What would Steve Do?


Steve Jobs while presenting the iPad in San Fr...

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In writing Provoke, I drew on Apple and Steve Jobs repeatedly to illustrate the importance of disruption leading to innovation and excellence. Apple is the gold standard for what a company could do if it allowed itself the permission to actively disrupt the status quo. Under the late Jobs, Apple disrupted the music industry with the iPod, then the phone industry with the iPhone, then the PC market by creating the tablet computing category. What singular vision, focus and self-confidence to succeed so brilliantly on all those fronts at the same time!

Sadly, there is only one Apple (and nobody knows what will happen to the company without Jobs). There is only one Google.  Then there are hundreds of other companies with enormous talents stagnating because they are not allowed to imagine or think outside the box.

On October 5, when the sad news of Steve Jobs passing reached me, I was in San Francisco with about 70,000 people at the Oracle Open World conference. Silence fell. We all felt an incredible sense of loss, not just for a great man who would be missed, but for shoes too big to be filled.

Jobs expanded our imagination, made the impossible possible, set standards that others could not reach, and brought magic to the world. Remember a decade ago when he gave us the dancing profiles of people around the world and the white head phone wires? The iPod wasn’t about technology. It was about joy. Steve Jobs got that. Remember the first time people felt like the world of information was at their fingertips? That’s what the iPhone was about, not making calls. Jobs got that, too. The iPad is about controlling the world by touch, not a keyboard or mouse. Jobs understood that as well.

He dared to imagine. His imagination was not bounded by fear, ego or conformity. He didn’t shy from turning industries upside down over and over again, each time delighting the customer.  That is courage as an art form.

I wrote Provoke because I believe we need more of Steve Jobs’ spirit in this world. Instead of being courageous, so many companies cower and copy. Incredibly talented people are frustrated, but they stay with their jobs because they can’t afford to leave. Being a visionary and inspiring others is no longer a requirement for the people leading companies…but it should be. We must return to being vibrant, fearless and daring.

It is perhaps both poetic and ironic that my book Provoke is going to be published only weeks after his untimely death.  Perhaps with a deep shared passion about the necessity to dream, to disrupt, to innovate and repeatedly achieve excellence. In that I find great meaning and purpose.

Just because the leadership of a company is not embracing innovation, should the 80,000 employees stop as well? Of course not. Let’s replace the command and control models with “inspire and imagine engines,” bringing passion where passion belongs: where we spend the bulk of our days. Imagine what we could do.

Steve Jobs’ legacy is not about technology or design. It’s about courage and passion. That’s one virus that should spread worldwide. If we allow ourselves the courage to dream impossible, what could we not create? How could we change the world?You’re familiar with the phrase “What would Jesus do?” In the world of innovation and technology, let’s start asking something different. What would Steve Jobs do? The answer might be different for everyone, but I can tell you what Steve wouldn’t do.  He wouldn’t wait for someone else to shake things up.

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