Prompted by Peter O'Kelly's blog post, I bought Inside Steve's Brain by Leander Kahney and gave it a read. As Peter notes, it's a quick read even though it's 294 pages long, due to both the writing style and the book's small form factor (7 1/4" tall by 5 1/2" wide).
Rather than being a biography of Steve Jobs laid out in chronological order, Inside Steve's Brain is a business strategy primer laid out in theme order. The chapter titles explain its organization:
- Focus: How Saying "No" Saved Apple
- Despotism: Apple's One-Man Focus Group
- Perfectionism: Product Design and the Pursuit of Excellence
- Elitism: Hire Only A Players, Fire the Bozos
- Passion: Putting a Ding in the Universe
- Inventive Spirit: Where Does the Innovation Come From?
- Case Study: How It All Came Together with the iPod
- Total Control: The Whole Widget
The high tech world has long been populated with companies that are organizational manifestations of their founders: DEC (Ken Olsen), Wang Laboratories (An Wang), Microsoft (Bill Gates), Apple (Steve Jobs), Oracle (Larry Ellison), and Salesforce.com (Marc Benioff). Having worked at one (Wang Laboratories) for many years (17), the value you get from a founder's unified vision can't be underestimated. Employees understand how to behave and what to do based on passed around stories about the founder's behavior. It's a tribal thing--something sort of primeval and messy that's not always acknowledged in this digital world focused on "facts"--that is nevertheless very powerful.
So I was interested to read about Steve Jobs' view of the world and the stories that instantiate it, and I was not disappointed. I think the book could have used some pruning here and there--from time to time the book makes the same point over and over--but all in all a pleasant read that passes along some insights in a painless way.