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Guy Kawasaki at Inbound14 – What He Learned from Steve Jobs

White Shark Media

10 years ago



Today was the opening night of the annual Inbound conference hosted by HubSpot.

The first keynote of the event was Guy Kawasaki and the theme of his presentation was “What I Learned From Working With Steve Jobs.”

To get the crowd going Guy Kawasaki shared two jokes about respectively Apple and Microsoft to illuminate the differences between the two companies. It also showed the hostility between the two companies that Steve Jobs instilled in everyone within Apple. At Apple, you were always in constant competition with the biggest players in any industry and Steve Jobs liked to mock his competitors. Examples of this are found in everything from the ads that Apple have run to the jokes that were said around the Apple headquarters:

“How many Macintosh employees does it take to screw in a light bulb? One. He will stand on a ladder, gently hold the light bulb and expect the universe to revolve around him in order to screw in a light bulb.”

“How many Microsoft employees does it require to screw in a light bulb? None. Bill Gates have recently declared that total darkness is the new standard of the universe.”

Without further ado, here is a summary of the ten lessons that Guy Kawasaki learned from Steve Jobs. If you’ve read the Steve Jobs biography, you will recognize a lot of the ideas, but Guy managed to give them all a new spin.

“Experts” are clueless

Experts are fundamentally clueless. Experts can’t and will never tell you how to change the world. An expert can’t innovate, can’t introduce change or predict the next big thing.

Experts are great at giving advice on the existing world-order, but that doesn’t work if you’re out to change the world. Guy Kawasaki, therefore, concludes that experts are clueless about how you invent the next big thing in any industry.

To illustrate this, Guy used some of the better-known quotes from famous experts that were dead wrong:

Thomas Watson of IBM said, “there was a total of five computers possible in the world.” Guy Kawasaki followed up stating that he had 5 Mac computers in his house alone.

Western Union internal memo writes off the telephone in 1876: “The device is inherently of no value to us. Let us teach everyone in the US to Morse Code.”

Ken Olsen, Founder of Exodus and creator of many innovations, said in 1977. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Experts are very poor predictors of the future. To truly create change and innovate you need to listen to yourself.

Customers can’t tell you how to innovate either

As the good Henry Ford said: “If I had asked consumers what they wanted, I would still have tried to find a way to create a faster horse.”

The same thing was true about Apple. If Steve Jobs had asked consumers (which he did), then they would have wanted a cheaper, better version of the Apple 2. Steve’s on board at Apple, co-founder and many other leading figures in Apple could not understand Steve’s inclination to create a completely new computer.

If you don’t know the history of Apple, you should know that the Macintosh computer was the first of its kind to come with a graphic user interface (GUI). GUI is the same computer interface as you’re used to seeing today. Before the Macintosh all computers ran on terminal and DOS interfaces where you wrote commands.

Customers can tell you how to make something better, but not how to take a leap.

Jump To The Next Curve

If you want to be innovative, you have to invent the next step and jump to the next curve. You can’t follow the road and expect to be innovative. You have to jump up on the next highway. There is a natural progression of consumer goods. The way that the mobile phone started allowing for texting, alarm clocks, etc. are all results of following the curve. The smartphone with its ability to replace everything from the Digital Camera to your computer is what you will call “jumping to the next curve”.

Guy shared an example of the ice industry. In the early days, the ice harvesting business meant taking men and horses out to areas with ice in order to cut and haul it off to the people that would buy ice.

If the ice industry had just continued to evolve naturally it would have meant breeding stronger horses, created better-gliding sleighs and improve the ice-packaging so it could last longer. An example of jumping to the next curve is to create an ice factory. With an ice factory, you’re able to cool down ice under any circumstance and thereby get ice in any geographical area year-round.

The next curve that hit the ice industry was the invention of the refrigerator. The refrigerator enabled consumers to make ice in the comfort of their homes.

What’s funny about this entire story is that none of the ice harvesters became ice factories. None of the ice factories became refrigerator companies. They couldn’t change their identity and see what the next curve in their business could change into.

Challenge big

As mentioned before this, then Apple has never been scared to challenge the biggest competitors in their respective industries.

As an example, Apple welcomed IBM to the computer business with an ad back in the 80s.

Design counts

Design might not count for everybody, but it counts for enough people to be important. There is something so beautiful about a MacBook Air in comparison to a regular fat, clunky plastic Windows computer.

Guy then asked the crowd who would possibly buy one of the other clunky, fat, plastic laptops. It’s clear to see that Guy Kawasaki has worked for Apple and continuously sees Apple as the best brand in the world.

Use big graphics and big fonts in your presentations

In presentations there are only two things you have to do:

  • Use big graphics
  • Use big fonts

You should give people just enough points for them to follow along what you’re saying.


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Change your mind

Steve Jobs was known inside Apple for changing his mind and having the rest of the world follow him.

Steve said this about the iPhone the first time around when launching the iPhone back in 2007:

“Our innovative approach, using web 2.0 based standards, lets developers create amazing new application while keeping the iPhone secure and reliable”.

Guy translated this into Steve saying: No third-party software (Apps) in the iPhone is a key to its success.

Later in 2008, Steve Jobs changed his mind with this announcement:

“Apple Executives to showcase Mac OS X Leopard and OS X iPhone development platforms at WWDC 2008 keynote”.

Guys translated this into Steve Jobs saying: The flexibility to design Apps to the iPhone is the key to its existence and success.

Ergo, he changed his mind completely. No one can argue with the fact that the App Store has had a significant impact on the success of the iPhone.

Changing your mind is key to your success.

Value is not equal to a price

Value and price are not the same things. Price is the street-price of what you’re paying on day one.

Value is the long-term factor that goes into what you ultimately get out of the product you purchase.

Don’t fight on price – fight on value.

A-players hire A+ players

Only the best hire the best.

B-players hire a C-player. C-Players hire D-players.

If you hire B-Players, you will one day wake up with Z-players.

You need to avoid this scenario to secure the longevity of your company.

Have a standard that the people you are hiring are better than you in their area of responsibility. If you don’t hire people who are better than you, then you will not make a great company.

Marketing is all about creating unique value

You create something of value, but it’s not unique = Dell, they created something of value, but it wasn’t unique. With this model, you end up competing on price because you have no other way of differentiating yourself.

You create something that is unique, but it has no value = You’re creating a product for a market that doesn’t exist.

You’ve created something that isn’t unique, and it has no value = There is no market. Like and other dot-com disasters. The pitch was that they could eliminate the pet food stores and discount the price of pet food 20%. What, etc. hadn’t thought of was that the pet food still needed to be delivered to the consumer. However, after adding shipping and handling the price increased 20%, and you will still need the consumer to be home on time. It turned out to be even less convenient than going to the pet food stores.

You want to create products that are truly unique and valuable.

The iPod was truly unique. An easy way to have music on the go and buy music for 99 cents legally.

Another example is the Smart Car. With the smart car, you can park perpendicular to the curb. That is unique and valuable for areas that are low on parking spaces.

Always think about how you can create unique and truly valuable products.

Some things need to be believed to be seen

Yes, you’re reading it correctly. The skeptic thinks the other way around. They think that you have to see it to believe it.

When it comes to innovation, you need to believe in something for it to come true.

You need to believe first. You need to believe in order for you to finally create valuable and truly unique products.

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