The Genius of Steve Jobs

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Ever since former Apple CEO John Sculley ousted Steve Jobs from Apple in 1985, the two haven't spoken. And who can blame them? It would no doubt sting getting forced out of the company you personally co-founded. But as the story goes, Jobs would return in a decade as CEO and resurrect Apple into the vaunted technology company it is today. In hindsight, Sculley's move to oust Jobs remains one of the most infamous personnel blunders in corporate history. Does Sculley know it? You betcha.

In an exclusive 8,000-word interview with tech blogger Leander Kahney, Sculley describes Jobs as a genius in his field. The lengthy Q&A is basically a mediation on Jobs's brilliant creative process. Here are the takeaways bloggers are highlighting:

  • A Fascinating Look Into the Genius of Jobs, writes Chris Davies at Slash Gear:
Sculley outlines the main areas you’d probably think Jobs was obsessive over – elevating product design, driving for perfectionism and prioritizing the customer experiences – all illustrated with examples of how the notoriously controlling CEO manages those areas.

That includes ruthlessly keeping teams to 100 members – with an add-one/lose-one policy to maintain that number – together with being “adamantly involved in the advertising, the design and everything.”  As we’ve heard before, Jobs had no qualms about rejecting his teams’ work: “It’s like an artist’s workshop and Steve is the master craftsman who walks around and looks at the work and makes judgments on it and in many cases his judgments were to reject something.”

Sculley also praises Jobs for his end-to-end thinking, controlling the whole process of producing Apple’s products from initial inception, though R&D and design, even to the outsourcing; as for Jobs versus Bill Gates, the ex-Microsoft CEO is described as being “never interested in great taste” only “being able to dominate a market.” 

  • A Master of the User Interface, writes Eric Slivka at Mac Rumors:

Sculley emphasizes Jobs' view of the customer experience, incorporating that perspective into every aspect of product design. But even from their earliest days, Jobs and Apple shied away from focus groups, with Jobs arguing that it was impossible to gain feedback on revolutionary new devices when the potential users couldn't understand the leaps Apple was trying to make.

"Steve said: 'How can I possibly ask somebody what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphic based computer is? No one has ever seen one before.' He believed that showing someone a calculator, for example, would not give them any indication as to where the computer was going to go because it was just too big a leap."

  • Sculley Talks About Building the First Macintosh, notes CBS News, emphasizing the following quote:

"When I first saw the Macintosh -- it was in the process of being created -- it was basically just a series of components over what is called a bread board. It wasn't anything, but Steve had this ability to reach out to find the absolute best, smartest people he felt were out there. He was extremely charismatic and extremely compelling in getting people to join up with him and he got people to believe in his visions even before the products existed."

  • A Window Into Apple's Design Inspiration, writes Bianca Bosker at The Huffington Post, who points to the following excerpt:
"We used to study Italian designers when we were looking for selecting a design company before we selected Hartmut Esslinger from Frog to do what was called the Snow White design. We were looking at Italian car designers. We really did study the designs of cars that they had done and looking at the fit and finish and the materials and the colors and all of that. At that time, nobody was doing this in Silicon Valley."
  • He Talks About Apple as a Design Company, observes CBS News:

"Apple is not really a technology company. Apple is really a design company. If you look at the iPod, you will see that many of the technologies that are in the iPod are ones that Apple bought from other people and put together. Even when Apple created Macintosh, all the ideas came out of Xerox and Apple recruited some of the key people out of Xerox."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.