What I learned from Steve Jobs as a Product Manager

By December 28, 2013Product Management

I recently watched the movie Jobs. While in China, I read the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson and it brought back many thoughts about Steve Jobs as a product manager.

Steve Jobs movie

Steve Jobs is a great case study of a product manager. His passion was unparalleled, his drive for perfection amazing, and his attention to detail would impress any engineer. In the end, he is known as someone who changed the world.

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” -Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was certainly on the forefront of some great products and his personality helped him to thrive in that environment. Of course, as with anyone he had his setbacks; the Lisa computer, the NeXT computer, and being fired from Apple to name a few. But he didn’t give up and learned from those failures to ultimately create some amazing products like the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. As well, the iTunes store and the innovative Apple Stores that changed the way we buy products.

As a product manager, here are 5 things that I learned from Steve Jobs. There are obviously many lessons about health, personal relationships, and running a business, but these are limited to being a product manager.

1. Passion is the most important ingredient. It was his passion that brought the best talent together. His passion drove him to only want the best people to work on his products. It was his passion that drove him to perfection and always innovating. It was his passion that defined who he was.

2. Always be innovating. While Steve Jobs was at Apple, you could always count on new innovative products being released. While Steve Jobs was away that innovation was not there. And when he came back the innovation came back. In his early days at Apple there was the Macintosh, and when he came back there was the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes and the new Apple stores. Each of these products changed the way people bought and used devices and applications.

3. Never rely on past successes. As Apple became profitable again when Steve Jobs came back, he could have very easily been happy with the iPod and iTunes, but he continued to press forward with the iPhone, iPad and Apples stores.

4. Focus on fewer game changing products rather than many average products. One of the first things Steve Jobs did when he came back as interim CEO was to cut projects and only focus on a few key projects. That allowed Apple to improve the quality of their products and make sure they hit the mark with customers. So many times, businesses try to hit every market and please everyone that in the end the product suffers. It’s important to be laser focused on key winning products. As a product manager, your products need to be one of those winning products.

5. Know your customer. Do you remember the first time you picked up an iPhone or iPod? It felt natural and interacting with it was intuitive and it was easy to use. Steve Jobs knew what people wanted. He knew what his customer wanted. Since his products were new and innovative, he knew what they wanted better than the customer. He knew his customer.

As a product manager, there is a lot we can learn from Steve Jobs. For more detail, be sure to read his biography. I think it’s a must read for every product manager.