Biographer Walter Isaacson, who authored the best-selling Steve Jobs in 2011, recently visited Big Think to discuss his new book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. The late Apple CEO is again the focus of Isaacson’s work, appearing in the new book as one of its eponymous innovators.
During his Big Think interview, Isaacson recalls asking Jobs about which Apple product he was most proud of. Isaacson figured the answer would be something like the iPhone or the iPad. He was surprised when Jobs responded with a product you’ll never find on Apple’s shelves:
“He said, ‘you know, making a product is hard but making a team that can continually make products is even harder. The product I’m most proud of is Apple and the team I built at Apple.'”
Jobs had a reputation (and deservedly so) for being something a prickly person to work with. His foul mouth and ruthless business sense is the stuff of Silicon Valley legend. Yet as Isaacson argues in The Innovators, one of Jobs’ most important skills was his ability to work with and promote loyalty within his team of experts. Sure, Jobs was bombastic, but he also knew the importance of inspiring people to achieve the company’s lofty goals:
“Steve Jobs didn’t just have a tough personality. He also had a charismatic visionary personality and he brought people in. And he really could inspire people because even though sometimes he couldn’t articulate exactly what he wanted he could sure point the way to getting it there.”
One of the ways Jobs’ helped boost collaboration was through his influence on physical space. As Isaacson explains, Jobs made sure, both at Pixar and at Apple, that the brightest minds in the building couldn’t help but bump into each other in the halls. Jobs knew that you can achieve so much more working together in person rather than connecting through e-mail or Skype:
“[Jobs] believed in physical space as necessary for collaboration. We think maybe we can collaborate in the digital age by doing it virtually from afar but when he built the Pixar building and when he designed what will be the new headquarters for Apple it was all about making sure people had serendipitous encounters. That they came through the atrium.“
Watch the following clip from Isaacson’s Big Think interview to hear more about Steve Jobs as prickly team builder: