubt, a natural salesperson. He intuitively knew what the American audience would be prepared to pay for. Jobs sold illegal “blue boxes”—machines that could mimic telephone tones and allow consumers to make free long-distance calls—as a teenager before starting Apple with Wozniak.
Jobs would later declare that “there wouldn’t have been an Apple” if it hadn’t been for those blue boxes.
Money wasn’t the aim even back then. More than anything, the two entrepreneurs relished the opportunity to use electronics to trick the traditional telephone companies. Jobs did, in fact, live in poverty at points throughout his life.
Jobs informed the audience at Stanford University’s 2005 commencement speech that after dropping out of Reed College, he slept on his friends’ dorm-room floors, recycled Coke bottles for money, and ate free meals at the neighbouring Hare Krishna temple.
He lived in an Oregon commune at one point. He lived in a shed in his parent’s backyard at one point. He claimed that he and Wozniak created Apple not to become wealthy, but rather to create a useful personal computer.
Lesson 3: There’s a Purpose For It.
Jobs envisioned something much larger than a product. Something greater than the companies that would become his heirloom.
He fantasised about a different way of life. Critics and pundits are quick to point out his shortcomings, his interpersonal interactions, and his stern management style. And those chapters of his life make for riveting drama. But the truth is that Jobs’ vision of a simpler society was so apparent to him that he seemed to have little patience for anyone who didn’t believe in it.
He understood how critical it was for a company like Microsoft not to monopolise the whole computer industry. He was well aware that technology should not pose an intimidating hurdle to the average consumer. He understood the importance of inspiring people to “think different,” as Apple’s 1997 commercials urged.
Images of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, and Pablo Picasso appeared in those ads, which were the first after Jobs returned to the firm.
Iconoclasts, philosophers, and creators.
Jobs encouraged us to dream from the beginning of his career until his death. He challenged us to be creative, rebellious, and change the world. He urged us to think more so than anything else.
Lesson 4: Unless You Show Them What They Want, They Don’t Realize What They Want.
It would seem natural that because you know yourself better than anyone else, you would also know what you could enjoy. But that isn’t how our minds operate. Most of us have a terrible time imagining something that doesn’t exist in the world yet would drastically alter our lives.
No focus group would have asked for rounded corners on the windows of a personal computer operating system, which have been a trademark of Apple products for more than 40 years—to the point where most of us don’t even notice them anymore. The elegant design and pleasing interface of an iPhone screen, as well as the intuitive search functions of an iPod, could not have been predicted by a survey.
At the peak of Napster and music piracy in the early 2000s, an entire industry of musicians and record executives—along with millions of illegal consumers—couldn’t think of a method to download songs safely, easily, and lawfully. Then there was iTunes.
“Our goal is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do,” Jobs famously stated.
Lesson 5: Try To Sell It On Your Own.
Jobs gave a short speech to a small group of graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1990s, at a period when he was away from Apple, and then opened the floor to questions.
Jobs is unexpectedly candid about both his achievements and failings in a seldom-seen film from that day, in which the smart students press him with questions about every step of his career up to that moment.
He added that one of the things he’d learnt over the years was that an inventive company must market its technologies directly. One of Apple’s blunders had been to assume that a salesman in a big-box store would be familiar with all of the technological and stylistic advantages of an early Macintosh.
“You’re lucky if you can find someone at the computer store who even knows how to demo it when a new product comes out,” Jobs told the MIT students. “So you’re stuck the more innovative the product is, the more revolutionary it is and not simply an incremental improvement.”
The first Apple retail store opened in suburban Virginia over ten years later. There are now over 500 locations all around the world.