From Steve Jobs's Leadership Style to IT's Evolution in the Workplace: An Interview with Eric Bloom—Part 1

[interview]

JV: Yeah, go ahead.

EB: Jobs was a believer that artists should sign their work. How did that played itself out at Apple? He brought in a big piece of flip-chart paper into a meeting and all of the engineers signed it. They put their signatures all over it like it's a big birthday card.

Then, what he did with that piece of paper is he had all of these signatures embossed on the inside of every Mac case that went out. While being inside the box where people [Ed. Note—consumers] couldn't see it, the engineers know it was there. Their name was physically in every box that was produced.

What did that do? That made a sense of ownership and for those engineers, it was really cool. On one hand, he was sort of very brash to deal with, but on the other hand, he did stuff like that.

JV: Yeah, that's really cool. Is this typical? What are other ways a company can come up with something similar that emphasizes the idea of ownership?

EB:I think you see it in software companies all the time. For example, Adobe. I don't know if it's on the newest version. I assume it is. I have them but I can't remember from memory, but Photoshop, when you open up Adobe Photoshop, the first thing that would come up on the banner page is a list of about thirty or forty programmers.

Now, did anyone actually read that stuff? No, you probably looked at while it was loading but to those engineers, that's very, very cool.

JV: Yeah, that's something they could put out to their family, their little mark of fame. That does something. It incentivizes the need to do a really good job in programming.

EB: Absolutely.

JV: Their names are going to be associated with the product.

EB: Absolutely. What I would say regarding other things like that is that this principle can be carried forward. Is it in the About Page if you're developing software? If you're developing a physical product for sale, certainly it comes with a brochure or something in it. Maybe you put the names of the people there in the About Page. If it's an internal software development project, then maybe what you do is when the project is initially announced to the company, you come up with something like what happens at the end of the movie.

 What's your favorite movie?

JV: Off the top of my head…Fargo. I really like the movie, Fargo.

EB: Fargo. I think you know who the key actors and actresses in it, but they say all of those credits at the end. Do you know who the key grip is?

JV: I do not.

EB: No, but you know what? The person's friends and family were really excited when the ending went by in the credits at the end of the movie.

JV: Yeah, I can imagine.

EB: It's that kind of concept. It's the team, but it's a thank you to the people who put hard work into it.

JV: That's interesting. Is this something that you're seeing, Are you seeing people trying to do this idea attempting to recognize a person on a team?

EB: You know what? I never really paid much attention to it until I put together the Steve Jobs class. Now, that I am using this as sort of my example, I really like this concept. I see various firms have used it. Not all, but various firms like the Adobe example.

There's lot of things like that that I learned. I'm a professional manager. I'm a senior IT executive by background, but I found many things that I thought were great principles that can be used generally inside the corporation regarding the pure product, regarding an eye for detail. It was just fascinating in really getting sort of an inside view of it.

JV: Yeah, that sounds very fascinating. Also, I was reading an interview with Jay Elliot in the San Jose Mercury. He was talking about some of his experiences working with Steve. He was saying that Steve Jobs was known as a person who could recognize talent. Are there any ways that a person can develop that skill, talent recognition?

EB: I think there is. I'll actually describe it through one other story. The key to finding talent is to always be looking for it wherever you are. I'll give you an example of what Steve Jobs did.           

What happened is that he was in a restaurant just ordering dinner. He being … actually it was Jay Elliot and Steve Jobs having dinner together. Jobs really like the layout of the menu. I don't mean, “Good, there was a burger on it.” I mean the way it looked, the font that was used, the style of it, etc.

JV: The aesthetics of the menu.

EB: He asked the owner of the restaurant, "Who designed your menu?" Then, hired him to work on documentation for the Mac.

JV: That's very interesting.

About the author

Jonathan Vanian's picture Jonathan Vanian

Jonathan Vanian is an online editor who edits, writes, interviews, and helps turn the many cranks at StickyMinds, TechWell, AgileConnection, and CMCrossroads. He has worked for newspapers, websites, and a magazine, and is not as scared of the demise of the written word as others may appear to be. Software and high technology never cease to amaze him.

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