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职场小悟: 偷师 Steve Jobs 的领导能力: Impute

He stared unblinking at Weeks. “Yes, you can do it,” he said. “Get your mind around it. You can do it.” Weeks recalls that he shook his head in astonishment and then called the managers of Corning’s facility in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, which had been making LCD displays, and told them to convert immediately to making Gorilla glass full-time. “We did it in under six months,” he says. “We put our best scientists and engineers on it, and we just made it work.” As a result, every piece of glass on an iPhone or an iPad is made in America by Corning.

Impute   Jobs’s early mentor Mike Markkula wrote him a memo in 1979 that urged three principles. The first two were “empathy” and “focus.” The third was an awkward word, “impute,” but it became one of Jobs’s key doctrines.He knew that
people form an opinion about a product or a company on the basis of how it is presented and packaged. “Mike taught me that people do judge a book by its cover,” he told me
.

When he was getting ready to ship the Macintosh in 1984, he obsessed over the colors and design of the box. Similarly, he personally spent time designing and redesigning the jewellike boxes that cradle the iPod and the iPhone and listed himself on the patents for them. He and Ive believed that unpacking was a ritual like theater and heralded the glory of the product. “When you open the box of an iPhone or iPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product,” Jobs said.

Sometimes Jobs used the design of a machine to “impute” a signal rather than to be merely functional. For example, when he was creating the new and playful iMac, after his return to Apple, he was shown a design by Ive that had a little recessed handle nestled in the top. It was more semiotic than useful. This was a desktop computer. Not many people were really going to carry it around. But Jobs and Ive realized that a lot of people were still intimidated by computers. If it had a handle, the new machine would seem friendly, deferential, and at one’s service. The handle signaled permission to touch the iMac. The manufacturing team was opposed to the extra cost, but Jobs simply announced, “No, we’re doing this.” He didn’t even try to explain.

Push for Perfection   During the development of almost every product he ever created, Jobs at a certain point “hit the pause button” and went back to the drawing board because he felt it wasn’t perfect. That happened even with the movie Toy Story. After Jeff Katzenberg and the team at Disney, which had bought the rights to the movie, pushed the Pixar team to make it edgier and darker, Jobs and the director, John Lasseter, finally stopped production and rewrote the story to make it friendlier. When he was about to launch Apple Stores, he and his store guru, Ron Johnson, suddenly decided to delay everything a few months so that the stores’ layouts could be reorganized around activities and not just product categories.

The same was true for the iPhone. The initial design had the glass screen set into an aluminum case. One Monday morning Jobs went over to see Ive. “I didn’t sleep last night,” he said, “because I realized that I just don’t love it.” Ive, to his dismay, instantly saw that Jobs was right. “I remember feeling absolutely embarrassed that he had to make the observation,” he says. The problem was that the iPhone should have been all about the display, but in its current design the case competed with the display instead of getting out of the way. The whole device felt too masculine, task-driven, efficient. “Guys, you’ve killed yourselves over this design for the last nine months, but we’re going to change it,” Jobs told Ive’s team. “We’re all going to have to work nights and weekends, and if you want, we can hand out some guns so you can kill us now.” Instead of balking, the team agreed. “It was one of my proudest moments at Apple,” Jobs recalled.

A similar thing happened as Jobs and Ive were finishing the iPad. At one point Jobs looked at the model and felt slightly dissatisfied. It didn’t seem casual and friendly enough to scoop up and whisk away. They needed to signal that you could grab it with one hand, on impulse. They decided that the bottom edge should be slightly rounded, so that a user would feel comfortable just snatching it up rather than lifting it carefully. That meant engineering had to design the necessary connection ports and buttons in a thin, simple lip that sloped away gently underneath. Jobs delayed the product until the change could be made.

Jobs’s perfectionism extended even to the parts unseen. As a young boy, he had helped his father build a fence around their backyard, and he was told they had to use just as much care on the back of the fence as on the front. “Nobody will ever know,” Steve said. His father replied, “But you will know.” A true craftsman uses a good piece of wood even for the back of a cabinet against the wall, his father explained, and they should do the same for the back of the fence. It was the mark of an artist to have such a passion for perfection.

In overseeing the Apple II and the Macintosh, Jobs applied this lesson to the circuit board inside the machine. In both instances he sent the engineers back to make the chips line up neatly so the board would look nice. This seemed particularly odd to the engineers of the Macintosh, because Jobs had decreed that the machine be tightly sealed. “Nobody is going to see the PC board,” one of them protested. Jobs reacted as his father had: “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.” They were true artists, he said, and should act that way. And once the board was redesigned, he had the engineers and other members of the Macintosh team sign their names so that they could be engraved inside the case. “Real artists sign their work,” he said.

Know Both the Big Picture and the Details   Jobs’s passion was applied to issues both large and minuscule. Some CEOs are great at vision; others are managers who know that God is in the details. Jobs was both. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes
says that one of Jobs’s salient traits was his ability and desire to envision overarching strategy while also focusing on the tiniest aspects of design
.

For example, in 2000 he came up with the grand vision that the personal computer should become a “digital hub” for managing all of a user’s music, videos, photos, and content, and thus got Apple into the personal-device business with the iPod and then the iPad. In 2010 he came up with the successor strategy—the “hub” would move to the cloud—and Apple began building a huge server farm so that all a user’s content could be uploaded and then seamlessly synced to other personal devices. But even as he was laying out these grand visions, he was fretting over the shape and color of the screws inside the iMac.

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