As we work to find breakthrough ideas, to discover the Next Big Idea in marketing building products, the most important lesson we can learn: Be Yourself

Too often, Steve Jobs’ unique and volatile personality is being held up as model for others to emulate, as if demonstrating Steve’s manic style will provide a key to unlocking Steve’s remarkable genius. Bad idea.

There will only be one Steve Jobs. An undeniably innovative, charismatic leader, Steve’s eye-on-the-prize approach has raised him (and his brands) to cult status. Now the blogosphere has been filled with well-deserved eulogies and praise—but don’t forget that what made Steve a standout was that his abrasive, emotionally charged approach worked for him when it should have failed.

As found in a Forbes article, there are other lessons from Steve Jobs’ behavior that we would do well to remember.

1. Temperamental is not the same as demanding.

Steve Jobs fired people on the spot for seemingly trivial reasons. He got away with it because it was only one part of a complex whole. Simply being a jerk doesn’t inspire others or mark you as a leader.

2. Pretty is not the same as beautiful.

Steve didn’t set out to make things pretty, he set out to make them simple. But like a stark Zen garden, through simplicity they became beautiful to see and pleasing to use. Apple’s imitators have gotten good at emulating the design, but still fall short when it comes to the deeper user experience.

3. Choosing the best ideas is not the same as having the best ideas.

It’s been suggested that Steve Jobs didn’t come up with original ideas but just found ways to use existing ones. So what? When you revolutionize an old idea, it becomes yours. Steve hired outstanding people who were the best at what they did. The designs or technology may not have been his, but the final decisions were definitely his.

4. Persistence is not the same as stubbornness.

Persistence is a refusal to surrender. Stubbornness is a refusal to change. Standing your ground and ignoring the realities around you doesn’t mean you have conviction, it means you’re going to be outdated sooner than your competition. TWA and Blockbuster would likely agree.

5. Presenting brilliantly is not the same as having something brilliant to present.

People think that Steve Jobs as an amazing salesman. He was not. Steve was a showman—he made you imagine the possibilities. The iPod Nano pulled from a coin pocket; the MacBook Air slipped into an envelope. We saw and we marveled. A salesman makes you say “Yes, that’s nice”; a showman makes you say “Wow, that’s cool”.

6. Being successful is not the same as never failing.

Steve did not get it right every time. We remember the hits—the iPod, the iMac, and countless others—simply because we forgot about the bombs. The Apple III, the Newton, the Mac Cube. But because they created a flood of prototypes, designers and programmers learned to think broader and try options, knowing the solution was developed through effort, not stumbled upon by accident.

 

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