He had the Pixar building designed to promote unplanned encounters and collaborations. “If a building doesn’t encourage that,
you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” he said. “So we designed the building to make
people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.” The front doors and
main stairs and corridors all led to the atrium; the café and the mailboxes were there; the conference rooms had windows that
looked out onto it; and the 600-seat theater and two smaller screening rooms all spilled into it. “Steve’s theory worked from day
one,” Lasseter recalls. “I kept running into people I hadn’t seen for months. I’ve never seen a building that promoted
collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”
Jobs hated formal presentations, but he loved freewheeling face-to-face meetings. He gathered his executive team every week
to kick around ideas without a formal agenda, and he spent every Wednesday afternoon doing the same with his marketing
and advertising team. Slide shows were banned. “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,” Jobs
recalled. “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the
table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
Tolerate Only “A” Players
Jobs was famously impatient, petulant, and tough with the people around him. But his treatment of people, though not
laudable, emanated from his passion for perfection and his desire to work with only the best.
It was his way of preventing what he called “the bozo explosion,”
in which managers are so polite that mediocre people feel comfortable sticking around. “I don’t
think I run roughshod over people,” he said, “but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.” When I
pressed him on whether he could have gotten the same results while being nicer, he said perhaps so. “But it’s not who I am,”
he said. “Maybe there’s a better way—a gentlemen’s club where we all wear ties and speak in this Brahmin language and
velvet code words—but I don’t know that way, because I am middle-class from California.”
Was all his stormy and abusive behavior necessary? Probably not. There were other ways he could have motivated his team.
“Steve’s contributions could have been made without so many stories about him terrorizing folks,” Apple’s cofounder, Wozniak,
said. “I like being more patient and not having so many conflicts. I think a company can be a good family.” But then he added
something that is undeniably true: “If the Macintosh project had been run my way, things probably would have been a mess.”
It’s important to appreciate that Jobs’s rudeness and roughness were accompanied by an ability to be inspirational. He infused
Apple employees with an abiding passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish what
seemed impossible. And we have to judge him by the outcome. Jobs had a close-knit family, and so it was at Apple: His top
players tended to stick around longer and be more loyal than those at other companies, including ones led by bosses who
were kinder and gentler. CEOs who study Jobs and decide to emulate his roughness without understanding his ability to
generate loyalty make a dangerous mistake.
“I’ve learned over the years that when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them,” Jobs told me. “By expecting
them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. Ask any member of that Mac team. They will tell you it was worth
the pain.” Most of them do. “He would shout at a meeting, ‘You asshole, you never do anything right,’” Debi Coleman recalls.
“Yet I consider myself the absolute luckiest person in the world to have worked with him.”
He connected the humanities to the sciences, creativity to technology, arts to engineering. There were greater technologists
(Wozniak, Gates), and certainly better designers and artists. But no one else in our era could better firewire together poetry
and processors in a way that jolted innovation. And he did it with an intuitive feel for business strategy. At almost every product
launch over the past decade, Jobs ended with a slide that showed a sign at the intersection of Liberal Arts and Technology
The creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences exists in one strong personality was what
most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein, and I believe that it will be a key to building innovative
economies in the 21st century. It is the essence of applied imagination, and it’s why both the humanities and the sciences are
critical for any society that is to have a creative edge in the future.
Even when he was dying, Jobs set his sights on disrupting more industries. He had a vision for turning textbooks into artistic
creations that anyone with a Mac could fashion and craft—something that Apple announced in January 2012. He also dreamed
of producing magical tools for digital photography and ways to make television simple and personal. Those, no doubt, will
come as well. And even though he will not be around to see them to fruition, his rules for success helped him build a company
that not only will create these and other disruptive products, but will stand at the intersection of creativity and technology as
long as Jobs’s DNA persists at its core.