The world changed on January 11, 1992. On that day, the album Nevermind by Nirvana replaced Michael Jackson’s Dangerous as the number 1 album on the Billboard album chart.
Symbolically this was the end of the era of manufactured pop music, which MJ came to represent. A new age of real music began, some even called it the coming of age for American punk. Kids started buying guitars again, and a new generation fell in love with the glory of punk rock. I was one of them.
Hit songs were once again written in garages and basements, rather than being engineered in clinical Hollywood hit factories. Thanks Kurt…
That’s the same context in which I see the legacy Steve Jobs leaves behind. He was the greatest storyteller of his generation. He also happened to be businessman. His success also in many way marks the emergence of a new era; perhaps a new era of business.
Before Apple became the most valuable company in the world, the model of success that everyone agreed on was different.
Sam Walton turned a local variety store in to the world’s biggest retailer by taking a clinical view of his supply chain, and with laser focus squeezing out as much efficiency as he could find. The relationships people used to have with their local store owner were forgotten, but it worked. And it worked very, very well.
Jack Welch took a scalpel to the cost structure at GE and turned around one of the world’s oldest companies, by making them profitable again. Sadly this came at the price of massive layoffs, and a huge hit to the corporate culture at GE. Employees were just cogs in an assembly line, and a job was never guaranteed.
Steve took a different approach. He believed that you could think differently. His focus wasn’t on a spreadsheet, it was on his customers. He created a passion at Apple for elegant design, and a perfect customer experience. From the packaging, through the retail experience, to the products themselves; the customer experience of Apple was and still remains different than every other brand. Apple cares about its customers; that superior experience, has made them not just a computer company, but for some almost a religion.
Perhaps with his passing, this will mark an era in business where Apple isn’t the outlier, rather the model of success for others. Take a customer focus, invest rather than cut, and innovate rather than stand still. You might end up being the biggest company in the world. Thanks Steve…