Steve Jobs: The Self-Esteem Of A-List Talent Doesn't Need To Be Pampered By You

This is a rare and once-lost interview with Steve Jobs. At the time of the interview, Jobs was running NeXT, a company he founded. Apple later bought NeXT and Jobs returned to the helm of Apple. Only a small part of the interview was used for the programme back then, and the master tape was lost on its way from London to the USA. For years we thought we would never see the full interview again, but it wasn't until shortly after Jobs' death that director Paul Sen finally found such a VHS copy in his garage.

A team that makes noise grinds beautiful stones
Every time (a new product project) starts, we have a lot of great ideas and the team believes in them. It's a moment that always reminds me of a scene from my childhood.

There was a man living alone in the street who was 80 years old and I approached him to get him to hire me to help him with his weeding. One day he said, come to my garage, I have something to show you. He pulled out the old stone grinder and all that was on the shelf was a motor, coffee can and the belt that connected the two. Then we went out to the backyard and examined some stones, some very ordinary, unremarkable stones. We dropped the stones into the jar, poured some solvent and added some coarse grit powder. After that he put the lid on, turned on the motor and said to me, "Come back tomorrow and check it out". Back in the garage the next day, we opened the jar and saw stones that had been polished to an extraordinary roundness and charm!

What could have been just ordinary stones had been transformed into beautiful smooth stones by rubbing against each other, sharpening each other and making a little noise.

In my mind, this metaphor best represents a team working to the best of its ability. Bringing together a group of talented people to debate, to fight, to argue, to collaborate, to polish each other's ideas, to create a beautiful 'rock'.

The real value of a company is its people
I was twelve years old when I called Bill Hewlett, the founder of Hewlett-Packard. There were no hidden numbers in the phone book, so I could open it and look up his name. When he answered the phone I said, "Hi, my name is Steve Jobs, you don't know me, I'm twelve years old, I'm making a frequency counter and I need some parts." That's how he talked to me for twenty minutes. I'll always remember him not only giving me the parts, but also inviting me to work at HP for the summer.

I was only 12 years old at the time and this event had an incredible impact on me. Hewlett-Packard was the first company I had ever seen and he taught me what a company was and how to treat its employees well.

People didn't know about cholesterol at the time. They would bring out a cart full of doughnuts and coffee every morning at 10am, so people would stop working and have a coffee and a doughnut. It was the little things, but it was clear that HP understood that the real value of the company was in its employees.

The self-esteem of an A-lister doesn't need to be pampered
One thing I observed early in life is that for most things in life, the difference between mediocre and top is usually only two to one, like a taxi driver in New York, where the difference in driving speed between a top driver and an average driver is about 30%.

What's the difference between an average car and a top car? Maybe 20%. The difference between a top CD player and an average CD player? I don't know, maybe 20% as well. That difference is rarely more than twice as great. But in the software industry and in the hardware industry, the difference can be more than 15 times or even 100 times. It's a rare phenomenon and I feel very lucky to be in this industry.

My success is due to the fact that I have found a lot of talented people who don't want to be mediocre. Not B- and C-grade talent, but real A-grade talent. And I've found that once you get five of these people together, they love the feeling of working with each other, like never before. They will no longer want to work with mediocre people and will only gather people who are just as good. So, you only have to find a few of the best and they will automatically expand the team.

If you find the really top people, they'll know they're really good. You don't need to take care of their egos. Everyone's mind is on the job because they know that performance is the most important thing.

I think the most important thing you can do for them is to tell them what's not good enough, and to do it very clearly, explaining why and reminding them clearly and distinctly to get back to work without making them doubt your authority, and to tell them in an unquestionable way that your work is not up to scratch. It's not easy, so I always take the most straightforward approach. If you give interviews to people I've worked with, those who are truly outstanding will find this approach beneficial, though some hate it. But whether such a model makes people happy or miserable, all would certainly say that it was the most intense and precious experience of their lives.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes
I am the kind of person who only thinks about success and doesn't care about right and wrong. So, no matter how stubborn my original idea is, I change my opinion within five minutes if the person arguing against it comes up with credible facts. That's how I am, I'm not afraid to make mistakes. I admit mistakes all the time, it's no big deal. All I care about is the outcome.

The real magic is grinding out a product with 5,000 ideas
One of the most damaging things that happened to Apple after I left was that Sculley (former CEO of Apple) made a serious mistake: thinking that if you have a great idea, things are 90 percent. He thought that if he told others that here was a great idea, they would come back to the office and make it happen.

The problem is that it takes a lot of processing to turn a good idea into a good product.
As you continue to improve the original 'great idea', the concept grows. Change, and the result is usually different from what you started with: because the more you go into detail, the more you learn.

You will also find out. You have to make difficult trade-offs to achieve your goal: some features just don't fit into electronics, some features just don't fit into plastic or glass, or the factory just can't do it.
To design a product, you may have more than five thousand questions in your head, to put it all together, to try to make these ideas work together in a new paradigm to achieve the result you want. Every day you'll find something new. This represents both new problems and new opportunities. Making the final mix work together is the real "process" and the real magic.

The key factor in making a good product is not being good at managing processes
In 1984 we hired a bunch of people from Hewlett-Packard (to design the GUI computers) and I remember having a big fight with some of them. They thought that the so-called user interface was just a soft keyboard at the bottom of the screen, and they had no concept of font size proportionality or the concept of a mouse.

They shouted at me that the mouse took five years to design and cost $300. Finally I got fed up and went out and found David Kelly to design it, and within ninety days I had a mouse that cost fifteen dollars and functioned reliably.

At that time I realised that Apple was lacking that kind of talent in one area, someone who could master an idea in many ways. It required a core team, but a team of HP people obviously wouldn't work. It had nothing to do with the dark side of the profession, it was because people had lost their way (the HP team couldn't think in many ways). As the company got bigger, they then tried to replicate the initial success. And many thought that there must be something wonderful about the process that made it so successful in the first place, so they started trying to turn that success into a system.

Soon people were confused as to why the system itself had become the answer. This is probably why IBM had the best systems managers, but they forgot that the purpose of designing processes was to find the best answers.

Apple has got it too. Many of us are good at managing processes, but we don't know how to find the answers. The best people take the initiative to find the best answers, and although they are the hardest people to manage, I am still happy to work with them.

We're not shy about stealing great ideas
Where do I get my intuition about products, you ask?
That ultimately has to be determined by your taste. You have to familiarise yourself with the best of what humans have done in various fields and try to incorporate it into what you are doing. Picasso once said, "A clumsy worker copies, a clever craftsman steals", and I've never felt ashamed of borrowing from other good ideas.

I think what makes McIntosh so successful is that its creators are musicians, poets and artists, zoologists and even historians who also happen to be some of the best computer scientists on the planet, which is why we are so good. If they hadn't gone into computer science, they could have done wonders in other fields too. Everyone contributed their own expertise, and McIntosh thus absorbed the best of every field, which would otherwise have been a very narrow product.

I never started my business for money
After the company had an exclusive market position and could no longer be successful, the people who could make the company more successful were the business and marketing people, so it ended up that they ran the company and the product people were marginalised, causing the company to forget the importance of making a good product. It was the acumen and creativity for the product that made them dominate the market in the first place, but then it disappeared because of the people running it. They have no concept of a good or bad product, they don't understand the process of turning a good idea into a good product and they don't really want to help their customers.

Having been in the industry for so many years, I often ask people why you do certain things and the answer I get is always: that's just the way things are. No one knows why they do what they do.

No one really thinks deeply in business, that's what I've learned and know. So if you're willing to ask questions, think carefully and work hard, you can learn to do business very quickly, it's not that hard.

I was twenty-three when I was worth over a million dollars; twenty-four when I was worth over ten million dollars; twenty-five when I was over a billion dollars. But the money wasn't that important because I never started my business for the money. Of course, it's great to have money because it gives you the ability to do a lot of things. You can invest in ideas and concepts that you can't recoup in the short term, but what matters most is the company, the people, the products we make and the benefits they bring to people, so I don't often put money on the line. I haven't sold a single share of Apple because I really believe in the company for the long term.

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