Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson: Book Review and Key Takeaways

Here is another book review and this time I’m going to talk about the three key takeaways I took from reading one of the Steve Jobs’ biographies – this one by Walter Isaacson.

The book is a pretty big one, and even if you don’t like Steve or Apple but want some great lessons in business or tech companies or innovation, I highly recommend it. Let’s jump in:

Takeaway #1: Think and live outside the box

While Apple remains one of the most innovative companies in the world and the products that Steve built changed industries – whether it be the MacBook, the iPod, the iPad, iTunes, etc. – Steve lived outside of the box as a person and through his company as well.

Steve embodied innovation and creativity, and the book talks about just a few of his outside the box lifestyle decisions like how he wouldn’t shower for days, went on full fruit diets, didn’t furnish his mansion with more than a mattress and a few couches, and others.

Now I’m not saying go live like Steve did or be weird for the sake of it, but Steve really thought outside the box and lived the way that he thought was right and the way that worked for him. Steve also embodied his values – one of the big ones being innovation and creativity – so he didn’t just do that “Steve stuff” when he walked into the office, he lived it anywhere and everywhere.

Takeaway #2: Customers don’t always know what they want

This is more business-focused than the first takeaway, but the reality is a lot of companies rely heavily on market research and focus groups. For the right businesses in the right industries this makes sense – but not for what Steve was doing.

For example, you couldn’t have a focus group where someone would say “I want an iPod”, because it didn’t exist yet. This was eye-opening because in a lot of high-tech, innovative type industries it may not be helpful to actually try and figure out what customers want – and Steve never did.

In fact, he didn’t do any market, industry or consumer research at all. Instead, he just went in and designed what he thought were amazing products and kept them simplistic and stylistic.

Research is important depending, depending on what you’re doing. If you’re trying to reinvent the wheel, as Steve was constantly, then you might not want to spend a lot of time and money on market research.

The obvious example of this is the big Coke fiasco (I think it was in the 70s or 80s) when they did focus groups because they wanted to launch a new formula for Coke. All the focus group results pointed to this new formula, but when they launched it, it completely flopped.

Yes, you want to know your customer, but sometimes they don’t always know what they want.

Takeaway #3: Follow your passion

This is connected to the first takeaway and I almost didn’t want to list this as a takeaway because it’s become so common – you know the whole “follow your passion”  thing – but what does it actually mean?

If you read this book and learn more about Steve, you’re going to see one of the most honest examples of someone just ruthlessly following their passion – almost to a fault.

Not listening to other people, being extremely stubborn, being rude, treating people poorly, letting his health slide – that’s how badly and passionately Steve wanted Apple to succeed. I’m not saying you should do all of those things, and I do believe he probably could’ve been just as successful and maybe treated some people better in the process, but Steve really embodied true passion and is an example of what can happen if you pursue yours ruthlessly for that long of a period of time.

Last Thoughts on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I highly recommend you read the book, whether you’re a Jobs/Apple fan or not. The combination of interesting life and business lessons made it well worth it. And if you liked my review, make sure to check out my others on this blog and join the SG community of solopreneurs working together to start or grow their businesses together.

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