What Steve Jobs Taught Every CEO about Innovation

Contributed by Robert M. Donnelly

Everyone agrees that life and business is about change. Consumers are looking for the next faster, better, or cheaper solution. Products that were “new” only a few years ago are becoming antiques today.

Technology is moving so fast that we can hardly keep up with it. Steve Jobs was an early pioneer in developing the technology that has become a part of our lives and has inspired others to emulate his passionate pursuit of what can be.

The Goal is to Delight the Customer

Jobs and his apostles developed solutions to customer’s problems before they even knew they had them, and in so doing surprised and delighted them. Even today, the Apple faithful are anticipating the next new “i” device with baited breath.

How did he do it? How can you do it? Jobs had a keen sense of what could be. He imagined what it would look like, and how it would function. The combination of his concept of functionality and design elegance made Apple gadgets the epitome of “cool”.

But where did this unique foresight come from? It came from studying the customer and asking again and again – “what would make their life better, easier, and more productive”? Jobs did not have an exclusive lock on this way of thinking. Look what Bezos has accomplished with Amazon utilizing the same customer centric approach, as has many others.

It Starts with the Customer

CEOs need to put themselves into the shoes of their customers and ask the same questions that Steve Jobs did – “how can we make their lives better, easier, more enjoyable”? CEOs need to get out and talk to customers like AG Lafley did during his turnaround of P&G, and Schultz did when he came back to revive Starbuck’s.

You are in the customer business, not the product business. It’s about customers and solving their problems better than your competitors can. Where have all the APP’s come from – studying customers habits and offering them a faster, better, and cheaper way of doing what they were doing before.

Improving the Customer Experience

It’s not just about technology or improvements in products. It’s also about service. Why did Jobs open the i-Store’s? Again, he studied the customer and asked – “what else do they need”? Obviously, a place like an “i store” where a customer could go not only to see the products, but also to be able to ask questions of “i heads”, get a demonstration, touch and use the products, and even a “genius bar” where you could get help with repairs or have a “techie-talk” with an Apple genius.

All of these individual improvements collectively cemented the relationship with the customer. Bezos did the same thing – made it easy to do business with Amazon.

I Love My _______ !

The ultimate goal for any CEO is to have their customers say “I love it” about their experience with the company that they run. A challenge for any CEO is to develop a set of criteria for their products and service levels that will elicit an “I love it” from their customers.

A long time ago there was a CEO who converted a plain unattractive commodity into a sought-after quality product. That CEO was Frank Perdue who through his observations and questions of housewives as to what they wanted created a market leading brand that housewives said “I love it”.

If Frank Perdue did that with a DEAD CHICKEN, imagine what you can do with your products?

Bob Donnelly is an author, educator, and brand builder – both business and personal. To contact Bob send email to [email protected].



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