Apple, Business, Companies, Reviews

Book Review: An Inside Look at The Steve Jobs Way

There are two classifications of books we really enjoy reading/studying – history and business management.  But it’s tough to put Jay Elliot’s The Steve Jobs Way into either of those categories, just as it is almost impossible to put Steve himself into a standard business management classification.

Lots of people have tried and continue to try because we’ve met academics, scholars, researchers who have spent a good part of their careers examining his companies and him with a telescope (getting up close and personal to do this is almost impossible).

Sure, Guy Kawasaki did a pretty good job during his few years with Apple; but getting a first-hand view/analysis from someone who spent years with Steve and the management team is a rarity.  One we couldn’t pass up.

We’re not an Apple/Jobs fan boy, but you have to admire the naivety of Steve and Woz to think they could make Apple into something different, something special and… well, achieve it with such awesome global success.

Sure, we realize that the image of both Apple and Jobs are carefully cultivated, nurtured and protected; but it’s consistent, it works, it’s backed by substance. 

It’s an image that you have to simultaneously love/hate and do your darndest to try and figure out how one company, one person can attract and mesmerize mobs of people (customers) even when they stumble. 

We were anxious to see what was behind the curtain because while the Valley is known for its global contributions, there are also some very interesting, very quirky, very brilliant people who make things happen. 

Credible Author
The Steve Jobs Way by Jay Elliot, former Sr. VP of AppleJay Elliot, now CEO of Nuvel, a multi-product software firm, had the kind of up-close and personal day-to-day relationship with Jobs that gives you that insider’s view.  But if you’re expecting to get a bunch of dirty linen secrets, you’re out of luck. 

Instead, Jay simply gives you an up-close, personal look at the man and a glimpse of his thought/action processes that puts that finishing touch on products people will fly half way around the globe for and stand for hours in the rain.

We felt Jay’s book would give us a better understanding of the inner-workings of Jobs and the company.  After all, he served as senior VP of the company for a number of years and was escorted out of the building three months after John Sculley and the board unceremoniously gave Steve his pink slip.  During that time, the company grew from $150M to more than $3B.

Jay, whom we’ve known for years, has always been a student of management style/techniques and came to Apple well qualified.  Before joining the company, he was a senior manager at IBM’s disk drive business and director of Intel’s California group, working directly with another Valley legend, Andy Grove.

The Steve Jobs Way is an easy-to-read and very interesting trip through Job’s very remarkable career.  Jay takes you from the early days of the remarkable Apple II and their very successful Mac to his gut-wrenching fall from grace and unceremonious – and uncool even in the Valley – departure from the company that was such a part of his DNA. 

Jay gives you a great look at Steve as he poured time and money – lots of money – to build a second insanely great company, Next.  His sale of Next to Apple and his return to the company as well as his involvement in Pixar giving you an even greater appreciation for his uncanny design sense, market acumen. 

Design, Engineer
You come to respect not only his love of technology but his ability to marshal support and get the best from cognitively skilled engineers.  As you probably know, engineers only follow bosses who love technology and really respect those who can take their ideas and turn it into a product that sells.

That’s an ability that very few managers possess and has led to the demise of some great technical idea/companies.  But Jobs has had and still has that special ability.

Anyone who has seen Steve in action on stage finds it hard to believe how he can carry the audience with him to the promised land.  Jay takes you behind the stage, giving you a glimpse into the Steve Jobs few, if any of us know. 

By interviewing some of the key people in Apple’s history, he explores Jobs’ management and leadership principles to get a better idea of how it works and how you might be able to apply some kernels his experience for your own business activities. 

Even if you don’t have aspirations of duplicating his string of successes including the Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iCloud, you can study Jobs principles and the thought processes that drove Jobs and Apple to deliver insanely great products.   Products that you admire and lust for if you’re an ordinary person, products you really hate if you’re a competitor. 

Along the way Jobs has changed the way we work, play, produce, consume content and communicate. 

It’s like watching Steve making a presentation… you feel it’s just the way things are supposed to be done.  But as Jay points out, no one works harder to make it look so effortless, so natural.

Oh and… One More Thing.  Get two copies – one for your enjoyment, one for your boss!