Unseen Steve Jobs interview shares business secrets

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Jobs
Who wouldn't want Steve as their instructor?
Photo: Deliberate Think

Who wouldn’t have wanted Steve Jobs to have visited their university class for a casual Q&A with the students? That’s what folks at MIT were lucky enough to experience in 1992.

Running NeXT at the time, Jobs stopped by to drop some wisdom on everything from his thoughts on leaving Apple to the state of computing to his thoughts on the right way to run a company. Excerpts from the discussion recently landed on YouTube. Check them out below.

On leaving Apple:

“I think everybody lost. I think I lost, I wanted to spend my life there. I think Apple lost. I think customers lost. Having said all that, so what? You go on. It’s not as bad as a lot of things. It’s not as bad as losing your arm. People go on, companies go on, and I’m very happy every time Apple ships a Mac.”

On focusing on everyday users, instead of power users:

“[Right now] Apple’s not putting a lot of resources onto the power users on desktop. They’ve put most of their best people on portables and on consumer products. And I think they’ll do very well with that.”

Jobs then discusses how this approach can be lucrative, but it’s also tricky because to keep margins and profits high you need to create superstar products that appeal to large numbers of everyday users. That is, of course, what Apple did when Jobs returned later in the decade.

Opening up new market opportunities:

“It takes around five years to create a commercial product that takes advantage of a [new] technical window opening up. Sometimes you start before the window is quite open, and you can’t quite get through it. You push it up. Sometimes it takes a lot of work. It took that long with the Apple II. It took that long with the Mac. You know, it took a [failure like the] Lisa along the way, $100 million. It takes a while. It’s expensive to push those windows open.”

On hiring the best:

“What happens is that I usually meet somebody that is really good, and you can’t get them. And then you go and try and find other people, and nobody measures up. When you meet someone that good, you always compare them with that one person — and you know you’re going to be settling for second best if you compromise. I’ve always found it best not to compromise, and just keep chipping away.”

On working as a team (sort of):

Jobs talks about the importance of hiring people who will tell you where you need to go, and agreeing ideas as a team.

There is a proviso, though: “I can’t even recall a time when I’ve said, ‘dammit, I’m the CEO, and we’re doing it this way,'” he says. “I can recall a time when I’ve said, ‘we don’t see eye-to-eye, and you’re off the team.'”