Friday, October 07, 2011

Steve Jobs : The Amazing Turnaround....and Spirit of Innovation

Its sad that he is gone. Like many in the IT and computer business I have seen the ups and downs of the companies in the industry that took place as a form of creative destruction. Once big names like Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystem, Motorola and Atari fade away or disappear altogether from the landscape. New companies such as Google and Facebook emerge from almost nothing to become giants within a few years. New technologies come replace old ones that become obsolete quickly dragging down the companies that were offering them. No other industry in history has seen such rapid transformations and upheavals as the computer business. Perhaps no other industry has seen such intense and continuous competition - competition that brought great products at great prices. Today after 20 years of IT shows & Comdex type events, they are still bringing in the crowd. People are happy to be buying because IT products are one of the few things in this world that fall in price - your cup of coffee price goes up, housing price goes up but IT products go down in price. This is free market competition at its best bringing innovation and affordability to masses. There are few companies as innovative and creative as Apple.

In 1995, I remember reading about the demise of Apple Computers in Business Week magazine. The prediction was very believable. Apple has lost most of its market share to WinTel (Windows + Intel computers) and was burning up its cash at a rate that would put the company in peril within a year. When Michael Dell, the rising star in 1995, was asked what he would do if he was running Apple, he said he will just close it down and return the remaining cash to shareholders. It was believed that few consumers would buy Apple's proprietary hardware + operating system because momentum had shifted to Windows based computers and the bulk of applications were written for Windows. In the 1990s, I took a management course and one of the case study was Steve Jobs ouster from Apple. The case study painted a negative image of Jobs being an autocratic stubborn leader - I was taught not be  like Steve Jobs but to learn from his rival John Sculley who won the support of the board of directors to force Jobs out of the company. At around that time, there were several books out on Steve Jobs that painted him as a "snake-oil" sales man who took shareholders money to start NeXT and lost $200M in the hyped up venture. If Steve Jobs had decided to retire in the 90s and take it easy with the millions he made as a founder of Apple, he would have left only s small footnote in IT history as the co-founder of Apple who foundered....but he did not and came back to dazzle the world with fantastic beautiful products. He leaves the world as a great visionary who transformed our lives and touched billions of peole around the world.

In 1997, Apple has a campaign called "Think Different". Critics pointed out that it was gramatically incorrect and should be "Think Differently". Steve Jobs, however, went with his instincts to use "Think Different" because there was this "edge" to the sound of the phrase. It was a highly successful advertising campaign to convince consumers they should break away from the convention, "think different" and try Apple's products instead of the mundance stuff rivals were churning out. Steve Jobs' own life epitomised this "Think Different" spirit.  Here are a few extracts from Wikipedia to illustrate this point:

Although he dropped out after only one semester,[35] he continued auditing classes at Reed, while sleeping on the floor in friends' rooms, returning Coke bottles for food money, and getting weekly free meals at the local Hare Krishna temple.[15] Jobs later said, "If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts."[15]

Jobs then traveled to India to visit the Neem Karoli Baba[36] at his Kainchi Ashram with a Reed College friend (and, later, the first Apple employee), Daniel Kottke, in search of spiritual enlightenment. He came back a Buddhist with his head shaved and wearing traditional Indian clothing.[37][38During this time, Jobs experimented with psychedelics, calling his LSD experiences "one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life".[39] He later said that people around him who did not share his countercultural roots could not fully relate to his thinking.[39]

Jobs also has a daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs (born 1978), from his relationship with Bay Area painter Chrisann Brennan.[89] She briefly raised their daughter on welfare when Jobs denied paternity by claiming he was sterile; he later acknowledged Lisa as his daughter.[89]

It is hard to say for sure if his creativity and innovativeness came from his unconventional life but Steve Jobs believed it was the case. Apple's founders the 2 Steves (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs) started Apple with money they made from an illegal "blue box" that allowed users to make distance telephone calls (across states) for free. They were rule breakers if not law breakers. In Singapore we struggle to promote innovation and creativity - we even try to "teach" this in school and "encourage" students and workers to be "more innovative". Companies hold talks and courses on innovation but we still find innovation lacking in our society. Why is this so?  Singaporeans more than people of other countries are conditioned to be obedient because breaking rules comes with heavy consequences. You distribute a few (political) news letters  on the streets and the authorities come after you for illegal hawking. You are not allowed to speak and gather openly to protest. We have extremely harsh laws enforced rigidly so that obedience pay off e.g hefty fines for litering and spitting. Companies constantly kill off innovation by imposing rules, processes and checks out of fear of making mistakes. Several prominent researchers left Singapore recently and hinted that "bean counting" was starting to get in the way of their work. The strait-jackets in our society and companies - too many rules, procedures, processes - stifle innovation and keeps everyone "thinking the same" rather than "think different". We can perhaps learn something from Steve Jobs' amazing life and wonderful accomplishments:

"Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition." — Steve Jobs

Yes, and there are no hard truths....let us, the new generation, not be trapped in another man's thinking...lets us not believe we cannot think for ourselves and lets us not be shackled by somebody else' "hard truths".  We must and can progress if we break free from those who want to box us in.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very true. It resonates very strongly with me especially on the fact that most Singaporeans are conditioned to be obedient and strict bean counters and rule followers.

This system is so engrained that those who are in it will fight to preserve it. I observe this in my daily work and it's frightening how well this had been indoctrinated into the normal citizens. That they are defending this system blindly.

Anonymous said...

Since principals and teachers are paid highly to enjoy more holidays than anyone can imagine, why can't the principals and teachers be a little bit more generous to use a little bit of their plentiful of free time to be less conditioned to be obedient and less conditioned to be strict bean counters and rule followers and instead instill more creative thinking in their teaching?

As principals and teachers are paid highly to enjoy holidays. They enjoy
1 week of March holidays,
4 weeks of June holidays,
1 week of September holidays,
6 to 8 weeks of Nov-Dec holidays,
1 youth holiday,
1 extra national holiday,
1 teacher holiday,
1 children holiday,
2 election holidays for year 2011,
numerous less than half day work to celebrate the numerous holidays,
etc,

principals and teachers have even more free time than anyone else can imagine, and being paid high salary and high bonus, it only very reasonable to expect them to exchange a little bit of their relax, easy and carefree lifestyle with more creative learning and teaching.

Anonymous said...

good one lucky tan

and to above - teachers do not have much free time.

Anonymous said...

@anon-7/10/11 08:47; On the contrary, todays' teachers & principals dont 'enjoy more holidays than anyone can imagine'. The list of holidays listed there are just on paper. You obviously dont have friends or relatives who are teachers. Hear their side of the story first. I know quite a number of teachers, and the list of duties they perform go beyond their official hours and scope of work. Many have to bring work back every night and conduct tonnes of remedials for students, holiday after holiday. They even have to visit students at hospitals or their homes & counsel recalcitrant parents. Otherwise, they will be attending seminars and courses every holiday. Subtracting all this they have less time for themselves and family than you think...teachers of today are not as previleged as those in the past. It would be good to get yr facts right before assuming. Anyhow on the topic of innovation & creativity, these teachers are just as conditioned by the system as everybody else. The more people are educated by a rigid education system the less creative & innovative people somehow become. Somehow its inversely proportional. Many of the greatest innovators in history have never conformed to society norms & an education condtions one to conform.

Anonymous said...

Our current system design is never intended for school drop outs to be successful. Only the elites with a high position in government can succeed.

The entire system needs to be re looked. Steve jobs case shows that even school drop outs can be innovative.

Anonymous said...

Do take note that Steve Jobs was already a very brilliant individual when he dropped out of his studies.

Even without finishing his education, he was able to work with computers extensively.

For every 1 Steve Jobs or famous dropouts, there's probably 10000 other dropouts who quit school prematurely without any basic skill in writing or maths or some form of technical skill.

Which is why we encourage people to spend more time in school or formal education. One Steve Jobs or Michael Dell doesn't change the hard truth that the longer you invest in your education, the better your chance at increasing your income

Get Real said...

You can't break free from income. Income owns you and your thinking.

Anonymous said...

He is the best kachumputeh seller

Anonymous said...

LKY and his cronies are trying to impose his flawed dogma on an island nation and entire generations of sporeans!

Anti Apples said...

The use of media marketing is gift.

And because of that, the product, the image ( himself included ) has become iconic... only because of branding.

Trade mark black long sleeve T
Jeans to connect with casualness

Single man presentation
Large screen

The amount of money thrown in has worked. The product, is not as great as you think. But the branding, the idea that this is good for you, you'll look good having it, you'll be part of the community, you are exceptional.

He has sold you an idea, lifestyle and image.

Would you have performed any worse without an iPhone? an iPad, iTunes??

LKY had you believe that without him and the PAP, you will be naked and your daughters will be maids in other people's homes.

My condolences yet, I am not a fan of either.

Anonymous said...

I still don't have a iPhone, iPad, or even know what is iTunes. Not that I can't afford to have.

I only have a normal mobile phone and a 2006 laptop with Windows XP which is still working fine.

But I don't feel I am missing anything.

If most people are like me, maybe Steve Jobs may not be as famous and successful as he was.

Anonymous said...

We can have spirit of innovation in any industry but for the finance industry, it should stay regulated

Anonymous said...

>I still don't have a iPhone, iPad, or even know what is iTunes. Not that I can't afford to have.

Trust me, I had the same thinking too, until I bought a iPhone and iPad. You don't know what you're missing in your life, until you try it...

Anonymous said...

Has he freed us from the market place? On the contrary he has whetted our appetites for more with every new invention so much so....some even sold their souls and body parts(in china) to own a piece of the product.

Many have bought a lifestyle funded through debts. A debt that brought our economy to its knees and you along with it.

Anonymous said...

If Steve Jobs was born in Singapore, he would be spending his youth in some CNB rehab centre if not under ISD detention. He would be a broken man; our great leader would see to that. Imagine, he was a bastard given up for adoption and a college dropout to boot - our meritocratic society would not have given him any chance to Think Different.

Saycheese

Anonymous said...

The phone is a great tool. However, the fad and the constant upgrade are the devils in the details.

We don't know when to stop because we have great money makers great at seducing us by dressing up a basic phone to look like a whore.

Hey, we just need a basic phone - even a dial up phone will do - not a phone that can karaoke and snap underskirt pictures of school girls.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Good one Lucky! I've observed that in Singapore, the more things seem to 'change', the more they remain the same.

Anonymous said...

Since when lucky deletes posts? Since he became a hypocrite? LoL

Anonymous said...

iPhone has become iPorn

Anonymous said...

administrator must be a female or sexually repressed. lol.

vibrator on the phone must have inflamed her. lol

iTried said...

Yah, borrowed my son's iPhone.. tried to understand the 'apps'..
understand the hype...

After 2 weeks, I gave up.

All I wanted was to have a phone..
this iPhone gave me so many options. none of which I wanted or needed!
And the key for it to function meaningfully is that you need a data plan. Or simply, a internet connection.. otherwise its just a block of composite material with a shiny glass filled with colourful icons that.. at my age, need magnifying glass to see.

I have not given up!

I am trying a tablet now... after 1 week, I am still confused in trying to locate, change the browser to my favourite firefox..

cant add bookmarks
cant go to settings
cant read spreadsheets well..

I am slowly convinced that its all hype and the old laptop, will be superior.

iTried, iTried and iT-died

Anonymous said...

The pt is that you paid for things you don't really need. That's his genius. He bundled all the extras and the ultras and laughed to the bank.

Anonymous said...

moral of the story.... iPorn will either excites you or repulses you. but even those who are repulsed by it will still carry it because it has vibra function.

Anonymous said...

ya, for oldies, they don't need vibra, they need viagra lol

Anonymous said...

How many will talk to the phone? We don't even talk to our neighbors but we will talk to the phone because it feels like commanding your dogs to do tricks?

Oh come lick my ass next!

Anonymous said...

No disrespect to Stevie Wonder. Even a blind man can be rich because buyers need not have eyes. They only need to listen well, and follow well crafted instructions.

Anonymous said...

How can Lucky have sex with Steve Jobs and yet complained that the govt having sex with developers?

The iPhone has the same lust factor as iCondo. It is nothing but cooked up utility!

Anonymous said...

The full text from Apple's 1998 "Think Different" TV commercial:

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Apple Inc."

Several personalities featured in the commercial were Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jim Henson, Picasso, John Lennon, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes, break free. So guys, if you believe in your own voice, then you should migrate.

Anonymous said...

LKY said something like you will be lousy if you do not have degree holders parents. just look at jobs and gates, i think he should die in shame to say something so strange after living and in power for so long.

Anonymous said...

rumored that iphone5 is invisble. brilliant innovation.save on accessories.

Anonymous said...

Revolutionary thinking - that is what singaporeans are lacking.

Anonymous said...

Thats nothing. The new imac can transform itself into a house maid. She will serve you coffee,tea or mee.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

He has got the world worshipping like some demi-god.

brilliant marketing
brilliant strategy
brilliant presence

So-so product.

I can live without it.

In fact, I can live:
without Golf
without Casino
without PAP
without TT
without SGX

but I cannot live without Lucky Tan's blog!!!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Next innovation. iAdminister. Self delete. Idiot Proved.. HaHaHa

Anonymous said...

Heard that military intelligence has created iBomb. iBomb will be implanted into every newly born baby without their parents knowledge. What iBomb does is that it can sense any terrorist thoughts in a person implanted with the device. Once an evil intention is detected in the person, iBomb will implode and the person will become iAshes

Anonymous said...

iShit coming. No need toilet papers after shitting.

Anonymous said...

Watch X Factor tonight. Even Simon can't tahan "Think Different".

Such advice can go wrong. Very wrong.

Anonymous said...

iVibrator is a must have gadget. This one can impregnate.

Anonymous said...

I admire Steve jobs passion in his work of which money became secondary. I hv yet find this in any Miw.

Anonymous said...

The "entrepreneurs" in Singapore make their fortunes by swindling for handouts from clueless government officials tasked with promoting entrepreneurship. Take a look at:

http://sgentrepreneurs.com/team/

It is a load of completely worthless garbage peppered with buzzwords.

Anonymous said...

The establishment, and the press, enjoy sucking the cocks of entrepreneurs.

I mean... I use iPhone and all and yes, it is stimulating to use and even useful but does it deserve to be elevated above my equally stimulating and useful toilet papers?

Hey, these ppl grow their cocks chiefly for themselves. Not as if the chap going to die on your behalf or hand some of his millions to you.

Anonymous said...

If money is the only issue.
Go and register a charity house,
no capital needed, no work needed;
just a crooked mind will do.

Technology and Science developments are not always positive for the humankind. Many have become living automatons.

Anonymous said...

technology will open the doors to freedom but honoring cocks will lead to slavery.

Anonymous said...

at least the guy knows how to siam. when ppl want to worship you, you must hide your grave.

let the monkeys, the press and media be the cock suckers,

Anonymous said...

Steve was a hippie.

If he was born here he would have got a lot of problems with OUR old man. He wears jeans and t-shirts, therefore he will never be invited to our corporate functions. This is a conform or get lost society, steve should be an outcast by our authorities' standards. We are so lucky that he wasn't born here.