Jobs 101

by Ronald C. Burkhardt

Cross-posted at my own site.

It became apparent to Steve Jobs in the summer of 2011 that his death was a near certainty.  Fortunately, he had set out with a plan to distill the Essence of Jobs into a form that could be taught to Apple Executives as early as 2008.  An anonymous Apple Executive said the following in a recent LA Times article by Jessica Guynn:

“Steve was looking to his legacy. The idea was to take what is unique about Apple and create a forum that can impart that DNA to future generations of Apple employees,” said a former Apple executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve his relationship with the company. “No other company has a university charged with probing so deeply into the roots of what makes the company so successful.”  

Jobs personally recruited Yale Business School Dean Joel Podolny to create educational material to help executives learn, think, and make decisions like Steve Jobs.  Podolny in turn recruited other leading business professors.

Org Theory points to the back cover of Podolny’s Status Signals[Amazon] and gives a hint – Jobs is hoping to continue and formalize the corporate culture that he singularly created and enforced.

Why are elite jewelers reluctant to sell turquoise, despite strong demand? Why did leading investment bankers shun junk bonds for years, despite potential profits? Status Signals is the first major sociological examination of how concerns about status affect market competition. Starting from the basic premise that status pervades the ties producers form in the marketplace, Joel Podolny shows how anxieties about status influence whom a producer does (or does not) accept as a partner, the price a producer can charge, the ease with which a producer enters a market, how the producer’s inventions are received, and, ultimately, the market segments the producer can (and should) enter. To achieve desired status, firms must offer more than strong past performance and product quality–they must also send out and manage social and cultural signals. Through detailed analyses of market competition across a broad array of industries–including investment banking, wine, semiconductors, shipping, and venture capital–Podolny demonstrates the pervasive impact of status. Along the way, he shows how corporate strategists, tempted by the profits of a market that would negatively affect their status, consider not only whether to enter the market but also whether they can alter the public’s perception of the market.

The Wall Street Journal points to Pixar University, which was acquired by Jobs and subsequently sold to Disney.  Pixar has an onboarding thatfocuses on education, training, and improve with regards to filmmaking.

The academic team was tasked with creating case studies about critical Apple decisions with the intention of sharing them with the Apple leadership team of the future, with ‘classes’ being facilitated by top executives including CEO Tim Cook, says Fortune/CNN.  The collection of this material is likely the greatest undertaking of knowledge management ever undertaken, with the outputs likely being the Holy Grail for those interested in organizational theory.

Jobs personal strength, passion, and intensity were the lens through which Apple saw and was seen.  Apple’s position in the marketplaceand relationships with users, peers, content suppliers, and vendors was wholly derived through their relationship with the products, Apple as a corporation, and its mercurial and charismatic CEO.  How will these things be affected by the loss of the hot, bright sun that was Steve Jobs?

You can take a look at this infographic for a sparse overview.