I read a fun book this week, "Inside Steve's Brain," by Wired's Leander Kahney. I liked it it a lot for several reasons. First, Mr. Kahney didn't use the book as an opportunity to bash Steve Jobs and Apple to make himself look good or sell books on that basis alone. It's not sensationalistic. Instead, it's a lot like another business management technique book I love, "It's Your Ship," by (Navy) Captain D. Michael Abrashoff. Both books are focused on assisting the reader understand management techniques as opposed to dragging out dirty laundry. I would think that Mr. Jobs, of all the books about him that he hates, would like this one the best.
The other thing "Inside Steve's Brain" does is provide a technical history of how Apple went from the PC pioneer in 1977 to near bankruptcy in 1996 and then fabulous success in 2008 under Jobs, Sculley, then Jobs again. It that sense, it's a book with long term value for scholars of the future. Finally, it's a small, easy to read book, and Mr. Kahney has a breezy, fun writing style that'll keep you turning page after page.
While not everyone who idolizes Steve Jobs will like some of the stories in the book, from a biographical and technical standpoint there is much to learn. However, if one surmises that he or she can instantly adopt the management practices of Mr. Jobs, despite the chapter summaries, they should think again. Steve Jobs is one-of-a-kind. I would think that mindless copying of his style would lead to disaster. That's why I also mentioned the Abrashoff book. Every leader has to find his own voice and values for different situations.
While on that subject, I saw an interesting article by Geoffrey Helt this week about redesigning Apple based on their surging business. The theme was how the growing size of Apple and its product line will pose enormous administrative challenges for Apple. I've had my own ideas about that, and I think the author approached the subject nicely, then kind of stopped short. Even so, it's always a good time for a discussion about how lines of communication, team size, management styles, and administrative problems can trip up a rapidly growing company. Leander's book provides considerable insight into how Apple is doing it so far.
I can't help but mention a David Pogue article that compared the perceived high price of gas to other fluids we consume. For example, Gatorade comes in at $10.17/gallon, Wite-out at $25.42/gallon and Hewlett-Packard inkjet ink comes in at $4,294.58/gallon. It's a little silly because we don't buy ink jet cartridges by the gallon, but it's also fun to compare.
On Friday, Time Warner announced that over the next two years, they'll be delivering a wireless cable modem that will put the Internet on people's HDTV and provide home networking.
I don't know what Apple will be delivering in two years, but if we saw it now, we'd think it came from another planet. In my opinion, too many wannbe CE and Cable companies can only look at what Apple has already done for their model of the future. Once again, serendipitously, Leander's book provides some twinkle-in-your-eyes insights into why Time Warner isn't the company that's going to take the home networking and Internet-HDTV convergence market by storm.
But, hey, they can't just stand around and deliver decent HD cable TV at an affordable price. They have to plan for the future. Here's a plan:
Work with Apple.