IT Management Slideshow: The Legacy of Steve Jobs: 10 Innovation Lessons

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 10-17-2011

The Legacy of Steve Jobs: 10 Innovation Lessons

Don't Worry About the CostIf there is anything that Steve Jobs proved over the years, it's that when it comes to innovation, getting it right doesn't come with a cost. Jobs invested millions of dollars in products with the eventual hope of seeing a return on that investment. And just about every time, he did. We realize you may have trouble convincing your CFO that this is the right approach, but remember that Apple was all the more successful because of it.

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Give Customers What They Don't Know They WantSteve Jobs believed that consumers didn't know what they really needed. Instead, it was his job, he believed, to show them what they needed. Try shaping your own IT innovation strategy with this philosophy. Sure, user involvement is important, but you may find that your users don't know what they need until you put it under their noses. And then they won't be able to live without it.

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Don't Be Afraid to Create New MarketsJobs understood when it was time to innovate in such a way that it created a new market. For example, with the iPod he transformed the music industry business s model. Think about what "new markets" you can create by using technology within your enterprise?

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Design Matters MostJobs understood the importance of elegant industrial design and graphical user interfaces. Today's technology user expects all interfaces to work like Apple's. As you develop or procure devices and applications for your users, remember to put design and user interface at the top of your priority list.

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It's A Marathon, Not A SprintNowhere is this philosophy more evident than with the ongoing improvements to the Mac OS. Instead of accepting that Windows would dominate indefinitely, Apple continued to innovate on software until Mac OS X became a viable Windows contender. Persistence is the lesson here -- and faith in a good project worthy of your time and investment.

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Roll it Out SlowlyJobs is a master of planned obsolescence (one of the qualities that drove most CIOs crazy). With each product iteration, Apple gives people enough to make them want to buy that product now, but not enough to make them not want to buy the next device. The lesson here is that it's good business sense to give your users just enough to get them excited about new features each time you upgrade. Engaged users equal happy users.

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Strive to Do More Than Seems PossibleJobs always wanted to deliver more than what his customers thought was possible. And he was right almost every time. Learning to think in terms of limitless possibilities is the hallmark of a true innovator in any industry.

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Every Last Detail CountsJobs examined all the minute details of Apple's products to ensure that they were on target. In the process, he delivered some of the most innovative (and sought-after) products in the world. The lesson here is that minding the details is just as important as dreaming up the lofty ideas.

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The Value of SurprisePart of Jobs' innovation strategy was to change the way in which people learn about products. At Apple, the longer it takes for details to emerge, the better. In an era in which the business side is demanding more and more transparency from IT, this may be a challenge. But there's value in holding back some elements of your projects that you know will delight and engage your users.

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Think You're Better, Prove You're BetterSome observers criticize the corporate culture at Apple, saying that Jobs created an environment in which employees are encouraged to believe that they are better than average. But Jobs proved that a leader who can make employees believe they're better than the rest is one who can drive true innovation.

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