Life After Steve Jobs: Apple University for Execs

Steve Jobs led a company that kept its secrets well. He was also a very private person in many ways. In contrast, now that he’s gone, the volume of material about him, indeed surprising stories, may will start to come at an ever increasing pace. Here is one of them.

When Steve Jobs was alive, people in Mr. Jobs’s confidence didn’t speak out. That was basic decency, courtesy, friendship and respect. However, now that he’s no longer with us, the floodgates will start to open.

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is due to be published on October 24. Pre-publication excerpts from that book hav already revealed how Mr. Jobs felt about his iconic jeans, sneakers and black turtleneck. Accordingly, I suspect that earlier books about Steve Jobs will also take on renewed life as we seek to further put his life into perspective.

In addition to what’s known about Mr. Jobs by those who have worked for him, we can also expect to discover the preparations that Mr. Jobs made, knowing that the end was coming sooner rather than later. In his now legendary commencement address at Stanford in 2005, Mr. Jobs explained that when one hears that phrase from the oncologist, “Get your affairs in order,” there are certain things that must be done right away. Fortunately, Mr. Jobs had more time than some less fortunate to do exactly that.

Little did we know that Mr. Jobs had hired Joel Podolny, the former dean of Yale’s Business School in 2008 to to come in house, study Mr. Job’s and build an executive training program that could teach other Apple executives how to think like the Master. The inside story is told beautifully by Jessica Guynn at the Los Angeles Times.

Ms. Guynn wrote, “He [Jobs] identified tenets that he believes unleash innovation and sustain success at Apple — accountability, attention to detail, perfectionism, simplicity, secrecy. And he oversaw the creation of university-caliber courses that demonstrate how those principles translate into business strategies and operating practices.” Mr. Podolny has, I surmise, been teaching these principles to other Apple executives for several years now, in preparation for the time when Mr. Jobs himself could no longer lead Apple. Investment analysts should take note.

I suspect that there will be more of these types of disclosures as others begin to reveal what Steve Jobs was doing and thinking as he proceeded to get his affairs in order in his own unique style. The result will be a body of literature that will add considerably to that already in existence.

The examination of Steve Jobs, a legacy in his own time, will likely give us much, much more than we might have imagined to study and think about for the next 50 years. The body of knowledge (and maybe even some myth) may just be starting to grow exponentially. That’s the way it is with men of his caliber.