Former Apple CEO's Discussion of Steve Jobs Offers Many Lessons

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 20, 2010

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, you're aware of the tremendous success that Steve Jobs has had leading Apple Computer. Apple's market capitalization is well above Microsoft's these days, it has new hit products such as the iPad out, and many pundits have named Jobs the best CEO of the past decade. If you have followed Apple for a long period of time, though, you probably remember previous Apple CEOs such as John Sculley and Gil Amelio, who were much less effective than Jobs. CultofMac has a very interesting transcript up of an interview with former Apple CEO John Sculley, where he primarily discusses Jobs. There are lessons in his comments for open source developers, commercial open source companies, and almost everyone.

Many open source projects have a limited numbert of committers that contribute the lion's share of improvements, and some may feel that that is a disadvantage. However, Sculley singles out Jobs' disdain for large organizations:

"The other thing about Steve was that he did not respect large organizations. He felt that they were bureaucratic and ineffective. He would basically call them 'bozos.' That was his term for organizations that he didn’t respect. The Mac team, they were all in one building and they eventually got to one hundred people. Steve had a rule that there could never be more than one hundred people on the Mac team. So if you wanted to add someone you had to take someone out."

Sculley also singles out a long-standing strength that Apple has had in terms of focusing on design, and attributes that strength to Jobs' interest in design:

"Everything at Apple can be best understood through the lens of designing. Whether it’s designing the look and feel of the user experience, or the industrial design, or the system design and even things like how the boards were laid out. The boards had to be beautiful in Steve’s eyes when you looked at them, even though when he created the Macintosh he made it impossible for a consumer to get in the box because he didn’t want people tampering with anything. In his level of perfection, everything had to be beautifully designed even if it wasn’t going to be seen by most people."

I wonder if many developers of open source projects and components can honestly claim that they have the same slavish level of interest in software design that Jobs has obviously always had for both hardware and software. 

There are many other interesting items in Sculley's interview, and as I read through them I kept thinking that even though many people view Sculley as having been ineffective at Apple, it's obvious that few people who walk the earth have had the front row seat for observing Steve Jobs that he had. His interview is worth reading.