“Be like Steve Jobs” might be the easiest possible advice to give any entrepreneur or CEO who wants to disrupt an existing industry, or create a new one.
But that’s a big caveat. To be honest, most executives are not really trying to disrupt an industry, much less create an entirely new business. Most would be quite content to lead the segments they are in, and there’s nothing wrong with that strategy.
But most firms do not replicate Apple, nor achieve its success and have its impact, because most firms and executives never have enough confidence, arrogance or insight to figure out what people need, even when people cannot express those needs or conceptualize them.
If there are a few defining characteristics of Steve Jobs that has run like a thread through his entire career, one is a genuine obsession with the way that things are crafted. That attention extended to things users could not even see. Steve Jobs’ obsession with the quality of the things unseen
More crucial, at a strategic level, is the absolute insistence Apple, under Steve Jobs, always had on driving innovation based on meeting needs people didn’t know they had. You can’t create brand new markets by conducting and then acting on consumer surveys or market research. The reason that doesn’t create new markets is that, by definition, people can only tell you how they might prefer to use an existing product.
By definition, that approach leads mostly to incremental improvements. The other problem is that truly revolutionary products often take quite some time to radically change the way people live, work and play, and that doesn’t get much support in a public company environment, where the next quarter’s results always are really important.