Iterating on Products with Steve Jobs
One of the things about designing products that can come up is Ego, or Being Right, or whatever that is called. I'm not sure how this evolved, but when I worked with Steve on product design, there was kind of an approach we took, unconsciously, which I characterize in my mind as a "cauldron". There might be 3 or 4 or even 10 of us in the room, looking at, say, an iteration of iPhoto. Ideas would come forth, suggestions, observations, whatever. We would "throw them into the cauldron", and stir it, and soon nobody remembered exactly whose ideas were which. This let us make a great soup, a great potion, without worrying about who had what idea. This was critically important, in retrospect, to decouple the CEO from the ideas. If an idea was good, we'd all eventually agree on it, and if it was bad, it just kind of sank to the bottom of the pot. We didn't really remember whose ideas were which -- it just didn't matter.
I love this description of iteration:
Steve would draw a quick vision on the whiteboard, we'd go work on it for a while, bring it back, find out the ways in which it sucked, and we'd iterate, again and again and again. That's how it always went. Iteration. It's the key to design, really. Just keep improving it until you have to ship it.
Great explanation of building products:
Steve Jobs was passionate, as everyone knows. What he was passionate about was, I think, quite simple: he liked to build products. I do, too. This we had in common. It is a process which requires understanding the parameters, the goals, and the gives and takes. Stretch what's possible, use technologies that are good, rein it in when the time comes, polish it and ship it.
It wasn't magic; it was hard work, thoughtful design, and constant iteration. Doing the best we knew how with what was available, shaping each release into a credible, solid, useful, product, as simple and direct as we could make it.
Hard work, thoughtful design, and constant iteration made it seem like magic.
Or how about this tidbit:
He told me once that part of the reason he wanted to be CEO was so that nobody could tell him that he wasn't allowed to participate in the nitty-gritty of product design. He was right there in the middle of it. All of it. As a team member, not as CEO. He quietly left his CEO hat by the door, and collaborated with us. He was basically the Product Manager for all of the products I worked on, even though there eventually were other people with that title, who usually weren't allowed in the room :)
Clearly this led to a very successful company, but...
Something about it doesn't sit well with me. CEO as dictator doesn't seem right.
It's very simple, and the reason people shouldn't try to emulate Steve Jobs:
No other CEOs are Steve Jobs.
Steve got away with all of this stuff because he was a singular genius.