Yesterday Steve Jobs passed away and there have been a flurry of reactions from people all over the world. Many of those reactions came from people who purchased the products that Steve and his team designed but have never created a product themselves. Some reactions also came from colleagues, some from real leaders who know what they’re talking about and some who are just leadership pundits not wanting to miss out on this week’s press cycle. Some of those reactions have come from people who create products - products that touch millions of people at a time.
This post is written from the standpoint someone in the latter group, and I have been a member of that group for the last twelve years. Steve’s approach and his story has been tremendously influential to product people the world over and to me as an individual. Through the world’s reaction to his death I was struck by how effective Steve has been at creating a daring vision and then projecting that vision in a way that people saw how to conform reality to their dreams. This applies equally to internal employees, stockholders, the press and pundit crowd or consumers who are buying the products and integrating them into their lives. People have gotten used to joining in with Steve’s vision, and now that Steve is gone they miss him and are wondering who will lead them next.
While showing us how to make our dreams a reality, Steve has also had a strong hand in shifting global tastes to emphasize design. Instead of going for lower cost, bigger marketing spend, fancy distribution strategies or other methods, Steve showed how loyalty and owner evangelicism can shift the framework through which we ascribe value to things at a fundamental and economically disruptive level.
Steve has touched many of us personally and I believe that Steve’s full impact will not be known for some time. In a world where development costs and barriers to entry have lowered to the point where anyone can make and distribute a piece of crap to efficiently address a “market” - and many do - Steve taught us to care about elevating our existence in an almost Renaissance-like fashion.
Thank you Steve, for showing us that there is a way to grasp greatness and that “grokking” the consumer and the solution can change entire economic systems for the better. But now it is our responsibility to stop waiting to be led…instead we must take the torch that you lit and carried for two decades and to learn to carry it on our own.