What Would Steve Jobs Do?: A book review by Bob Morris

What Would Steve Jobs Do? How the Steve Jobs Way Can Inspire Anyone to Think Differently and Win
Peter Sander
McGraw-Hill (2012)

If you have “insanely great” talents, you don’t need this book.  Otherwise….

I recently read this book and What Would Drucker Do Now?, written by Rick Wartzman and also published by McGraw-Hill. Initially, I suspected that both were (or will become) part of a “What Would X Do?” series that might also include Sun Tzu, Socrates, Machiavelli, and Von Clauswitz or, within the domain of business, Henry Ford, Albert Sloan, one or both of the Thomas Watsons, and Walt Disney. It turns out, these two “What Would” books share little in common, except for the quality of their content and of their authors’ presentation of it.

Peter Sander devotes the first two chapters of his book to essential background information about Steve Jobs and Apple, then explores the meaning and significance of the book’s title in several different ways. Here are two. First, what he characterizes as “The Steve Jobs Leadership Model” in Chapter 3, one that consists of six “steps” or elements. He also includes a suggestion by Jean-Louis Gassée, former Apple VP: “Democracies don’t make great products – you need a competent tyrant.” Jobs was certainly both and that is hardly a head-snapping revelation. The historical details of the model have been known for decades. The same competent tyrant who visited Xerox PARC with Steve Wozniak in 1979 also introduced a series of “insanely great” Apple products 25-30 years later. For better or worse, Jobs really was literally “one of a kind.”

Hence the importance of Sander’s second approach: A series of “What Would Steve Jobs Do?” sections at the conclusion of Chapters 4-9 in which he suggests lessons to be learned from Jobs in six subject areas: Customer (Page 103), Vision (124-125), Culture (153-154), Product (171-172), Message (190-191), and Brand (205-206). Almost anyone who reads this book can follow the advice provided (e.g. “Think about customer pain and what causes it”) but few – if any – can make it happen in ways and to the extent Steve Jobs could…and did. Most of the admonitions will serve as reminders rather than as revelations. Fair enough.

For those who wish to know more about Steve Jobs, there is no shortage of other sources, notably Walter Isaacson’s biography. I also highly recommend Adam Lashinsky’s Inside Apple and Leander Kahney’s Inside Steve’s Brain.


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