I recently finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Terrific read! One of the themes that is so remarkable in the book (and also in Jobs’ life) is the power of an outstanding product. Jobs was so passionate, so obsessive about the most minute details of a product, to help ensure its excellence. He was completely committed to this.
In one extreme example, Jobs was gravely ill and in the hospital. His obsession for product excellence went so far, that he actually criticized some of the medical instruments that were being used to help him. For example, a mask was used to help him breathe, and he insisted that they take it off because the design of the mask was so poor in his opinion. He roundly criticized other pieces of medical equipment in the room. At one point they brought him seven different smoothies in the hopes that one would appeal to him, and he went through them one by one saying, “This one sucks. This one’s no good….”
So part of Jobs’ genius–one might even say insanity–was the unparalleled and meticulous attention he paid to the perfection of an individual product. This has been a very successful strategy for Apple since the decision was made to focus on a small number of outstanding, world-class products with extraordinary simple design and user interface.
This principle of product excellence / design excellence can be extrapolated into many other areas of business and leadership. I don’t think this means we all have to become over-the-top perfectionists about everything. But many companies would be more successful if they paid this kind of meticulous attention to design excellence for their core products and services.