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Why You Should Learn From Steve Jobs, Not Idolize Him

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Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it's not a winning-business strategy.

Steve Jobs not only revolutionized the way we listen to music and use a telephone, he also changed our understanding of a computer and even recaptured our ability to fall in love with films through his work with Pixar.

Without a doubt, young entrepreneurs can learn endlessly from Jobs’ example, but they shouldn't adhere too closely to his image. After all, he may have been a design genius but he did ruffle a few feathers.

He disregarded every “rule” and regarded his mentors and role models loosely. Even he would hardly advise someone to emulate him. I think it’s far more likely he would say: "The best way to be like me is to be more fully yourself."

Related: Trust, Fairness, Respect: Qualities of a Good Boss and a Great Leader (Infographic)

Still, you can learn an awful lot from the man. Here are a few very specific things that up-and-comers can learn from Jobs' example:

1. Keep the customer experience in focus. Jobs was a master at getting into customers’ minds. He knew what we wanted -- and how we wanted it -- often long before we did.

2. Have an eye for beauty. It couldn’t just work well. Steve knew that it also had to feel good to touch, be delightful to use, and be exceptionally beautiful to look at.

3. Foster innovation. Do you remember a time without an iPhone? How about an iPod? Steve created products and product categories no one even had a frame of reference for and made them central to our lives.

Related: How to Find the Right Mentor for Your Startup

4. Insist upon excellence. Jobs had little patience for people who didn’t think things through, and he pushed the people around him to be their best. He accepted no substitutes and inspired great loyalty.

Finally, if there is one powerful absolute to learn from Steve Jobs, it is to focus on your customers and put them before everything else. Think about rabid Apple users -- the ones who stand in line outside of a store for hours awaiting the release of the next iPhone. They’ve done more to grow the brand than Apple itself ever has.

You will never replicate that by trying to be Steve Jobs. But, if you ask these questions to apply his laser-focused attention to your own customers, you can definitely inspire that kind of brand advocacy.

  • Are we surprising and delighting our customers while also delivering a consistent experience?

  • Are our products and services frictionless for our customers to use and enjoy?

  • Are we meeting their needs each and every time they interact with our company?

  • Are we iterating and innovating with a product pipeline that’s in line with (or ahead of) the market?

  • Are we blazing new trails?


Related: 5 Mentors Every Entrepreneur Should Have


How do you inspire brand advocacy? Let us know with a comment.

Kelli Richards

Written By

A consultant, mentor, speaker, producer, coach and author, Kelli Richards is the CEO of The All Access Group. She and her team facilitate strategic business opportunities in digital distribution between technology companies, established artists and celebrities, film studios, record labels and consumer brand companies to foster new revenue streams and deliver compelling consumer experiences. Richards is also the author of the bestselling ebook, The Magic & Moxie of Apple -- An Insider's View.