Steve Jobs: to wait for the next big thing

Jobs did not enunciate some simple-minded growth or market share goal. He did not pretend that pushing on various levers would somehow magically restore Apple to market leadership in personal computers. Instead, he was actually focused on the sources of and barriers to success in his industry—recognizing the next window of opportunity, the next set of forces he could harness to his advantage, and then having the quickness and cleverness to pounce on it quickly like a perfect predator. There was no pretense that such windows opened every year or that one could force them open with incentives or management tricks. He knew how it worked. He had done it before with the Apple II and the Macintosh and then with Pixar. He had tried to force it with NeXT, and that had not gone well. It would be two years before he would make that leap again with the iPod and then online music. And, after that, with the iPhone. Steve Jobs’s answer that day—“to wait for the next big thing”—is not a general formula for success. But it was a wise approach to Apple’s situation at that moment, in that industry, with so many new technologies seemingly just around the corner.

That was from Richard Rumelt in his book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy.   Theory of the Business Drucker suggested that every organisation whether it knows it or not has a theory of how it functions”. He called it the theory of the business. This has three parts. Major assumptions of the environment and its customers, the organization’s specific missions and its core competency.

_Environment: __Assumptions about the challenges and opportunities in the world; society and its structure, about technology and where its going,  who the customers are and what they value._

Specific Mission: Based on individual and organisational values, what is your purpose? What is the change you want to see in the environment? How do you want to make the customer’s life better?

Core Competency: What do you need to excel at to achieve your mission?

All the three have to be consistent with each other, based on reality, understood by the whole organisation and needed to be constantly tested.  In many cases the opportunity you see in the environment is based on the specific mission and then the goal is to figure out whether your current capabilities are enough or you need to create new ones. This idea that strategy at the organisation level” is iterative, constantly tested and understood by the employees is a very useful way to think about it. If we try to understand this from the Theory of the Business framework of Drucker, Jobs knew what Apple’s core competencies were, he knew the specific mission of Apple but what he was not sure was when the next big opportunity will come.  This ability to wait for the environment to change and see where he can add value is the hardest skill for a CEO. He started to define the jobs-to-be-done” that customers wanted - digital hub in 2000, and the increasing digitization of things which is where the iPod and iTunes made sense for a computer company. They come from a Theory that brought out the Mac and is consistent in that sense.


Previous post
Daniel Dennett on Mistakes and learning from Evolution Mistakes and learning from them is key to innovation. So, the more we can understand how to make them, how to enable them, learn from them; the
Next post
Christensen ideas are more useful for entrepreneurs “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong,” H.L. Mencken wrote. The hedgehog who knows just one big thing