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5 Lessons from Steve Jobs’ Biography

Let me start by stating what this article is NOT going to do- this is NOT a review of the book ‘Steve Jobs’. For that I recommend Janet Maslin’s lucid review. This is neither a commentary on his choices nor a fan post. Let’s ‘Think Different’, shall we? I am simply writing to state what business lessons I think a to-be social entrepreneur can learn from reading this book.

1. Be passionate about your Product –

Steve Jobs obsessed over every aspect of his products- the design, the functionality, the technology, the pricing and the marketing. In the book, Steve Jobs is described as someone who paid such close attention to details that he even took great pains in perfecting those parts of his products that were not visible to the consumer -like chips and processors. I am not referring to only their functionality. Steve jobs not just cared but obsessed over how beautiful those parts looked! In stark contrast, social sector start ups almost believe in keeping perfection at bay. The attitude is — delivering the service/product is more important than the quality of the same. It’s time we obsess over our curriculum, assessment and tightly monitor the quality of our service/ product.

2. You don’t have to be flawless

Steve jobs was anything but perfect. He regularly threw tantrums , cried during meetings, was rude to people (and that’s still putting it mildly!) and bathed once a week. He made mistakes and was not a good father to Lisa and it was a decision he often regretted. As social entrepreneurs, there is an internal pressure to be a certain way- to be the image of an upright soul, a reflective practitioner who is kind, empathetic and who sometimes takes the moral high ground. Allow yourself those imperfections. Its nobody’s business anyway. You can care about the environment and not be a vegan!

Side note- Here is an example of what I am trying to say: I recently heard one of the Flipkart Bansals confess to being a huge Kindle fan. He laughed that he was buying his competitor’s products!

3. Learn to play the game

Yes, we focus on positively impacting a marginalized section in society. But we also have an enterprise to run. It helps to see yourself as a business and invest time in capturing a market, focussing on great service, quality control, managing finances (amongst others). Ask yourself how big your game is and find the right coaches, managers and players. Like Jobs says “ A players like to play with players”

4. Work with the best

Steve Jobs spent $100,000 to just get his NeXT logo designed. In 1997 when his ‘Think Different’ ad came out, he personally made calls to get Robin Williams to lend his voice to the ad. His world was black and white- someone was either a “bozo” or a “genius”. He was always very particular about who he hired into his team. In the book he rightly says Genius attracts Genius.

Similarly for a young social enterprise, I would say whether it is mentors, investors or volunteers , aim to work with the best. Go that extra mile and find the best because your firm and your beneficiaries deserve it.

5. Personal health : It’s for real!

Steve Jobs mostly stayed a vegan, converted most of his meetings into long walks and took the time off to go look for spiritual meaning in Himachal , India. Go, find your thing whether it is yoga, cross-fit, sports, dance or meditation. Most times, the shit will hit the roof and it helps if you know how to dust yourself. Make it a part of your schedule to exercise at least 4 days a week. Trust me, you’ll need it 🙂

I have resisted reading this book (for no particular reason) for the longest time but it wriggled it’s way into my life. I can say it has been a huge influence on where I want to take my organization and how I want to get there. I highly recommend this book to young entrepreneurs and those aspiring to take on CXO roles. I believe you will be better off than before you read the book.

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