Since his surprise resignation as CEO of Apple last week, there have been a plethora of tributes to Steve Jobs and I have enjoyed learning about this iconic figure from his colleagues, employees, journalists and consumers. However, while reading them, something struck me as odd. These tributes supported my personal view of Mr. Jobs as a hard-headed innovator and master designer but, reading through these testimonies and memories, I realized that innovation and design were the products of another characteristic: Quality.
Former Apple CEO John Sculley made this comment about Jobs in an ABC News interview last year: ”He was a person of huge vision. But he was also a person that believed in the precise detail of every step. He was methodical and careful about everything -- a perfectionist to the end."
Read any post or article written by an employee or supplier who worked with Jobs even remotely and inevitably you will hear stories about his maniacal, micro-managing, dedication to details. He was a perfectionist in every aspect of his work from the motherboard design and supply chain standards to the color of the Google logo on the iPhone. For some more insight into Jobs' maniacal energy read the Harvard Business Review article, "Steve Jobs and the Eureka Myth."
Jobs understood that innovation and great design alone are not enough. The promise that you make with your customer isn’t based on style, rather, it is based on delivering what you promised and exceeding those promises. He also understood that everyone he was counting on needed to understand this premise too and he held them to it.
You often hear other companies and entrepreneurs using Steve Jobs as a yardstick, hoping that their company, product and legacy may one day approach his. Maybe instead they should follow Mr. Jobs’ advice instead: “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
Maybe being like Steve Jobs is easier than we think. Maybe the only real innovation your industry needs is a commitment to excellence.