Steve Jobs was brutally honest, hard to please, and not always fun to be around, but what made him truly stand out was: He had a remarkable ability to change his mind when he was wrong.
In 2007, when Steve announced the iPhone, no third-party apps were allowed in the app store — Apple would build them all themselves. One year later, he completely changed his mind, saying third party apps would be the key to the iPhone’s success. He knew Apple could never have built 2.2 million apps by themselves, and it was much easier to take a cut of the profits. Even a single customer could change Steve’s mind. Steve Jobs was as tough as they come, but if they had a good idea, anyone could change Steve’s mind. Anyone can embrace this philosophy, and anyone can build their company around it. If you don’t, it will never, as Steve would convey, “put a dent in the universe.”
Steve once explained: “That Single Shift Is Everything”.
In 1991, Steve Jobs was interviewed for a documentary about an engineer and early evangelist for quality management. The engineer had visited the company Steve ran at the time, a couple of times as a consultant.
The interviewer asked Steve what he did differently as a result of his advice, and Steve’s answer was a preview of what would happen once he returned to Apple:
“In most companies, if you’re new, and you ask, “Why is it done this way?” the answer is, “Because that’s the way we do it here,” or, “Because that’s the way it’s always been done.”
In my opinion, the largest contribution to quality is to approach these “ways of doing things” scientifically, where there is a theory behind why we do them, there is a description of what we do, and, most importantly, there is an opportunity to always question what we do. It says, “These people are very smart. They’re not pawns. They’re very smart, and if given the opportunity to change and improve, they will. They will improve the processes if there’s a mechanism for it.”
This is Apple’s philosophy. This is the reason it became the most valuable company in the world. Not Steve and not the iPhone but a belief in the people who work there, that’s “the secret”. Will You Trust the People You Hire? People, at the end of the day, there is nothing else. Neither in business nor in life. Once Steve understood this, he built Apple into the unstoppable force it is today, and he did it by hiring great people, trusting them, listening to them when they challenged the status quo, and pushing them to do their best work while trying his best to see a clear path ahead for the company.
Trust multiplies. Trust ripples through a company, and it creates the relentless spirit of optimism Steve was talking about. It’s “an optimistic point of view about the people that work in a company.”
Without this optimistic point of view, Apple would never have grown to a $2 trillion company.