Saturday, October 08, 2011

What government can learn from Steve Jobs

No, not world domination.

Earlier today, I helped a couple department directors hand out customer service awards at the Human Resources Division’s staff meeting. In my remarks about how we’re trying to revamp King County customer service, I talked about the “no wrong door” approach and about an epiphany I had while listening to a news story on Steve Jobs and Apple’s impact on the world.

An Apple designer said something like, “Our innovation has really come down to looking at something and asking the question, ‘Why do we do it that way? What if we did it differently? How can we do it better?”

As I told the folks at the meeting, the process improvement effort we’re undertaking is about county employees asking the same questions about our processes, and being empowered to act on the answer with their co-workers and supervisors.

The Jobs quotes below, courtesy of Michael Sebastian at, may provide some similar insights for us. 

10 inspiring Steve Jobs quotes to pin to your wall

Next time you're looking for a little inspiration, borrow it from a man whom President Obama called 'the greatest of American innovators.'

By Michael Sebastian
Posted: October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs not only changed the way we interact with technology, but also inspired a loyalty that went beyond mere branding—he created a lifestyle for Apple customers. And, as NPR points out, helped shape popular culture.

Along the way, Jobs also provided inspiration on a variety of other topics. Many of these quotes come from The Wall Street Journal, which compiled them in August when Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.

Conformity is boring.

"It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy."

[from Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, 1987, via The Wall Street Journal]

Sweat the small stuff.

"This is what customers pay us for—to sweat all these details so it's easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We're supposed to be really good at this. That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers, but it's hard for them to tell you what they want when they've never seen anything remotely like it."

[via Fortune, January 2000]

Sometimes, focus groups aren't the answer.

"For something this complicated, it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
[via Businessweek, May 1998]

What it means to be a creative person.

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

[via Wired, February 1996]

Can you say this about your workplace?

"We're just enthusiastic about what we do."

[via Playboy, February 1985]

The importance of strong managers and coaches.

"What's reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there's a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they're not losers. What they didn't have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now."

[via Businessweek, May 1998]

Take note, small business owners.

"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it."

[via Fortune, November 1998]

Traditional media remains vital.

"I don't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers. I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for."

[D8 conference, via All Things Digital, June 2010]

Don't. Settle.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

Words to live by.

"Stay hungry, stay foolish."

[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

WSJ and Mashable have even more Jobs' quotes worth checking out.

Used flashlight app on #Android to knit in the car on the ride home. What do you call that? Crafty anachronism? Plain old dork?