Steve Jobs understood product innovation

Aug. 29, 2011 | by Darrel Suderman

Steve Jobs understood product innovation

After Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple this week, the Wall Street Journal reflected on his contribution to new product innovation.

Here's my take.

Steve Jobs co-built the first personal computer in his "garage" with Steve Wozniak as a college dropout, and changed the lives of millions of Americans and possible billions around the world. His new product innovation also created innumerable jobs and wealth for millions of others. He sold his VW van to finance the venture like so many entrepreneurs across our great country.

What Steve Jobs first understood, others have learned, and still more are learning is that new product innovation creates corporate value, market leadership, jobs, wages, benefits and personal friendships. It is clear to me that Steve Jobs never considered the proverbial "line extension" championed by almost every marketing department in our country. Thank God that he didn't, because our country might still be mired in the stagnation of the 1970s. But out of those ashes came the roaring 80s and 90s of the IT industry – and he did it without a government loan!

Mr. Jobs took "risk after risk to lead the digital age into personal devices – first with iTunes and the iPod, disrupting a recording industry that forced consumers to buy an entire CD, rather than a single song. Then came the iPhone, which has revolutionized personal communication, and in the last year (yes, it's been fewer than 18 months) came the iPad that is transforming the delivery of news and entertainment" according to the Wall Street Journal.

Secondly, Steve Jobs understood that new product innovation not only benefited society as previously stated, but it was also "disruptive." In an everyday work environment that means that new product development sometimes threatens people's positions, job security, status, and old ways of doing work. But rather than embrace the new technology, they find like-minded coworkers to bond with to build a wall of resistance to the very thing that creates tomorrow's blessing. It then becomes the CEO's responsibility to clarify the vision that today's disruption is tomorrow's growth.

Thirdly, another lesson associated with new product innovation (according to the Wall Street Journal) is that most successful business leaders often have many failures, large and small along the way. The difference is that they learn as much from failure as they do from success. And a fourth lesson is that the future belongs to risk-takers, who sense opportunities when others see only folly or danger.

The Wall Street Journal went on to quote Joseph Schumpeter, the great Austrian-American economist who described the essential character traits in his book, The Theory of Economic Development.

"First of all, there is the dream and the will to found a private kingdom, usually, though not necessarily, also a dynasty ...Then there is the will to conquer: the impulse to fight, to prove oneself superior to others, to succeed for the sake, not of the fruits of success, but of success itself... Finally there is the joy of creating, and getting things done, or simply the exercising of one's energy and ingenuity."

Steve Jobs was clearly driven by the competitive challenges.

In summary, I invite everyone in the restaurant industry from the CEO to the table server to look for the following signs of innovation in there company, or walk away to a challenging environment. Is your company characterized by?

  • Passion for creativity
  • Disruptive environment (from innovation)
  • Competitive workplace
  • Risk Taking
  • Learning from failures

Remember, "Risk" is the other side of a coin stamped with "Innovation & Reward"

Topics: Operations Management

Darrel Suderman / Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFC’s development team of “Popcorn Chicken”, now a $1B international product –invented by Gene Gagliardi.
www View Darrel Suderman's profile on LinkedIn

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