There's been a 1985 Playboy Magazine interview with Steve Jobs making the Internet rounds lately. Jobs is 29 at the time, and even at that relatively young age he delivers a tour-de-force of entrepreneurial insight and wisdom.
He mentions all 8 of the traits of transformative companies that I write about in Built for Change, and it's remarkable how much they synchronize throughout the interview. Below are the themes from the book and Jobs' specific quotes that relate to them:
- Universality--an elemental goal in all of us: "...right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future. Most of the time, we're taking things. Neither you nor I made the clothes we wear; we don't make the food or grow the foods we eat; we use a language that was developed by other people; we use another society's mathematics. Very rarely do we get a chance to put something back into that pool. I think we have that opportunity now. And no, we don't know where it will lead. We just know there's something much bigger than any of us here." [emphasis added]
- Fearlessness--entrepreneurial self-confidence born of deep customer knowledge: In competition with IBM and the other dominant computer companies, "...if there's going to be innovation in this industry, it'll come from us. It's the only way we can compete with them. If we go fast enough, they can't keep up."
- Process--thinking differently not just about product, but how it's made: "At the time we designed Macintosh, we also designed a machine to build the machine. We spent $20,000,000 building the computer industry's most automated factory. But that's not enough. Rather than take seven years to write off our factory, as most companies would do, we're writing it off in two. We will throw it away at the end of 1985 and build our second one, and we will write that off in two years and throw that away, so that three years from now, we'll be on to our third automated factory. That's the only way we can be fast enough."
- Irreverence--we're aware of our competition, but we don't follow them: On competing not just in the Fortune 500, but more broadly, "Our approach is to think of them not as businesses but as collections of people. We want to qualitatively change the way people work...we've got to approach this from a grass-roots point of view. To use a networking as an example, rather than focusing on wiring up whole companies, as IBM is doing, we're going to focus on the phenomenon of the small work group.
- Banishing Small Thinking--no Devil's Advocates allowed: On the need to keep Apple's culture innovative, "When two young people walk in with the next thing, are we going to embrace it and say this is fantastic? Are we going to be willing to drop our models, or are we going to explain it away? I think we'll do better, because we're completely aware of it and we make it a priority."
- Appetite for Destruction--we don't just rock the boat, we sink it: On attacking competitors' business models and keeping ahead, "As soon as we can lower prices, we do."
- Detachment--stepping away, becoming proactively inactive: On separating from the day-to-day in order to gain fresh perspectives, "...a lot of times, artists have to go "Bye. I have to go. I'm going crazy and I'm getting out of here." And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe they re-emerge a little differently."
- Reinvention--keeping what's core while crafting a new future: On how the Macintosh was different from two recent failed product introductions, the Lisa and the Apple III, "...so we had to make a break. We just had to do it. We wanted to make sure it was great, because it may be the last chance that any of us get to make a clean break."
If you had invested in Apple stock at the time of this interview and held it, you would have made 185 X your money. In contrast, if you had owned the NASDAQ composite, your return would have been 8.7 X. The signs of success were all there for those who were looking for them.