orgtheory puzzle: steve jobs 1 vs. steve jobs 2
There is one part of the Apple story that has always puzzled me: what was the difference between Steve Jobs pre-NeXT and post-NeXT? For those who aren’t Appleologists, Steve Jobs was booted from Apple in 1985. He ran a company called NeXT and founded Pixar. NeXT flopped but Pixar succeeded. About ten years later, in 1996, Jobs returned to Apple and steered it into the forefront of computing.
Here’s the thing that puzzled me: What happened in those years? What did he learn or do differently upon his return? I read the Walter Isaacson biography. It is heavy on detail, but light on analysis. You don’t quite understand how he changed in a way that allowed him to reach new heights or resolve old problems. Here are my hypotheses:
- Steve was a little older and a little wiser. He also had more practice from running these two firms which gave him the ability to be more innovative upon returning to Apple. In other words, practice makes perfect. Old people mellow. he worked better with others.
- Nothing changed. Same Steve, but the big difference is that he was completely control of Apple. In Steve Jobs 1, he had other founders to deal with and a board that reflected different groups of stakeholders. In Steve Jobs 2, all the founders were gone and he fired all board members not aligned with him. Thus, his fights with people didn’t undermine the company in the same way Steve Jobs 1 almost ruined Apple. In other words, Apple 1 was a divided firm with different stakeholders and Jobs was not an optimal CEO for such a firm. Apple 2 was built around Jobs and he excelled in that type of environment.
The main evidence for #1 is that he learned a lot from running NeXT that allowed the later Macs to be very successful and his media experience was directly leveraged into the iTunes project. The evidence for #2 is simply that that there is no evidence that Jobs changed as a manager at all over his whole life. The brilliant, but insane, guy you get at Reed in the 1970s is the same guy you get in the 2000s. Your opinion? Show me your work!