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Executive Interviews: Interview with Owen Linzmayeron Government and Business
March 2010 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Owen Linzmayer
Owen Linzmayer is a respected San Francisco-based freelance writer

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  • In November 2009, Fortune named Steve Jobs as the CEO of the Decade. In the accompanying cover story (‘The Decade of Steve: How Apple’s imperious, brilliant CEO transformed American business’), Adam Lashinsky, Fortune’s editor-atlarge, observed, “Remaking any one business is a career-defining achievement; four (movies (Pixar), Music (iPod), Mobile (iPhone) and Computers) is unheard of.” How could he redefine the competitive landscape of four different industries, singlehandedly? What do you think were the critical success factors in such a pronounced victory?
    I think Steve’s focus on the user experience is unique in industries that typically have been focused on technology for its own sake. Pixar movies are great because they have wonderful stories at their cores, not because they are computer animated. The iPod is great because it combined a bunch of off-the-shelf parts (mini hard drive, fast data connector, small LCD screen, MP3 file format) into a compelling music device. The Mac survives because its graphical user interface made it far easier than the command line interfaces of its competitors. Steve didn’t invent any of these technologies, but he did see how they could be applied in new ways.

  • Do you think brand ‘Steve Jobs’ has come to overshadow brand ‘Apple’?
    While most people know Steve Jobs, I think the Apple brand remains distinct in the minds of most consumers. The media may pay attention when Steve speaks, but consumers don’t open their wallets to buy whatever he’s selling. They buy Apple products only when they are compelling.

  • One of the often quoted themes of Steve Jobs has been, ‘what next’. Now the question on every one’s mind is what’s next for Apple, after Steve Jobs? What would be Apple MINUS Steve Jobs?
    Apple will be a different company without Jobs, but perhaps not terribly different. Just as a large ship can’t change course very quickly, the momentum of whatever projects are under way whenever he leaves will certainly carry the company in the direction he’s plotted for a number of years. Furthermore, Jobs has been back at Apple long enough with a core set of executives that they’ve all learned from him and adopted much of his outlook. That has to have permeated throughout the organization, so while Apple without Jobs may not be as flashy or command our attention as much, it’s still likely to be an interesting incubator of new technologies and fascinating products.

  • What according to you would be the impending challenges for Steve Jobs’ successor? Can he manage the mandate?
    Keep Apple from being ripped apart from within, as almost happened in the 1990s when various executives were more concerned with their departments than the organization as a whole. Then keep Apple focused on things it does well. Theremay be a strong desire to take on new markets to prove that the new CEO is like Steve, but that will be a mistake if there’s not an organic reason to enter those markets.

  • How should the business world remember Steve Jobs’ legacy? What according to you is the most befitting way to celebrate Steve Jobs’ indomitable spirit?
    Steve’s successes will always be remembered, but I hope his managerial style will not be viewed as responsible for those successes. To paraphrase Guy Kawasaki, “Sure Steve can be an asshole, but I know a lot of assholes who never created anything as great as the Macintosh.” The best way to celebrate Steve’s spirit is to never compromise on quality or ease of use, whether you are buying a product or building one. Take pleasure in the small details that make the things in your life enjoyable to use, and hold to account those companies that create crap. Keep pushing for improvements and demanding the best out of yourself and your employees.

The Interview was conducted by Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary, Consulting Editor, Effective Executive and Dean, IBSCDC, Hyderabad.

This Interview was originally published in Effective Executive, IUP, March 2010.

Copyright © March 2010, IBSCDC No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced or distributed, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or medium – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without the permission of IBSCDC.

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