I watched the video of a commencement address given by Steve Jobs in 2005 to graduating students at Stanford University and had mixed emotions about it. The late chairman and ex-CEO of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), wrapped up his address with the phrase, "Stay hungry, stay foolish." It has since gone viral and been folded into the growing pile of witty, catchy, and supposedly "great" maxims of our generation. (For those who might not have seen it, the video is at the end of this blog.)
Jobs apparently believed in the statement and used it to his advantage, but he also had numerous problems along the way. Throughout the second half of his life, after being tossed out of Apple when he clashed with the then CEO, Jobs himself probably wondered if he wasn't over-hungry and maybe too foolish. He also had some scorn tossed his way, with many believing that even his return to Apple in the late 90s was unlikely to save the company.
The man dropped out of college but audited enough courses to (in my opinion) earn a college degree. Today, however, people are focused more on the fact that he didn't finish college and yet became a billionaire and an industry icon. We forget that it could have turned out differently for him. How many people similarly dropped out of college before and after him, and we don't know their stories today simply because they failed spectacularly? As someone recently told me, "In a war, only the victor gets to tell and frame the story; we hardly ever hear from or care what the loser has to say."
I asked my kids to watch Jobs's Stanford speech and hope they'll draw the right lessons from it. I can't tell them what those "right" lessons might be, though. As they grow up they'll figure that out and come up with a few of their own. What I know is that I don't want them to not get a college education. This is why: Steve Jobs didn't earn a college degree, but I don't believe he ever hung a sign out at Apple's headquarters for college dropouts to come and work at the company. Instead, he recruited well educated technocrats, and lots of them. "As of September 25, 2010, the company had approximately 46,600 full-time equivalent employees," Apple said in its most recent annual Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Many of the positions that made Apple what it is today are filled by degree holders, including software engineers, chip designers, accountants, supply chain experts, etc., who stayed in college, earned their degrees, and toiled day and night, unknown, in a cubicle for the great Jobs. They are a part of his story and a part of his success. They are unsung today, however, because not one of them is Steve Jobs; no company gets to have two of such in a generation. To these unsung heroes, I say, "Thank you, for staying hungry and foolish in your own peculiar way."
And now that Jobs is gone, these individuals are the way forward for Apple, the electronics industry, and the larger economy. One of them may turn out to be larger than Jobs later in life, but for now, keeping the industry humming will involve the humdrum work that many of us are good at but for which we'll never be recognized, except perhaps by the fellow in the cubicle next to us and in the annual company events.
Apple in recent years has not broken any new ground in product innovation. Yes, that statement may seem controversial, but the company didn't invent the digital music player, the smartphone, or the tablet PC. It instead modified them and made them hugely attractive. That was the Steve Jobs genius. But we need more than incremental improvements. I long for greater innovations, the jaw-dropping ones that rip through technology barriers and turn the industry on its head. So far, the industry has been shockingly lacking in these. Jobs led the great expansion in the sales of music players, smartphones, and tablet PCs, but all the major OEMs have done is tag along when they could have been breaking new ground themselves. Now that Jobs is gone, who is going to take this industry to new heights?
To be truly "hungry and foolish", the industry cannot afford to merely stick with the Steve Jobs way; it worked for him but won't for the rest of us. Rather, the next geniuses of the electronics market must pore through the legacy of leaders like Jobs, pick whatever they like from these, dismantle and shatter the myths we've created about them, and chart their own paths. Jobs is gone -- a new generation must arise in its own peculiarly hungry and foolish way.
@Mr. Roques, You're right. Steve Jobs is not Apple and vice versa. However, what I appreciated was Steve's innovative mind and the success (with the cooperation of his team of course) he brought Apple. I'm sure you'll agree that, without all these qualities and success, he wouldn't have been a household name we all know him for. I'm sure Tim Cook is equally a good leader in is own right. I wish success in his position as the CEO of Apple.
Steve Jobs and Apple are two different things. Let me repeat that.
While Steve Jobs was a great leader (and every good thing you can come up with), I didn't buy my iPhone because I wanted to be like Steve... I bought it because it's such a good phone, its simple: "its cooler".
So while leadership-wise Cook and Jobs don't compare (so far), Cook just needs to keep bringing good products and Apple should do just fine.
There's no doubt Apple set some high standards under Jobs' leadership, and I agree the current team has some serious challenges ahead with him gone. Yet, let's not forget Jobs and Apple are two different entities. Jobs was brilliant in what he accomplished. Apple the company is a product of many individuals from Tim Cook on down.
Yep, Steve Jobs had no degree, but he recruited the best of the best to work for him. See the detailed Steve Jobs bio: http://www.allaboutstevejobs.com/bio/long/01.html or download the PDF version: http://allaboutstevejobs.com/bio/Steve_Jobs_Bio.pdf
This was an excellent article and brought up some very good key points. I think you were spot on when talking about Apple and inventions. The biggest thing Apple did was take items we already had like music players and phones and make them better. They made them unique and innovative, but they still existed. I too am waiting for the next "big thing", the item that gets unveiled and all you can say is "WOW". Who is up for that task? Hopefully somebody wants that challenge.
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