(2 of 4)
When Jobs took up his present position at Apple in 1997, that's the situation he found. He and Jonathan Ive, head of design, came up with the original iMac, a candy-colored computer merged with a cathode-ray tube that, at the time, looked like nothing anybody had seen outside of a Jetsons cartoon. "Sure enough," Jobs recalls, "when we took it to the engineers, they said, 'Oh.' And they came up with 38 reasons. And I said, 'No, no, we're doing this.' And they said, 'Well, why?' And I said, 'Because I'm the CEO, and I think it can be done.' And so they kind of begrudgingly did it. But then it was a big hit."
There are two lessons to be drawn from that story: one about collaboration, one about control. Apple employees talk incessantly about what they call "deep collaboration" or "cross-pollination" or "concurrent engineering." Essentially it means that products don't pass from team to team. There aren't discrete, sequential development stages. Instead, it's simultaneous and organic. Products get worked on in parallel by all departments at once--design, hardware, software--in endless rounds of interdisciplinary design reviews. Managers elsewhere boast about how little time they waste in meetings; Apple is big on them and proud of it. "The historical way of developing products just doesn't work when you're as ambitious as we are," says Ive, an affable, bearlike Brit. "When the challenges are that complex, you have to develop a product in a more collaborative, integrated way."
Everybody you meet at Apple will echo that precise sentiment, in almost Stepford-like unison. Not only have they all drunk the Kool-Aid; they all have the same favorite flavor. They're on a hot streak, and they know it. ("The Sony guys are over there across the street with binoculars," jokes a senior vice president. "They rented space on the fourth floor." High-tech trash talk!) It's almost eerie: Apple employees all like one another, and they have a strong sense that they are the chosen of the earth, and they're not going to be a jerk about it, but all others who dwell on this mortal coil are missing out by not working here.
The second lesson of Jobs' parable is about control, and to that extent, it's a lesson about Jobs himself. He is one of the technology world's great innovators but not because he's an engineer or a programmer. He doesn't have an M.B.A. either. He doesn't even have a college degree. (He dropped out of Reed College after one semester.) Jobs has a great native sense of design and a knack for hiring geniuses, but above all, what he has is a willingness to be a pain in the neck about what matters most to him.
Sure, Jobs is perfectly pleasant to be around. And he pays attention to what you're saying, but if he disagrees with it--if, hypothetically, you're maybe airing a pet peeve about the fact that iMacs have all their ports in the back, where they're hard to get at--he'll come storming back and hammer at you until you change your mind or at least shut up. When he generously introduces you to the guy who runs Apple's iTunes development team, Jobs makes it clear that you're welcome to meet him but you can't print his name. Jobs doesn't want competitors poaching his talent. "You can mention his first name but not his last name," Jobs says. "How's that?" It'll have to do. The guy's name, by the way, is Jeff.