Think like your customer

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted on here. My apologies. My attention has been on a whole range of other important stuff for the last few weeks and of course, before that it was summer holiday time.

A lot has happened in the world over the last few weeks and more particularly in this month of October. Earlier this month we sadly saw the passing of a true innovator and business leader; Steve Jobs.

Much has been written over the last couple of weeks about Steve with most of it being good stuff. However, some detractors saw it as an opportunity to have a pop at his management style and question his judgement on a whole range of things.

What they seem to have missed is that Steve was an entrepreneur. Not so many years ago, he co-founded what is now the largest technology company in the world. He did this from a garage with not a penny to rub together, but he still managed to succeed where others failed. This was, in no small part, due to his relentless drive and enthusiasm. Of course he rubbed people up the wrong way, he was said to lose his temper at times, he was known for culling thousands of ideas until he found the next big thing. But let’s face it, Apple is a company that he founded, was thrown out of and ultimately rescued when he returned. He was always going to be passionate about it.

For me, one of the key secrets of his success was to understand the consumer. He was able to do this because he thought like one. He didn’t need to conduct expensive market research because he relied on his instincts as a user of products and services to come up with great ideas that turned the (generally poor) user experience of computing on its head. He saw how computer based technology could be used by everyday people without needing a master’s degree in computer science.

I’m sure that there are things that Apple doesn’t do as well as it would like. It is staffed by human beings after all and we all tend to make mistakes from time to time. But in my view, it’s no coincidence that Apple has continued to grow and become so successful despite the worst economic slump for a generation.

Put simply, Apple has continued their legendary focus on innovation and challenging regular thinking in the world of consumer technology. They think differently, continuously question what’s possible and are 100% committed to the awesome marketing machine they have created. (I find it amazing that so many companies slashed their R&D, marketing and development budgets just when they need them most).

Time will tell how Apple will fare without Steve, but my guess is they’ll do just fine. Steve’s DNA is inextricably woven into the fabric of Apple Inc and it will take a brave man to deliberately try to unravel that.