October 5th, 2013 marked the second anniversary of the passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Our culture has paid homage to him in both literature and film.
In 2011, Walter Isaacson’s biography about Jobs received widespread attention and an overwhelmingly positive reception from The New York Times. Ashton Kutcher starred in Jobs, a summer 2013 biopic that followed the businessman’s life from his college days through his involvement with Apple.
There’s no question that Steve Jobs’s actions, personal philosophy, and innovations have made their mark on our world. Here are three things we can learn from his life and apply to our own professional journey.
1. Divergent paths
Steve Jobs addressed Stanford University’s 2005 graduating class with a speech that distills his personal drive to be different and take risks. He was a college dropout himself, having never finished his degree program at Reed.
“Truth be told, I never graduated from college. This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation,” he explained. His history is extremely eclectic. During his youth, he sought out experiences for his own spiritual growth, such as a seven-month journey through India. He practiced meditation for many years, worked on an apple farm, and experimented with drugs.
His immersion in the counter-culture, specifically with psychedelic drugs, certainly separated Jobs from other businessmen of his era. Jobs sought to use this different thinking in the development of technology. You’ll notice his emphasis on fluid systems, open structures, and diminished barriers between the human user and the technology.
2. Valuing all experiences
Jobs was well-known for incorporating knowledge from vastly different fields into Apple computers. A typography course from his brief college days launched his obsession with fonts. Early Mac computers were some of the first machines to use diverse libraries of serif and sans serif fonts.
Jobs pulled inspiration from history and art, using Picasso to craft the Finder icon. He rarely let an experience escape him without applying it to his work in some way.
Jobs looked to literature to formulate his marketing philosophy for Apple. During the Super Bowl, Apple aired the iconic “1984” commercial, which is based on George Orwell’s novel about a dystopic future.
Once audiences saw this pivotal footage for the first time, they cheered for the fresh ideas Apple promised. Steve Jobs was able to recognize the inherent value of other experiences — those he found in books, art, and travel — and molding them into his approach to computers and business.
3. Encouraging dialogue
Cupertino, California is home to the unique Apple campus. Its address is otherworldly: a street known as “1 Infinite Loop.” Jobs had an extraordinary vision for this location. It’s full of open spaces and common areas that encourage co-mingling and collaboration.
The founder didn’t want an office full of cubicles and discrete sections. He placed immense value on a shared approach, where teams could naturally form and disband as they needed to.
Before he passed away, he spearheaded an effort to build a second Apple campus in Cupertino, which involved plans to take over massive amounts of real estate. Construction is still in progress for this “spaceship”-shaped structure: an enormous round building surrounded by trees.
The cyclical nature of this building will ideally allow employees to run into each other naturally and build toward future innovations.
Steve Jobs was a champion of creativity, almost ruthlessly standing up for his vision. While his views weren’t always welcome or even tolerated, he persisted in creating innovative work that challenged other companies’ moderate expectations and standards.
His passion for combining artful design with quality helped him find success, even when he faced extreme hardship and pushback internally at Apple. Jobs will continue to serve as a symbol for creative individualism and entrepreneurship.