The Steve Jobs mystique

Not every product the Apple CEO has introduced has been a hit. So what accounts for the aura of incredible success that surrounds Steve Jobs? Why don't others who are possibly just as successful become cult figures like he has?

Posted by Success Editors on February 1, 2010 12:01 AM

jmcdavisum: The short answer is that for Apple to succeed it absolutely has to create a cult following. Convincing users that they are better off in a ...

boblas: It's the name "Steve". You know, it could have been Steve McQueen or someone like that. I'm only partly kidding. If Clint Eastwood were t...

dnjake: The answer is simple. There are very few people who are as successful as Steve Jobs. Certainly, his skill at marketing himself and his pro...

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npsilver Author Profile Page :

Jobs does have the uncanny ability to see what the public wants and then sit down and design it, build a pilot model try it out and then get input from a great staff. With Jobs on the team Apple has a very bright future.

DScottHarper Author Profile Page :

Steve Jobs and The Cult of Consistent Cool

A key element that has made Steve Jobs a cult figure of innovation has been his ability to sustainably tap into consumers’ hidden aspirations and enjoyment of useful devices that are easy to use and just plain “cool.”

Lots of companies have made products that were successful for a while but then lost out to the next cool thing. Job’s distinction is that for over 30 years, he has been consistently able to think about what people do in their everyday lives that they could do easier and better, then morph existing technology into a cool, sexy form that does the job well.

This single-minded focus on the customer and the marketplace is not easy to maintain, as illustrated by the dismal performance of Apple Computer in the years between the time that Steve Jobs was forced out of the company and subsequently brought back to revive it. Clearly, coasting on success while losing focus on the evolving market and customer expectations very nearly did Apple in before they brought Jobs back as their nexus of inspiration.

However, the ability to create exciting new products and continue evolving from a customer-centric focus is only one part of the consistency that has made Steve Jobs an innovation hero.

Another, perhaps less obvious aspect of his genius since his return to Apple has been his ability to keep the company aligned on this vision of the user as the center of the company’s efforts. Although there have been ups and downs, it’s clear that more often than not, all parts of the company from R&D through marketing, sourcing and production are aligned and focused on designing, producing, and marketing the next cool thing in a consistent, but flexible manner.

This aligned support from the top on down is critical in creating and maintaining a high-performance organization that is capable of developing and implementing flexible processes and systems that support a consistent stream of business results.

Just as the Rolling Stones’ four decades of ability to successfully tap into the public’s musical consciousness will mark them as cult musical icons, Steve Jobs’ sustainable ability to inspire joy and satisfaction with cool, highly functional products and services places him securely and enduringly in the innovation Hall of Fame.

D. Scott Harper, Ph.D. is a Sr. Partner with Business Advancement Inc., which has enabled companies to sustainably unlock innovation and dramatically increase market leadership since 1991. For more insights on getting even better results in business and in life, visit the BAI Blog:

mjeizen Author Profile Page :

The reasons that Jobs has become a cult figure
are manifold:
1. The David-v-Goliath theme always works well as in Macintosh-v-Windows;
2. His equally dramatic departure and return to Apple;
3. A vision of computing as an experience, rather than as an activity;
4. His desire to keep a lid on his personal life;
5. The symbionic relationship between Apple products.

ithinker Author Profile Page :

The secret is incremental innovation. The first iPod was not the best iPod. So is the case with iPhone. Steve builds a product around an idea that is appealing but the product itself is underpowered. People demand more. So he starts a process of gradual upgrades. The new iPad is the most recent example. The product is deficient on many counts. He knows it but still calls it magical and revolutionary. A number of people will buy it. By October, he will start to add few bells and whistles and the sales will take off. This strategy works because the rest of the world is stuck with Windows. If there was another Apple like company, Steve would be doing things differently. Imagine if iPhone flopped because of AT&T. He would have gone for Verizon long time ago. Now because of Android there is pressure for Apple to open up and you will see Verizon and other telcos coming into the picture. This is not a moral or client friendly approach but it maximizes profits for Apple in the short run. Steve is a very shrewd businessman. He may be a visionary, but his basic strength is business assessment and profit maximization.

jmcdavisum Author Profile Page :

The short answer is that for Apple to succeed it absolutely has to create a cult following.

Convincing users that they are better off in a walled environment of proprietary technologies is not an easy task. Getting them to pay a significant premium to operate in such an environment is even more impressive. Apple essentially trades flexibility for stability in its operating systems. The user might experience a more seamless experience with Apple, but they do so at the cost of decreased functionality in other areas. The buginess of Flash and other plug-ins with Macs and the complete inability to run said plug-ins on the iphone and ipad are prime examples. You lose some functionality, but the lack of flexibility in the OS pays dividends much of the time.

Apple's brilliant success has been its ability to emphasize the positives while getting people to ignore the negatives. That and the iphone did not have a true peer competitor for nearly three years.

Still though, I cannot explain the rabid devotion of many Apple customers. I don't know how you get people to identify themselves with a brand so closely. Kudos to their marketing team (even though I can't stand that little hipster prick from the commercials). I am often amazed at the visceral loyalty exhibited by Apple enthusiasts. They all seem to have the same (mainly erroneous) talking points about why pc's or Android suck and are happy to share them laced with simmering contempt to the uninitiated.

boblas Author Profile Page :

Oh yes, and I forgot to mention, their products work and do it in superior fashion. Because of my work I have both PC's and Apple products. Hands down, the PC's are not as reliable, have far more software issues and are not as well supported, bottom line.

boblas Author Profile Page :

It's the name "Steve". You know, it could have been Steve McQueen or someone like that. I'm only partly kidding. If Clint Eastwood were the head of Apple with that easy going, direct, believable-average-guy persona it might not be that much different.

I recently had to call Apple with a tech problem and got a very quick response and professional. I remember thinking, "you know, this could have been Steve Jobs helping me". I get the feeling all employees are molded in the image of Jobs. Maybe that's not a bad thing if so.

dnjake Author Profile Page :

The answer is simple. There are very few people who are as successful as Steve Jobs. Certainly, his skill at marketing himself and his products is a factor. So was being born at the right time and place for his particular talents. But he has repeatedly built exceptionally successful businesses. That outcome only happens when people have a set of unique talents.

HugitThrough Author Profile Page :

What is his secret? The $ 150,000,000 Microsoft gave him when the company was about to go bankrupt 10 years ago.

mfslavin Author Profile Page :

bill gates legacy: operating systems. steve jobs legacy: gadgets for a society rooted in cyclical consumption.

streetnoise Author Profile Page :

The machines are the cult aspect moreso than Jobs. The rise of Jobs' mystique is a cautionary mgmt. tale for how not to manhandle a small but key player in a burgeoning industry: Tech analysts and consumers understood the wall Apple was sure to hit when Jobs was ousted from his own tech company, which then hit the skids, after new mgmt. tried to run Apple like, well, Pepsi. The guy becomes a success in a spin off field, is brought back, and you see the result: industry-changing consumer devices and a stock price to die for. The sweet smell of success always carries a whiff of mystique. Besides, all the world loves an underdog inventor with a vision who then manufacturers that vision into something the general public can participate in. It doesn't hurt that a lot of the collective vision of Silicon Valley passed through Apple's doors at one time or another.

AIPACiswar Author Profile Page :

Why? Because media pundits have their heads up their behinds that's why.

David Pogue sells his favorable opinion on all things Apple whenever they come up with a new toy that does no more than a windows toy. Pogue skips any downside, talks up the trivial upside until it sounds like something is really better when it is not, and viola Apple mythology lives.

And oh yeah, everyone has unlimited money in Pogue's world. High entry costs, fees, and planned obsolescence mean nothing to him as long as he can show off that Apple logo.

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