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Leading Apple With Steve Jobs: Management Lessons From a Controversial Genius by Jay Elliot

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If All of Apple Had Become a Skunk Works

Steve kept trying to influence the rest of Apple not to lose the entrepreneurial spirit. He understood from the first that you don’t create great products by passing a project along from one corporate division to another—a concept group, to a design group, to an engineering group, to a marketing group . . . or whatever. Without ever lecturing us about it, he believed in small, integrated teams. He had a vision of a team always small enough that every member—every member—stayed involved all the way through. Off-sites for the entire team would be one key way of making that happen. The commitments made at a meeting in front of all team members were sometimes even more powerful than a one-on-one promise to Steve; they were essential for keeping projects on schedule.

Yet even though he was the company cofounder and soon to become chairman of the board, trying to get the whole of Apple to shift to the model of a start-up was a struggle. I believe he already had the insight and inherent ability to turn all of Apple into a Skunk Works organization, yet the men running the company, and the board as well, didn’t recognize this. So they stuck him off in the corner, thinking it was money well spent to keep him busy with Macintosh.

It’s interesting to wonder about what would have happened if Steve had taken over Apple at the time. He would have killed the Lisa, which would have been a good thing. The Apple II/Apple III would have run out of steam. Apple ...

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