This post is part 1 of 11 in the series Remem­bering Steve Jobs.

Since the passing of Steve Jobs, I’ve been wondering, what does it take to be extra­or­di­nary? How would Steve answer that?

One posi­tive outcome of Steve’s death, is we’re hearing more from Apple employees, current and former, who worked with Steve. Before, much of the spec­u­la­tion about culture at Apple was just that, spec­u­la­tion.

Reading these employee remem­brances and thinking of extra­or­di­nary expe­ri­ences in my own life, I don’t think I can wake up tomorrow and say, “I’m going to be extra­or­di­nary today.” (I’ve tried that peri­od­i­cally with ordi­nary results). Extra­or­di­nary may be easier to achieve when the focus is creating and deliv­ering prod­ucts that delight customers. When the prod­ucts exceed customer expec­ta­tions and even customer imag­i­na­tion. When I look at Jobs’ career time­line, his latest string of successes didn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term strategy, with many fail­ures and rein­ven­tions before the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad. And a creative team and a CEO who under­stand and are willing to under­take the long journey.

Guy Kawasaki, who worked at Apple twice during his career, shares two lessons learned from Jobs.

Customers cannot tell you what they need.
 “Apple market research” is an oxymoron. The Apple focus group was the right hemi­sphere of Steve’s brain talking to the left one. If you ask customers what they want, they will tell you, “Better, faster, and cheaper” — that is, better same­ness, not revo­lu­tionary change. They can only describe their desires in terms of what they are already using — around the time of the intro­duc­tion of Macin­tosh, all people said they wanted was better, faster, and cheaper MS-DOS machines. The richest vein for tech star­tups is creating the product that you want to use—that’s what Steve and Woz did.

Jump to the next curve.
 Big wins happen when you go beyond better same­ness. The best daisy-wheel printer compa­nies were intro­ducing new fonts in more sizes. Apple intro­duced the next curve: laser printing. Think of ice harvesters, ice facto­ries, and refrig­er­ator compa­nies. Ice 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Are you still harvesting ice during the winter from a frozen pond? — “What I learned from Steve Jobs” at guykawasaki.com

And from Tony Fadell, a former Apple exec­u­tive who led iPod and iPhone devel­op­ment from 2001 to 2009:

Six weeks before the intro­duc­tion of the iPhone in 2007, Mr. Jobs ordered a crucial design change. Until then, the plan­ning for supplies, manu­fac­turing and engi­neering had been based on the assump­tion that the smartphone’s face would be plastic, recalls Fadell…. Plastic is less fragile than glass, and easier to make.

But the plastic touch screen had a draw­back. It was prone to devel­oping scratches. Those scratches, Mr. Jobs insisted, would irri­tate users and be seen as a design flaw. “All the logical facts told us to go with plastic, and Steve’s instinct went the other way,” Mr. Fadell says. “It was Steve’s call — his gut.”

The glass choice was a chal­lenge that seemed “nearly impos­sible” at the time, he says — a last-minute scramble to get supplies of special­ized glass and tweak the design of the phone’s casing to reduce the chances the glass would crack when an iPhone was dropped. But with extra invest­ment and a frenetic work regimen, the switch proved doable, despite the tight dead­line.

The episode, Mr. Fadell says, points to a prin­ciple he took away from his years working with Mr. Jobs. “You do not cut corners and you make sure the customer gets an expe­ri­ence that is an absolute delight,” observes Mr. Fadell, who heads a Silicon Valley start-up company whose product has not yet been disclosed and will not compete with Apple. — “The Power of Taking the Big Chance” by Steve Lohr, New York Times, Sunday, October 9, 2011

I can imagine Steve asking his team, “How would you want it to be? If we had all the time, money and tech­nology we needed, what would we create?”

How would Steve answer, what does it take to be extra­or­di­nary?

Have the courage to follow your heart and intu­ition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Every­thing else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs, from 2005 Stan­ford commence­ment address

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