/* Google Analytics */

Saturday, November 7, 2009

CEO of the decade: never settle for good enough

Apple founder and twice-CEO Steve Jobs was named this week by Fortune magazine to be “CEO of the decade.” Although he’s a liberal arts dropout rather an engineer — and today CEO of a Fortune 100 company rather than a startup — I think Jobs’ career exemplifies the best of what a high-tech startup should be.

Barely removed from his hippie era, the Jobs I era (1976-1985) was clearly about changing the world rather than making a buck. (Until his 1997 return to Apple, Steve made almost all his wealth from Pixar, not Apple).

Reading the Merc summary by John Murrell, it’s clear that the Jobs II era has also succeeded due to Jobs fastidious unwillingness to settle for “good enough.” As Adam Lashinsky wrote in the main Fortune article:
In the past 10 years alone he has radically and lucratively reordered three markets -- music, movies, and mobile telephones -- and his impact on his original industry, computing, has only grown.

Remaking any one business is a career-defining achievement; four is unheard-of. Think about that for a moment. Henry Ford altered the course of the nascent auto industry. PanAm's Juan Trippe invented the global airline. Conrad Hilton internationalized American hospitality.

In all instances, and many more like them, these entrepreneurs turned captains of industry defined a single market that had previously not been dominated by anyone. The industries that Jobs has turned topsy-turvy already existed when he focused on them.
To me, this is what entrepreneurs do, whether Henry Ford and Juan Trippe or Simon Ramo and Irwin Jacobs. Great entrepreneurs — like other change agents — pursue their vision without regard to whether it’s practical.

At the risk of being cliché, this is the epitome of Schumpeter Mark II. As Richard Swedberg said in his introduction to Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy:
Schumpeter’s theory was centered around the entrepreneur: he argued that change in economic life always starts with the actions of a forceful individual and then spreads to the rest of the economy.
How did Jobs get where he is? In the Fortune sidebar, fellow IT billionaire Larry Ellison described his friend and former neighbor thus:
"The difference between me and Steve is that I'm willing to live with the best the world can provide. With Steve that's not always good enough." And if you look at how he tackles building a phone, or building a laptop, he really is in pursuit of this technical and aesthetic perfection. And he just won't compromise.
However, as Ellison notes Jobs is proud to have the highest market cap of any Silicon Valley company — ahead of Cisco, Intel, Google and Oracle. Ironically, two years ago Apple’s market cap passed IBM: the same IBM that offered to bail out Apple’s failed management team at $40/share (until they demanded $60) and of course the same IBM that created the PC that bedeviled Apple until Jobs’ return.


Blaxabbath said...

Suppose Apple had been content with where it was and never took Jobs back so Steve has to go the route of the start-up. In terms of time, how much of a delay in his innovations -- the iProducts, etc -- do you think there would have been compared to what happened when he went back to an already recognizable company with some market share?

Anonymous said...

加油!!! 很棒的分享~..................................................