Lessons from Steve Jobs

Some of you have probably read my review of Steve Jobs’ biography. I really like the book. It is a fantastic read. In the last post, I also promised to distill a few lessons. Well, here they are. A few interesting quotes. Quick and simple.

“Let’s make it simple. Really simple.”, Steve Jobs

People shy aways from using complex and complicated things. Think about Apple’s products – they are simple and easy to use. We do not need a manual to use the iPad, iPhone or iPod. We should all make an effort to simplify our business analytics objects whether they are reports, cubes or planning models. Complexity deters. Simplicity attracts. But achieving simplicity is not all that easy. Keep that in mind. We have to fight for it. We have to be creative to obtain it. But it’s worth the effort.

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”, Steve Jobs

We sometimes feel like juggling everything that is being thrown at us. We accept new requirements without really wondering whether they make sense. But we sometimes have to say “no”. Once again, let’s keep it simple and focus on the big picture. There is no point in trying to satisfy every single business user and process exception.

“Jobs also decided to eliminate the cursor arrow keys on the Macintosh keyboard. The only way to move the cursor was to use the mouse. It was a way of forcing old-fashioned users to adapt to point-and click navigation, even if they didn’t want to.”, Walter Isaacscon

Simplicity and focus should create objects that business users like to use. But we should not try to create too many exceptions and complexities to cater to those people who are skeptical. They will never change. Let’s focus on the essential stuff and people will follow ….. eventually.

Apple - Think Different

“I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it.”

Jobs pushed his teams to design beautiful products – even under the hood. We should strive to do the same. It pays off. Solid architecture and data models pay off a hundred times. It’s not just about the presentation layer. Poor design will eventually show.

“People who know what they are talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”, Steve Jobs

We spend way too much time creating PowerPoint presentations. Let’s drop that and invest the time in understanding our business and the associated problems and opportunities. Jobs is right – if you know your stuff, you can white board, you can discuss without the helping hand of a PowerPoint deck.

Last but not least, one of Steve Jobs’ favorite ideas came from Wayne Gretzky:

“Skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been.” Wayne Gretzky

Let’s try to figure out how we can push the envelope. Let’s not just focus on the requirements of the users. Instead, let’s figure out how we can surprise them. When is the last time you have surprised them?

It all sounds so simple…right?



Steve Jobs about iCloud in 1997 – Back to the Future

iCLOUD IN 1997?

While reading the Steve Jobs biography last week, I watched some videos of Steve Job’s presentations. The great majority of the recordings are worth watching. There is a lot to learn from the master himself. He surely did know how to present. His appearances were always characterized by great clarity and passion.

When it comes to understanding his foresight and amazing vision, one recording certainly sticks out. And that one is not necessarily the best in terms of visuals, laughs and such. Watch this short 5 min recording from the famous 1997 Apple WWDC. Jobs is talking about some of his ideas. It is amazing to listen to this 14 years later. Much of this thinking is now incorporated in iCloud.


Review – Steve Jobs Biography

Yesterday morning, I finished reading to 600 page Steve Jobs Biography written by Walter Isaacson. To sum up the experience – it’s a great read. At least for people who are interested in business, technology and creativity.

Steve Jobs Biography


One the key strengths of the biography is the outstanding story telling by the author. This book is not only about Steve Jobs. No, there are fascinating anecdotes of the early Silicon Valley days that show how closely connected some of the pioneers were. Jobs and Wozniak, for example, reaped some of their first successes at Atari and they were heavily influenced by HP. The book therefore takes you on a fun journey through the history of modern technology. While reading the biography, I often found myself pulling up old photos of game consoles, PCs, Macs, iPods and other products. The relationship between Apple and Microsoft is also an important topic. And then there is Pixar of course: many people do not realize that Steve Jobs managed to bring Pixar to where it is today. Without Jobs there would probably not be movies like ‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘Toy Story’.


Steve Jobs was definitely a genius. The products he managed to bring to market are amazing for sure. And they have changed the world forever. But being a genius didn’t necessarily make him a nice person. The book is filled with tons of examples that show what a complex and difficult personality Jobs was. He must have been extremely rude and disrespectful. Reading some of the stories of him destroying and attacking co-workers, competitors, friends and family are outright disgusting. There were a few chapters where I just had to put the book down and walk away. Also, the stories about his extremely weird eating and personal hygiene habits are ….well…..interesting(he was a strict vegan and didn’t believe in taking showers). Overall, you get the picture of an extremely talented but yet extremely nasty person.


The biography is also motivating and educational. Jobs will be remembered as one of the most outstanding management characters. The book offers many insights into his philosophy. It certainly got me thinking about many different things and I would argue that this book could become a standard read in business schools. I will collect a few learnings and share them in a different post next week.


If you are interested in business and technology, get the Steve Jobs book. It is a true page-turner. There are chapters that are annoying (I got frustrated reading about Job’s weird behaviors). But it is truly inspiring and informative. A perfect read for the upcoming holiday season.

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make great products. But the products, not the profits were the motivation.” Steve Jobs

P.S.: If you are indeed interested in Steve Jobs, I can highly recommend the writing of Carmine Gallo. He has published two books about Steve Jobs’ key strengths: creativity and presentation skills. Both books are quick reads and they offer insightful tips and tricks that everybody can use in business.


Dashboarding IBM Cognos Sticky Visualization

The new IBM Cognos Mobile iPad app is nice!

Just a quick post for today. It’s been a super busy week with stops in Barcelona, Munich and London. While sitting in the lounge in Munich, I was delighted to see that the IBM Cognos Mobile iPad app had been approved for the Apple iTunes store. A perfect opportunity to download it and test the offline capabilities at 33000ft cruising altitude. (I cannot wait to take the the app online this weekend!)


Once our plane had taken off, I pulled out my iPad and launched the app. European flights do not have WIFI, yet. But the app does support offline content. And so I was sitting there in seat 5D somewhere above Frankfurt and was able to test some of the dashboards and reports. Being able to work offline is a huge advantage, from my point of view. I have personally encountered so many situations where the wireless network was either poor or simply not accessible. But back to the Cognos app: The initial impression is excellent. The interface is nice and clean. It does not take any time at all to get up and running. Navigation is intuitive and all the usual finger movements (swiping, pointing etc.) work flawlessly.

IBM Cognos iPad
Offline content
Reading Social

Books, books & the Kindle

This device is almost as polarizing as American politics. Crazy! I spend close to 200 days on the road per year and to me, this thing is the best thing since sliced bread…well…almost. I am talking about the Kindle –’s eBook reader. We are in the middle of the holiday season and many of us still hunting for presents. Many of us have to read a ton to stay current with business practices and we also travel. As a result, I wanted to share some thoughts about the Kindle. I have had one for a long time. Since the very first version. It is an amazing, yet extremely boring piece of technology. I do recommend it to anybody who likes to read and travel.


Kindle vs the iPad

This Kindle is amazing because it allows you to read books on an electronic device that doesn’t feel like one. The Kindle is as light as a small paper back and the screen looks and feels like a real book. When you first read something on the Kindle it feels almost fake. Yes, the screen does look that real. Start reading something on a Kindle and you will notice that it ‘disappears’ within  a few seconds of reading. You just become one with the content. Just like with a real book. And you can read it anywhere. The screen is just as good as any book. Event at the beach.


The Kindle is extremely light. You can hold it easily. It is actually a lot easier to hold than many books. I have read books on a plane (less space needed), on a train, on a ship, in a car, in a bed, at the coffee machine and on the beach. It simply feels really good in your hands. Much easier to handle than a book. Seriously.


And then there is the capacity. I used to travel with a bunch of books. No more. Books are heavy. eBooks typically don’t require much storage and the Kindle can easily hold 100s of books. Perfect. Think about going on vacation. One tiny device instead of 5 hard-covers.


You see a book and you want it. The Kindle allows you to download books instantaneously. Once again…great for traveling. And they are typically pretty cheap.


One of the best things about the Kindle is the ability to highlight sections, to annotate them and to bookmark pages. The kicker is that you can download the highlights and annotations to a PC or MAC. Extremely useful for business books. I love having a txt file with all my highlighted and annotated sections. It is perfect for sharing with friends & colleagues or to use stuff for presentations.


The Kindle iPad App

Some people thought that the iPad would kill the Kindle. Not really. The Kindle is like a real book. The iPad is icing on the cake. The Kindle App works extremely well. Books synchronize with the Kindle so you can read books on both devices. In terms of actual reading, I do not like the weight of the iPad. It is quite heavy. And the screen is not suited for reading outside. There is too much glare. BUT the iPad works extremely well for certain graphics-intensive books. Reading business or photography books on the Kindle is a real pleasure. So the combination between both is great. But the iPad is definitely not a Kindle killer to me. On the contrary: it really enhances the Kindle experience.


Did I mention that the Kindle is extremely boring. Perfect. It looks a bit dull and there isn’t much you can do with it. Sure. You can browse the web but it is a poor experience. There are some games, but they suck. Really boring. Some bloggers have called that the biggest flaw of the device. One magazine was disappointed that the Kindle wouldn’t support Voice over IP. Hmm. Not really. When is the last time, we placed a call using a book? The Kindle’s lack of functionality is its greatest asset: it retains the real character of a book. I sometimes read on the iPad at night. But guess what: I end up checking email, looking at Twitter, surfing…it is just too tempting. That doesn’t happen with the Kindle. It is a real eBook! And that is awesome.


The 3G version of the Kindle allows you to go online pretty much anywhere around the world. That means you can access social websites like Facebook and Twitter. There are some countries on this planet that do not like social media and they block access. Not with the Kindle, apparently. When I traveled to China I noticed that I could get my tweets. At first I thought that it must have been a mistake. But when I returned from the trip, I found some reports that confirmed my suspicion. (see…the Kindle is revolutionary!)


Honestly, there isn’t anything worth writing about. The Kindle is that great. Sure. It could look a bit nicer. I certainly do not like the fact that I have to turn it off during take-off and landing. But I honestly don’t care. The Kindle has allowed me to read a lot more than I used to.  And it is really fun and extremely comfortable. Hope you are enjoying your eBook readers as well!