The Persistence of the Innovator’s Dilemma

11 Nov

by Scott Anthony, Harvard Business Review


In 1995, a young Harvard Business School Professor co-authored an article in Harvard Business Review, “Disruptive Technology: Catching the Wave.” He and his co-author proposed a new causal mechanism that explained the surprising failure of highly-regarded companies. The most punishing innovations, they argued, were the ones that were easy to dismiss at first blush — simple, affordable solutions that took root outside the mainstream market. The authors called these “disruptive” solutions and provided a straightforward prescription for leaders looking to turn disruption into an opportunity. They suggested that companies should find a customer who loved the disruptive solution despite its limitations and create a separate organization to commercialize it.

Of course, that young HBS professor was Innosight co-founder Clayton Christensen. Since then, he has written over a half-dozen books and many more Harvard Business Review articles, almost all of which touch on disruption in some way. Academic journals have dissected the disruptive innovation theory and hundreds of thousands of students around the world have seen Christensen’s famous model.

Yet, the innovator’s dilemma persists. Just ask executives at Blockbuster Video, Sony, Nokia, Microsoft, Hertz, Kodak, Delta, and nearly all newspaper companies. That’s not to say that there haven’t been success stories. But they’re notable because they are exceptions.

So, why has this dilemma persisted?

Capital markets is one explanation. As this argument holds, the short-term pressure of the capital markets, coupled with management incentives tied tightly to stock prices, make it hard for companies to investment in new growth businesses. Even if companies know what they need to do, their investors won’t let them. Investors aren’t necessarily irrational, since they could presumably back up-and-coming disruptors themselves. There is at least one strike against this argument. In markets such as India, Korea, Japan, and China, companies that have different corporate governance models seem equally likely to suffer from the innovator’s dilemma.

Perhaps the root problem is leadership limitations. Leaders in established companies seeking to drive disruptive growth have to meet the challenge laid down in 1935 by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Yet, in Chapter 9 of The Silver Lining, I described a stream of research suggesting that only about 5% of leaders have the ability to pass Fitzgerald’s test. Every once and a while a Steve Jobs, a Jeff Bezos, or an A.G. Lafley appears, but perhaps their rarity leads to the dilemma’s persistence.

Maybe the real challenge lies within. Over the past few decades there has been a fascinating set of research into cognitive biases that lead smart people to make bad decisions.* These biases are particularly acute for companies trying to drive disruptive innovation. Consider the “halo effect,” which holds that people who are demonstrably good at one thing are perceived to be good at non-related tasks. The halo effect leads companies to assuming their best operators can seamlessly shift into innovation work. Some can, but many cannot. Confirmation bias, disaster neglect, the fundamental attribution error and many others make it easy to simultaneously discount the need to respond to disruptive threats and overestimate the organization’s ability to step into new markets.

There are surely other explanations — for instance, people don’t always have high levels of interest in transforming a system that confers certain powers on them — but my own view is that the dangerous combination of leadership limitations and cognitive biases makes the innovator’s dilemma an intensely difficult problem to solve.

Perhaps further clarity in the root cause of the persistence of the innovator’s dilemma can help increase the number of success stories. Any other ideas?

* Dan Ariely, Michael Mauboussin, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, and Duncan Watts all write accessibly on the topic.

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The real genius of Steve Jobs

7 Nov

by 

Not long after Steve Jobs got married, in 1991, he moved with his wife to a nineteen-thirties, Cotswolds-style house in old Palo Alto. Jobs always found it difficult to furnish the places where he lived. His previous house had only a mattress, a table, and chairs. He needed things to be perfect, and it took time to figure out what perfect was. This time, he had a wife and family in tow, but it made little difference. “We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years,” his wife, Laurene Powell, tells Walter Isaacson, in “Steve Jobs,” Isaacson’s enthralling new biography of the Apple founder. “We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’ ”

It was the choice of a washing machine, however, that proved most vexing. European washing machines, Jobs discovered, used less detergent and less water than their American counterparts, and were easier on the clothes. But they took twice as long to complete a washing cycle. What should the family do? As Jobs explained, “We spent some time in our family talking about what’s the trade-off we want to make. We ended up talking a lot about design, but also about the values of our family. Did we care most about getting our wash done in an hour versus an hour and a half? Or did we care most about our clothes feeling really soft and lasting longer? Did we care about using a quarter of the water? We spent about two weeks talking about this every night at the dinner table.”

Steve Jobs, Isaacson’s biography makes clear, was a complicated and exhausting man. “There are parts of his life and personality that are extremely messy, and that’s the truth,” Powell tells Isaacson. “You shouldn’t whitewash it.” Isaacson, to his credit, does not. He talks to everyone in Jobs’s career, meticulously recording conversations and encounters dating back twenty and thirty years. Jobs, we learn, was a bully. “He had the uncanny capacity to know exactly what your weak point is, know what will make you feel small, to make you cringe,” a friend of his tells Isaacson. Jobs gets his girlfriend pregnant, and then denies that the child is his. He parks in handicapped spaces. He screams at subordinates. He cries like a small child when he does not get his way. He gets stopped for driving a hundred miles an hour, honks angrily at the officer for taking too long to write up the ticket, and then resumes his journey at a hundred miles an hour. He sits in a restaurant and sends his food back three times. He arrives at his hotel suite in New York for press interviews and decides, at 10 P.M., that the piano needs to be repositioned, the strawberries are inadequate, and the flowers are all wrong: he wanted calla lilies. (When his public-relations assistant returns, at midnight, with the right flowers, he tells her that her suit is “disgusting.”) “Machines and robots were painted and repainted as he compulsively revised his color scheme,” Isaacson writes, of the factory Jobs built, after founding NeXT, in the late nineteen-eighties. “The walls were museum white, as they had been at the Macintosh factory, and there were $20,000 black leather chairs and a custom-made staircase. . . . He insisted that the machinery on the 165-foot assembly line be configured to move the circuit boards from right to left as they got built, so that the process would look better to visitors who watched from the viewing gallery.”

Isaacson begins with Jobs’s humble origins in Silicon Valley, the early triumph at Apple, and the humiliating ouster from the firm he created. He then charts the even greater triumphs at Pixar and at a resurgent Apple, when Jobs returns, in the late nineteen-nineties, and our natural expectation is that Jobs will emerge wiser and gentler from his tumultuous journey. He never does. In the hospital at the end of his life, he runs through sixty-seven nurses before he finds three he likes. “At one point, the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated,” Isaacson writes:
Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. . . . He also hated the oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told them it was ugly and too complex.

One of the great puzzles of the industrial revolution is why it began in England. Why not France, or Germany? Many reasons have been offered. Britain had plentiful supplies of coal, for instance. It had a good patent system in place. It had relatively high labor costs, which encouraged the search for labor-saving innovations. In an article published earlier this year, however, the economists Ralf Meisenzahl and Joel Mokyr focus on a different explanation: the role of Britain’s human-capital advantage—in particular, on a group they call “tweakers.” They believe that Britain dominated the industrial revolution because it had a far larger population of skilled engineers and artisans than its competitors: resourceful and creative men who took the signature inventions of the industrial age and tweaked them—refined and perfected them, and made them work.

In 1779, Samuel Crompton, a retiring genius from Lancashire, invented the spinning mule, which made possible the mechanization of cotton manufacture. Yet England’s real advantage was that it had Henry Stones, of Horwich, who added metal rollers to the mule; and James Hargreaves, of Tottington, who figured out how to smooth the acceleration and deceleration of the spinning wheel; and William Kelly, of Glasgow, who worked out how to add water power to the draw stroke; and John Kennedy, of Manchester, who adapted the wheel to turn out fine counts; and, finally, Richard Roberts, also of Manchester, a master of precision machine tooling—and the tweaker’s tweaker. He created the “automatic” spinning mule: an exacting, high-speed, reliable rethinking of Crompton’s original creation. Such men, the economists argue, provided the “micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative.”

Was Steve Jobs a Samuel Crompton or was he a Richard Roberts? In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh—the mouse and the icons on the screen—from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit there, in 1979. The first portable digital music players came out in 1996. Apple introduced the iPod, in 2001, because Jobs looked at the existing music players on the market and concluded that they “truly sucked.” Smart phones started coming out in the nineteen-nineties. Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, more than a decade later, because, Isaacson writes, “he had noticed something odd about the cell phones on the market: They all stank, just like portable music players used to.” The idea for the iPad came from an engineer at Microsoft, who was married to a friend of the Jobs family, and who invited Jobs to his fiftieth-birthday party. As Jobs tells Isaacson:
This guy badgered me about how Microsoft was going to completely change the world with this tablet PC software and eliminate all notebook computers, and Apple ought to license his Microsoft software. But he was doing the device all wrong. It had a stylus. As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead. This dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said, “Fuck this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.”

Even within Apple, Jobs was known for taking credit for others’ ideas. Jonathan Ive, the designer behind the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone, tells Isaacson, “He will go through a process of looking at my ideas and say, ‘That’s no good. That’s not very good. I like that one.’ And later I will be sitting in the audience and he will be talking about it as if it was his idea.”

Jobs’s sensibility was editorial, not inventive. His gift lay in taking what was in front of him—the tablet with stylus—and ruthlessly refining it. After looking at the first commercials for the iPad, he tracked down the copywriter, James Vincent, and told him, “Your commercials suck.”
“Well, what do you want?” Vincent shot back. “You’ve not been able to tell me what you want.”
“I don’t know,” Jobs said. “You have to bring me something new. Nothing you’ve shown me is even close.”
Vincent argued back and suddenly Jobs went ballistic. “He just started screaming at me,” Vincent recalled. Vincent could be volatile himself, and the volleys escalated.
When Vincent shouted, “You’ve got to tell me what you want,” Jobs shot back, “You’ve got to show me some stuff, and I’ll know it when I see it.”

I’ll know it when I see it. That was Jobs’s credo, and until he saw it his perfectionism kept him on edge. He looked at the title bars—the headers that run across the top of windows and documents—that his team of software developers had designed for the original Macintosh and decided he didn’t like them. He forced the developers to do another version, and then another, about twenty iterations in all, insisting on one tiny tweak after another, and when the developers protested that they had better things to do he shouted, “Can you imagine looking at that every day? It’s not just a little thing. It’s something we have to do right.”

The famous Apple “Think Different” campaign came from Jobs’s advertising team at TBWA\Chiat\Day. But it was Jobs who agonized over the slogan until it was right:
They debated the grammatical issue: If “different” was supposed to modify the verb “think,” it should be an adverb, as in “think differently.” But Jobs insisted that he wanted “different” to be used as a noun, as in “think victory” or “think beauty.” Also, it echoed colloquial use, as in “think big.” Jobs later explained, “We discussed whether it was correct before we ran it. It’s grammatical, if you think about what we’re trying to say. It’s not think the same, it’s think different. Think a little different, think a lot different, think different. ‘Think differently’ wouldn’t hit the meaning for me.”

The point of Meisenzahl and Mokyr’s argument is that this sort of tweaking is essential to progress. James Watt invented the modern steam engine, doubling the efficiency of the engines that had come before. But when the tweakers took over the efficiency of the steam engine swiftly quadrupled. Samuel Crompton was responsible for what Meisenzahl and Mokyr call “arguably the most productive invention” of the industrial revolution. But the key moment, in the history of the mule, came a few years later, when there was a strike of cotton workers. The mill owners were looking for a way to replace the workers with unskilled labor, and needed an automatic mule, which did not need to be controlled by the spinner. Who solved the problem? Not Crompton, an unambitious man who regretted only that public interest would not leave him to his seclusion, so that he might “earn undisturbed the fruits of his ingenuity and perseverance.” It was the tweaker’s tweaker, Richard Roberts, who saved the day, producing a prototype, in 1825, and then an even better solution in 1830. Before long, the number of spindles on a typical mule jumped from four hundred to a thousand. The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world. The tweaker inherits things as they are, and has to push and pull them toward some more nearly perfect solution. That is not a lesser task.

Jobs’s friend Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, had a private jet, and he designed its interior with a great deal of care. One day, Jobs decided that he wanted a private jet, too. He studied what Ellison had done. Then he set about to reproduce his friend’s design in its entirety—the same jet, the same reconfiguration, the same doors between the cabins. Actually, not in its entirety. Ellison’s jet “had a door between cabins with an open button and a close button,” Isaacson writes. “Jobs insisted that his have a single button that toggled. He didn’t like the polished stainless steel of the buttons, so he had them replaced with brushed metal ones.” Having hired Ellison’s designer, “pretty soon he was driving her crazy.” Of course he was. The great accomplishment of Jobs’s life is how effectively he put his idiosyncrasies—his petulance, his narcissism, and his rudeness—in the service of perfection. “I look at his airplane and mine,” Ellison says, “and everything he changed was better.”

The angriest Isaacson ever saw Steve Jobs was when the wave of Android phones appeared, running the operating system developed by Google. Jobs saw the Android handsets, with their touchscreens and their icons, as a copy of the iPhone. He decided to sue. As he tells Isaacson:
Our lawsuit is saying, “Google, you fucking ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.” Grand theft. I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty. Outside of Search, Google’s products—Android, Google Docs—are shit.

In the nineteen-eighties, Jobs reacted the same way when Microsoft came out with Windows. It used the same graphical user interface—icons and mouse—as the Macintosh. Jobs was outraged and summoned Gates from Seattle to Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “They met in Jobs’s conference room, where Gates found himself surrounded by ten Apple employees who were eager to watch their boss assail him,” Isaacson writes. “Jobs didn’t disappoint his troops. ‘You’re ripping us off!’ he shouted. ‘I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!’ ”

Gates looked back at Jobs calmly. Everyone knew where the windows and the icons came from. “Well, Steve,” Gates responded. “I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

Jobs was someone who took other people’s ideas and changed them. But he did not like it when the same thing was done to him. In his mind, what he did was special. Jobs persuaded the head of Pepsi-Cola, John Sculley, to join Apple as C.E.O., in 1983, by asking him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” When Jobs approached Isaacson to write his biography, Isaacson first thought (“half jokingly”) that Jobs had noticed that his two previous books were on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, and that he “saw himself as the natural successor in that sequence.” The architecture of Apple software was always closed. Jobs did not want the iPhone and the iPod and the iPad to be opened up and fiddled with, because in his eyes they were perfect. The greatest tweaker of his generation did not care to be tweaked.

Perhaps this is why Bill Gates—of all Jobs’s contemporaries—gave him fits. Gates resisted the romance of perfectionism. Time and again, Isaacson repeatedly asks Jobs about Gates and Jobs cannot resist the gratuitous dig. “Bill is basically unimaginative,” Jobs tells Isaacson, “and has never invented anything, which I think is why he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”

After close to six hundred pages, the reader will recognize this as vintage Jobs: equal parts insightful, vicious, and delusional. It’s true that Gates is now more interested in trying to eradicate malaria than in overseeing the next iteration of Word. But this is not evidence of a lack of imagination. Philanthropy on the scale that Gates practices it represents imagination at its grandest. In contrast, Jobs’s vision, brilliant and perfect as it was, was narrow. He was a tweaker to the last, endlessly refining the same territory he had claimed as a young man.

As his life wound down, and cancer claimed his body, his great passion was designing Apple’s new, three-million-square-foot headquarters, in Cupertino. Jobs threw himself into the details. “Over and over he would come up with new concepts, sometimes entirely new shapes, and make them restart and provide more alternatives,” Isaacson writes. He was obsessed with glass, expanding on what he learned from the big panes in the Apple retail stores. “There would not be a straight piece of glass in the building,” Isaacson writes. “All would be curved and seamlessly joined. . . . The planned center courtyard was eight hundred feet across (more than three typical city blocks, or almost the length of three football fields), and he showed it to me with overlays indicating how it could surround St. Peter’s Square in Rome.” The architects wanted the windows to open. Jobs said no. He “had never liked the idea of people being able to open things. ‘That would just allow people to screw things up.’ ” ♦

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/11/14/111114fa_fact_gladwell?printable=true&currentPage=all#ixzz1d1rrz0ut

揭秘职场白领生存之道:巧妙用面子赚钞票

6 Nov

面子不仅影响到人们的消费方式,影响到”理财”,更重要的是,面子还影响到人们的职业生涯,甚至决定了一个人的命运。
放不下面子,甚至可以让人失去江山。
你知道翻盖手机为什么在东北亚地区尤其是中国流行吗?恐怕很少有人想到,原因之一是与中国人爱面子有关系。
面对翻盖式手机尤其是韩国三星、中国的TCL的凶猛攻势,直板式手机的集大成者诺基亚,直到2004年下半年才推出了翻盖手机。西方的手机厂商不明白,为什么翻盖手机在中国流行,而在西方的接受程度却非常低。
一位手机经销商告诉记者,翻盖式手机在开合时会发出一声脆响,容易引起旁人的关注,所以”更有面子”。而中国人特别爱面子,”面子”这个词在英语中根本就找不到对应的单词。
中国人常说”人为一口气,佛为一炷香”。不能”不给面子”,不能”扯破脸”,更不能”颜面扫地”。显而易见,”面子”是国人交往中不可回避的”重中之重”。
面子不仅影响到人们的消费方式,影响到”理财”,更重要的是,面子还影响到人们的职业生涯,甚至决定了一个人的命运。
英雄自古爱面子
历史上爱面子的英雄也很多。武松就是一个,只不过他非常幸运,没有受到面子的伤害,反而成了英雄。从而让自己的”职业生涯”意想不到地出现了飞跃。
《水浒传》中写到武松上景阳冈打虎前有一段细节描写:武松读了印信榜文,方知有虎。欲待发步再回酒店里来,寻思到:”我回去时,须吃他耻笑,不是好汉,难以转去。”想了一回,说道:”怕甚么鸟!且只顾上去,看怎地!”这个武松明知山有虎,却因上山前跟店老板夸下海口,碍于面子,他选择了继续上山。没有想到的是,武松侥幸把虎打死,从而一举成名,为他进入以后进入”宋江集团”攒够了名声。《水浒传》的作者从中不经意地解构了男人的面子的双向性:其正面是,武松在明知山有虎的情况下,为了面子,性命也顾不了那么多了,说明他把面子跟气节一样看得比性命还要重要、值钱;其反面是,武松在明知山有虎的情况下,还要为了面子,不管生命的危险,按我们现代喜欢骂人的话是:你真他妈的犯贱!但是武松是幸运的,不可效仿。
男人为了面子宁愿选择死亡的例子有很多。古语中有句话:士可杀不可辱。在古代战争中,每位将士被俘虏后遭到敌人的戏弄时最喜欢说的正是”士可杀不可辱”。你要么就杀了我,要么就不要玩我。如果你玩我,那么我活着没面子,还不如死去。俘虏们为了面子而选择死亡,这种行为是高贵的,比什么都值钱。
项羽的乌江自刎就是个为了面子而死的典型例子。他打了败仗后跑到乌江,本来他是可以乘坐渔船逃回江东的,但他放弃了。因为他觉得”无颜见江东父老”,没有面子回去面对他的乡亲父老了,结果他选择了自刎。他的死成全了他的面子,成全了一代枭雄的气节,但是代价是自己的”皇帝生涯”就此结束,彻底输掉了江山。
面对现实才最有面子
安徽省妇联妇女劳动力人才市场主任宛志英近来显得很无奈。合肥经济开发区德籍外商色斯先生要从该市场聘请一位会讲英语的大学生做家政,月薪2500元,宛主任奔波数日竟一无所获。色斯先生很失望。
目前很多大学生毕业后宁肯在家里待着,也不愿意从事一些类似家政服务这样的工作,因为这种工作看起来有些”低下”、没有面子。对此,前程无忧猎头部总监张东扬对本刊记者说,”大学生刚刚毕业,做什么工作都比没有工作待在家里强。”张先生感叹现在的独生子女没有工作照样可以衣食无忧,而他年轻的时候则自食其力,再差的工作也必须干。
笔者在美国留学的朋友讲述了这样一个”面子对人的择业影响”的故事。
迈克是耶鲁大学的毕业生,他毕业时正赶上美国经济萧条,大批大学毕业生找不到工作,就连迈克这样以前备受欢迎的经济管理专业的毕业生也大量过剩。为了解决生计问题,迈克决定和几位普通院校的毕业生一起去一家小出租车公司应聘做出租车司机,并邀请大学同班同学一块去应聘。但他的想法遭到了同学们的耻笑,他们说:”我们可是耶鲁大学的毕业生,怎能去做出租车司机那样的工作?太没面子了。”结果班里只有迈克一人做了出租车司机,其他都在盲目地寻找有面子的工作。
迈克因为懂经营管理,他的出租车生意异常好,不久,出租车公司经理看中他的经营才能,把他调到身边做了自己的助理。几年后,经理岁数大了,想退休,但子女没有人愿意经营他的只有十几辆车的小公司,经理便找到迈克,以极低的价格把公司转让给了他。
有了自己的公司,迈克更积极地发挥他的才能。又过了几年,他已拥有一千多辆各类汽车和两家子公司,资产达上亿美元,而他的那些同学大部分还只是普通的白领。
迈克在对美国媒体谈起自己的成功经历时说,在找工作或创立自己的事业时,许多人第一个考虑的并不是这个职业或行业能不能赚钱,会不会给自己带来新的机会,而是考虑眼前做这个工作是不是很丢人。诚然,社会上是有些工作表面上看很卑贱,但对每一个急需要钱的人来说,任何一项工作都意味着机会,只要你去努力了,并坚持下去,生活就永远会充满希望,机会的大门也会永远为你打开。说句实话,对每一个想成功、想生存的人来说,没有什么比要面子更卑贱的,因为那等于在埋葬自己的机会。
职业专家认为,面子换不来位子和银子,顶天立地的男子汉们自古以来就以强者自居,但其体力优势在科技和信息职场中不再吃香。为了面子他们错过秘书和保姆职位,做家务很没面子,对人倾诉压力没面子,承认错误更是没面子。其实,客观面对现实才是最有面子的。
商界精英”不要脸”
2005年5月14日,一辆奥迪轿车,在亚运村北辰购物中心附近的地下通道出口处停下,一名西装革履的男子从车中走出,摆个小摊为人免费擦起皮鞋来。光顾的人们只知道他是一家涂料公司的副总,而对其来此擦鞋的真正用意,并不十分清楚。
两高一矮3只板凳,一片垫脚泡沫塑料,几把鞋刷和几管鞋油,组成了”擦鞋老总”的全副行头。”免费擦皮鞋嘞!”一有人从地下通道走出来,擦鞋老总就朝其高声喊叫,随之引来一片诧异的目光。最后擦鞋老总告诉记者,他这么做是因为他原来”太爱面子”,他最近在清华大学读EMBA,老师给他出了这样一个主意让他克服掉爱面子的心理。
这位老总不惜擦皮鞋来改变自己,可见”爱面子”曾经深深地伤害过他。
根据笔者搜集过的资料,在不少老总的讲话中,都曾提到过面子。2002年5月23日,香港。杨元庆没了往年发布业绩时的怡然自得,当他向股民递上”亲政”一周年的”答卷”时,他更多感到的是压力。这一年联想没有庆功。柳传志一脸严肃。
虽然,这份”答卷”中装了10.3亿港币的利润,股东应占溢利比上个财年增长了42.9%,相比方正亏损3.8亿港币、四通亏损1.23亿港币,杨元庆有理由为自己没有完成370万台PC销售任务辩解,但是,他没有。”在2001年上半年的时候,我还没能力对整个市场有个彻底的判断。””我没经历过如此萧条的市场,也没经历过预期那么大的差距。””我本以为增长放缓是渐进式的,而实际的情况却是急速放缓 。”
杨元庆之所以这样做,他的解释是:”我不是认死理的人,包括目标的设定,也不能为了面子,死抗着。那最后只能做假账。”
而前微软中国区总裁唐峻也曾经受到过微软首席执行官鲍尔默的委屈。而这个委屈事后证明的确冤枉。但是唐峻并没有为了顾及自己的面子而据理力争。
在担任微软中国总裁的时候,唐峻提出了招聘优秀的、没有经验的应届大学毕业生进入公司的市场及销售部门的”大学生校园计划”。这样大胆的设想在微软历史上是没有的。
校园计划的尝试很快就被总部发现,鲍尔默将之定性为是一个”不懂销售市场的一种错误尝试”。唐峻感到很委屈,但他只能承认这个计划确实有些不妥之处。而后来,唐峻想,世界上没有十全十美的事,承认这些并不过分。要知道,在微软的历史上,都是去拿着高薪挖人,几乎从不招聘没有经验的新人。
因为抛弃爱面子的想法,勇敢承认错误,从而彻底改变自己命运的经典案例还应该算是顺驰的董事长孙宏斌。孙宏斌因为与柳传志发生冲突,而被柳以挪用资金的名义送进了监狱。
但是两年多的牢狱生涯,让孙宏斌的胸中并没有生长出仇恨。他在提前出狱后,主动约见了柳传志并承认了以前的错误。柳传志也为此而感动,对他的坦诚和胸襟刮目相看,慷慨答应借给孙宏斌50万元帮助他度过难关,这才有了后来顺驰的不断发展壮大,用了10年时间,打造了一支中国地产的百亿军团。而在事后,当孙宏斌告诉他妻子,他已经向柳传志承认错误时,他妻子说,”难道你忘了曾经吃过的苦?”孙宏斌默然不语。
如何克服爱面子
《孟子》中有一个故事,说的是一个齐国人,每次外出,总是酒足饭饱,醉醺醺地回家来,还在妻子面前夸口说,都是在富贵人家吃的酒。但从不见有富贵之人到他家来,所以他的妻子颇为怀疑。一天,这人又出门了,他妻子跟踪其后,发现城里并没有什么人同他说话打招呼。后来,这个人到了城外坟地中,向前来祭奠的人讨残酒和剩菜。这个人的妻子恍然大悟:原来这就是丈夫所说在”富贵人家”喝酒的真相。
中国人为什么比别人更加爱面子?
人是具有社会属性的,需要得到别人的认可,需要得到尊重是一种本能的心理需求。另外,爱面子一方面是与性格本身有关。另一方面与生活环境有关。如果家人对孩子要求比较多,或者要求比较苛刻,或是家人自己是完美型,他有可能受其影响,会对自己的形象很在乎。而中国由于传统上是一个农业社会,是一个”熟人社会”,熟人之间做事有时候”抹不开面子”,面子成了维持社会秩序的一个非常重要的因素。
我们该怎么减轻爱面子的心理负担?
关于如何克服爱面子的心理,你可以试一试以下几个方法:
分析法:当别人议论或反驳你时,你肯定会有”害羞”感,或恼怒感,这很自然,每个人被人议论时,都有不适的感觉。但要分析对方,所议的对不对,是否事实存在。如果确实存在,那就虚心接受。接受错误,改正错误。如果议论有不恰当的地方,不去置理,他们说他们的,做好你自己的事就行了。
心理暗示法:心里告诉自己,别人的嘴巴,我又封不住,让他们说去;只要自己心理清楚就行了,做到以静治动。有时候会与陌生人接触,或是有事相求,可能会因为爱面子,心理不愿意去做,但不做又不行的情况下,可以运用行为训练法即,在面对对方之前,做一模拟对话,表达训练。多做几次。找到感觉了再鼓励自己行动起来。会有成效的!
韩信法:不在小事上要面子。韩信出生于秦末,生逢乱世,青年时期父母双亡,家境穷困潦倒,也没有人瞧得起他,但他是有抱负的人,自认为自己的才能终有一天会崭露头角的。他个子高大,常爱佩带刀剑在大街上行走。江阴有一个屠户曾公开地挑衅他说:”你的装束表面上看是个士人,其实你的内心非常胆小,如果你是有种的人,就拿剑和我格斗,如果胆小怕死,就从我的胯下爬过去。”最终韩信接受了他的侮辱,从他的胯下爬了过去。这就是能忍”胯下之辱”的典故。在当时冷兵器时代,人们崇尚血气之勇,信奉”士可杀,不可辱”的信条,而韩信竟能忍之,并反其道而为之–“士可辱,不可杀”。从此间足可窥见韩信的过人之处,不愿置身于无谓的小事小非中。
最后还应该牢记,面子是别人给的,而不是要来的。2004年6月份,央视著名主持人水均益,因被指在夜总会闹事而丢尽面子,成了许多媒体娱乐版的头条,从而让自己的主持人形象和未来的职业生涯都蒙上了阴影。事情的起因就在于水均益”要面子”,他不满到结账时总经理都没有露过面,认为”太不给面子”了,于是一定要服务员叫总经理来见他。当服务员说总经理已经休息了。该主持人因此大为恼火。这些人都是要”面子”的,你总经理敢不出来见我,就是”不给我面子”。既然你不给我”面子”,那我当然就要生气,于是自己要把”面子” 给挣回来,结果却丢尽了面子。
巧妙利用面子
我们克服了爱面子的心理之后,还要充分利用别人爱面子的心理,实现自己职业生涯的转折,或者延长职业生命。TCL几位高官的做法就值得借鉴。
近年来,从TCL传出的高层离职的消息可能是国内企业中比较多的。从最具眼球经济的吴士宏离职,到后来发生在TCL数码的刘东援、俞翠薇一系列高层离任,直到现在万明坚的离任,透过这些起起落落的人员更迭,记者再度对李东生的驭人之术发生了兴趣:万明坚从盛极一时到下台,前后不过两年有余,这与李东生以往的作风可是大相径庭。
像吴士宏在TCL前前后后,几乎没有为TCL的IT之路带来任何效益,但李东生依然给够面子,给够时间。可以拿来对比的还有杨伟强,同样是位列”TCL四大诸侯”的少壮派,同样有过业绩极不佳的时候,同样都惹得高层提出”拿下”的意见。却依然给够机会,给够信任。而”狂人”万明监却在业绩下滑的时候被迫辞职。个中的微妙差别,李东生如是解答,杨伟强可以调整过来,并且见效,但万明坚调整不过来。
果真如此吗?李东生的话毫无疑问也有道理,但这更是像放在桌面上的话。而桌底下的话则是,这些老部下都给我拚打了几年,没有功劳也有苦劳,总需要给点面子吧。而万明监虽然有功劳,但是此人一向狂放,甚至有时候也不把李东生放在眼里,不给李东生面子,现在万明坚业绩不好,李东生自然也不会给他面子,让他独自承担失败的责任,下台吧。
其实,看看接替万明坚掌管TCL移动的袁信成,同样经历了一番起落:自从1999年加盟TCL,主管 TCL彩电的销售业务并一手设计实施了TCL的渠道模式,被称为TCL内部的”渠道教父”,但此后他也被放到一个虚职上,蛰伏了三四年,但是他一直低调处事,对李东生这样对待他”毫无怨言”,而李也不忍心对如此忠诚的部下不留情面的彻底”打死”,最终重新起用了袁信成接替万明坚。
不要自己的面子,给够老板面子,老板才会对下属的缺点或者错误留有情面,这就是很多职业经理人的生存之道。
小资料
“面子”是丰富的中文语汇里一个古老的概念,代表着体面、人格,甚至是尊严。
社会调查中心于2005年8月份完成的一项调查显示,只有7%的公众不太注重面子问题。
调查显示,公众认为最丢面子的行为是”在大庭广众之下出丑”(74.9%)和”答应过别人的事情没有做到”(72.1%)。另外,一半以上(55.3%)的人认为”在人面前很无知”会丢面子,47.5%的人觉得”请朋友吃饭却没带够钱”很丢脸。
在公众看来,哪些行为可以为自己”赚足面子”呢?调查发现,83.7%的人认为”能办成别人办不成的事”最有面子;”被别人表扬”(53.9%)和”聊天时,总能说出许多别人不知道的事”(51.7%)也分别被一多半的人认为是有面子的行为。
正因为如此,为了面子,有的人即使对某件事一无所知也要夸夸其谈,即使工资少得可怜也要抢着买单。然而”打肿脸充胖子”的滋味毕竟不好受,难怪80.7%公众认为太爱面子的人会活得很累。

 

 

Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma

6 Nov

by James Allworth

In the lead up to today’s release of the Steve Jobs biography, there’s been an increasing stream of news surrounding its subject. As a business researcher, I was particularly interested in this recent article that referenced from his biography a list of Jobs’s favorite books. There’s one business book on this list, and it “deeply influenced” Jobs. That book is The Innovator’s Dilemma by HBS Professor Clay Christensen.

But what’s most interesting to me isn’t that The Innovator’s Dilemma was on that list. It’s that Jobs solved the conundrum.

When describing his period of exile from Apple — when John Sculley took over — Steve Jobs described one fundamental root cause of Apple’s problems. That was to let profitability outweigh passion: “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. The products, not the profits, were the motivation. Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything.”

Anyone familiar with Professor Christensen’s work will quickly recognize the same causal mechanism at the heart of the Innovator’s Dilemma: the pursuit of profit. The best professional managers — doing all the right things and following all the best advice — lead their companies all the way to the top of their markets in that pursuit… only to fall straight off the edge of a cliff after getting there.

Which is exactly what had happened to Apple. A string of professional managers had led the company straight off the edge of that cliff. The fall had almost killed the company. It had 90 days working capital on hand when he took over — in other words, Apple was only three months awayfrom bankruptcy.

When he returned, Jobs completely upended the company. There were thousands of layoffs. Scores of products were killed stone dead. He knew the company had to make money to stay alive, but he transitioned the focus of Apple away from profits. Profit was viewed as necessary, but not sufficient, to justify everything Apple did. That attitude resulted in a company that looks entirely different to almost any other modern Fortune 500 company. One striking example: there’s only one person Apple with responsibility for a profit and loss. The CFO. It’s almost the opposite of what is taught in business school. An executive who worked at both Apple and Microsoft described the differences this way: “Microsoft tries to find pockets of unrealized revenue and then figures out what to make. Apple is just the opposite: It thinks of great products, then sells them. Prototypes and demos always come before spreadsheets.”

Similarly, Apple talks a lot about its great people. But make no mistake — they are there only in service of the mission. A headhunter describes it thus: “It is a happy place in that it has true believers. People join and stay because they believe in the mission of the company.” It didn’t matter how great you were, if you couldn’t deliver to that mission — you were out. Jobs’s famous meltdowns upon his return were symptomatic of this. They might have become less frequent in recent years, but if a team couldn’t deliver a great product, they got the treatment. The exec in charge of MobileMe was replaced on the spot, in front of his entire team, after a botched launch. A former Apple product manager described Apple’s attitude like this: “You have the privilege of working for the company that’s making the coolest products in the world. Shut up and do your job, and you might get to stay.”

Everything — the business, the people — are subservient to the mission: building great products. And rather than listening to, or asking their customers what they wanted; Apple would solve problems customers didn’t know they had with products they didn’t even realize they wanted.

By taking this approach, Apple bent all the rules of disruption. 
To disrupt yourself, for example, Professor Christensen’s research would typically prescribe setting up a separate company that eventually goes on to defeat the parent. It’s incredibly hard to do this successfully; Dayton Dry Goods pulled it off with Target. IBM managed to do it with the transition from mainframes to PCs, by firewalling the businesses in entirely different geographies. Either way, the number of companies that have successfully managed to do it is a very, very short list. And yet Apple’s doing it to itself right now with the utmost of ease. Here’s new CEO Tim Cook, on the iPad disrupting the Mac business: “Yes, I think there is some cannibalization… the iPad team works on making their product the best. Same with the Mac team.” It’s almost unheard of to be able to manage disruption like this.

They can do it because Apple hasn’t optimized its organization to maximize profit. Instead, it has made the creation of value for customers its priority. When you do this, the fear of cannibalization or disruption of one’s self just melts away. In fact, when your mission is based around creating customer value, around creating great products, cannibalization and disruption aren’t “bad things” to be avoided. They’re things you actually strive for — because they let you improve the outcome for your customer.

When I first learned about the theory of disruption, what amazed me was its predictive power; you could look into the future with impressive clarity. And yet, there was a consistent anomaly. That one dark spot on Professor Christensen’s prescience was always his predictions on Apple. I had the opportunity to talk about it with him subsequently, and I remember him telling me: “There’s just something different about those guys. They’re freaks.” Well, he was right. With the release of Jobs’s biography, we now know for sure why. Jobs was profoundly influenced by the Innovator’s Dilemma — he saw the company he created almost die from it. When he returned to Apple, Jobs was determined to solve it. And he did. That “subtle difference” — of flipping the priorities away from profit and back to great products — took Apple from three months away from bankruptcy, to one of the most valuable and influential companies in the world.

Apple’s Supply-Chain Secret? Hoard Lasers

6 Nov

The iPhone maker spends lavishly on all stages of the manufacturing process, giving it a huge operations advantage

By  and 

About five years ago, Apple (AAPL) design guru Jony Ive decided he wanted a new feature for the next MacBook: a small dot of green light above the screen, shining through the computer’s aluminum casing to indicate when its camera was on. The problem? It’s physically impossible to shine light through metal.

Ive called in a team of manufacturing and materials experts to figure out how to make the impossible possible, according to a former employee familiar with the development who requested anonymity to avoid irking Apple. The team discovered it could use a customized laser to poke holes in the aluminum small enough to be nearly invisible to the human eye but big enough to let light through.

Applying that solution at massive volume was a different matter. Apple needed lasers, and lots of them. The team of experts found a U.S. company that made laser equipment for microchip manufacturing which, after some tweaking, could do the job. Each machine typically goes for about $250,000. Apple convinced the seller to sign an exclusivity agreement and has since bought hundreds of them to make holes for the green lights that now shine on the company’s MacBook Airs, Trackpads, and wireless keyboards.

Most of Apple’s customers have probably never given that green light a second thought, but its creation speaks to a massive competitive advantage for Apple: Operations. This is the world of manufacturing, procurement, and logistics in which the new chief executive officer, Tim Cook, excelled, earning him the trust of Steve Jobs. According to more than a dozen interviews with former employees, executives at suppliers, and management experts familiar with the company’s operations, Apple has built a closed ecosystem where it exerts control over nearly every piece of the supply chain, from design to retail store. Because of its volume—and its occasional ruthlessness—Apple gets big discounts on parts, manufacturing capacity, and air freight. “Operations expertise is as big an asset for Apple as product innovation or marketing,” says Mike Fawkes, the former supply-chain chief atHewlett-Packard (HPQ) and now a venture capitalist with VantagePoint Capital Partners. “They’ve taken operational excellence to a level never seen before.”

This operational edge is what enables Apple to handle massive product launches without having to maintain large, profit-sapping inventories. It’s allowed a company often criticized for high prices to sell its iPad at a price that very few rivals can beat, while still earning a 25 percent margin on the device, according to the estimates of Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. And if the latest rumors are to be believed, Apple’s operational expertise is likely part of what gives the company enough confidence to enter the notoriously cutthroat television market by 2013 with a TV set that would tightly integrate with existing Apple software like iTunes. The widespread skepticism over Apple’s ability to compete in such a price-sensitive market, where margins are often in the single digits, is “exactly what people said when Apple got into cell phones,” says Munster.

Apple began innovating on the nitty-gritty details of supply-chain management almost immediately upon Steve Jobs’s return in 1997. At the time, most computer manufacturers transported products by sea, a far cheaper option than air freight. To ensure that the company’s new, translucent blue iMacs would be widely available at Christmas the following year, Jobs paid $50 million to buy up all the available holiday air freight space, says John Martin, a logistics executive who worked with Jobs to arrange the flights. The move handicapped rivals such as Compaq that later wanted to book air transport. Similarly, when iPod sales took off in 2001, Apple realized it could pack so many of the diminutive music players on planes that it became economical to ship them directly from Chinese factories to consumers’ doors. When an HP staffer bought one and received it a few days later, tracking its progress around the world through Apple’s website, “It was an ‘Oh s—’ moment,” recalls Fawkes.

That mentality—spend exorbitantly wherever necessary, and reap the benefits from greater volume in the long run—is institutionalized throughout Apple’s supply chain, and begins at the design stage. Ive and his engineers sometimes spend months living out of hotel rooms in order to be close to suppliers and manufacturers, helping to tweak the industrial processes that translate prototypes into mass-produced devices. For new designs such as the MacBook’s unibody shell, cut from a single piece of aluminum, Apple’s designers work with suppliers to create new tooling equipment. The decision to focus on a few product lines, and to do little in the way of customization, is a huge advantage. “They have a very unified strategy, and every part of their business is aligned around that strategy,” says Matthew Davis, a supply-chain analyst with Gartner (IT) who has ranked Apple as the world’s best supply chain for the last four years.

When it’s time to go into production, Apple wields a big weapon: More than $80 billion in cash and investments. The company says it plans to nearly double capital expenditures on its supply chain in the next year, to $7.1 billion, while committing another $2.4 billion in prepayments to key suppliers. The tactic ensures availability and low prices for Apple—and sometimes limits the options for everyone else. Before the release of the iPhone 4 in June 2010, rivals such as HTC couldn’t buy as many screens as they needed because manufacturers were busy filling Apple orders, according to a former manager at HTC. To manufacture the iPad 2, Apple bought so many high-end drills to make the device’s internal casing that other companies’ wait time for the machines stretched from six weeks to six months, according to a manager at the drillmaker.

Life as an Apple supplier is lucrative because of the high volumes but painful because of the strings attached. When Apple asks for a price quote for parts such as touchscreens, it demands a detailed accounting of how the manufacturer arrived at the quote, including its estimates for material and labor costs, and its own projected profit. Apple requires many key suppliers to keep two weeks of inventory within a mile of Apple’s assembly plants in Asia, and sometimes doesn’t pay until as long as 90 days after it uses a part, according to an executive who has consulted for Apple and would not speak on the record for fear of compromising the relationship.

Not every supplier gives in. An executive who works with a major parts manufacturer says that Apple’s bargaining tactics tend to exert downward pressure on prices, leading to lower profits and margins. After months of negotiations, the company declined a $1 billion payment from Apple that would have required the supplier to commit much of its manufacturing capacity to Cupertino’s products. The executive familiar with these talks, who asked not to be named because the discussions were not public, says that while deals featuring $1 billion in cash up front are basically unheard of, his company didn’t want to be too dependent on Apple—and didn’t want to help it deflate prices.

Apple’s control reaches its crescendo in the leadup to one of its famed product unveilings, a tightly orchestrated process that has been refined over years of Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad debuts. For weeks in advance of the announcement, factories work overtime to build hundreds of thousands of devices. To track efficiency and ensure pre-launch secrecy, Apple places electronic monitors in some boxes of parts that allow observers in Cupertino to track them through Chinese factories, an effort meant to discourage leaks. At least once, the company shipped products in tomato boxes to avoid detection, says the consultant who has worked with Apple. When the iPad 2 debuted, the finished devices were packed in plain boxes and Apple employees monitored every handoff point—loading dock, airport, truck depot, and distribution center—to make sure each unit was accounted for.

Apple’s retail stores give it a final operational advantage. Once a product goes on sale, the company can track demand by the store and by the hour, and adjust production forecasts daily. If it becomes clear a given part will run out, teams are deployed and given approval to spend millions of dollars on extra equipment to get around the bottleneck.

Apple’s enormous profits—its gross margins were 40 percent last quarter, compared with 10 to 20 percent for most other hardware companies—are in large part due to this focus on operations, which is sure to remain a priority under Cook. The new CEO is known to give colleagues copies ofCompeting Against Time, a book about using supply chains as a strategic weapon in business. According to Martin, the logistics executive, Cook uses a catchphrase to hammer home the need for efficiency: “Nobody wants to buy sour milk.”

 

The bottom line: Apple plans to double spending on its supply chain, to $7.1 billion, continuing its focus on streamlining and controlling manufacturing.

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs

6 Nov
By MONA SIMPSON

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.

We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.

I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter.

I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.

Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.

That’s incredibly simple, but true.

He was the opposite of absent-minded.

He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.

He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.

Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.

He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.

His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

He was willing to be misunderstood.

Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.

Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”

I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.

His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.

When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.

And he did.

Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning.

Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.

He treasured happiness.

Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.

Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes.

“You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.

He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially.

I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.

He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.

For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.

By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple.

Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.

He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.

He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:

OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. Since 1988, she has held the Sadie Samuelson Levy Chair in Languages and Literature at Bard College. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16, 2011, at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University.