How Steve Jobs Changed Business

Jobs wasn’t just any CEO. As the millions who own Apple products can attest, he changed the way we do business.
Freelance Writer and editor, Self-employed
October 06, 2011

Keith Devlin woke up this morning with a specific mission in mind: to visit the Apple store in Palo Alto, California, be in the company of fellow Apple fans, and mourn and remember the life of Steve Jobs.

“I walked up to the store around 7:30 a.m. and noticed a small shrine out front; even though it was early, people were wandering in, just to be there,” says Devlin, Ph.D., co-founder and executive director of Stanford University’s H-STAR Institute and author of Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years.

The world is mourning the Oct. 5 death of Steve Jobs with a degree of love and sadness never before expressed for a company CEO. A group of fans is dubbing Oct. 14 ‘Steve Jobs Day,’ memorials are appearing all over Boston and Cambridge and fans are flocking to the Apple headquarters in Cupertino. “It is truly amazing to see such consumer response after the death of a CEO,” says Devlin.

But Jobs wasn’t just any CEO. As the millions of people who own MacBooks, iPads and iPhones can attest, he changed the way we do business.

Blurring the Lines Between Work and Play

Prior to the creation of the Macintosh, computers were relegated to the office environment. Employees left them at work and booted them up again the following day. Jobs changed that mode of thinking by introducing a computer for the consumer.

“It was a totally different way of thinking about computers," says Devlin. "People thought he was crazy and told him there was no way every consumer would want a computer in their home.”

It's clear who won that argument. Nowadays, many people use the same computer at work and at home—a change that has dramatically altered how we work.

“Our boundaries of work and leisure have gone away; chances are you have business contacts in a file right next to a file of photos of your children,” adds Devlin.

Blurred lines have resulted in the emergence of a new definition of the workday. Just think about how many startups have ping pong tables in their offices. While the use of such playtime equipment may have raised eyebrows to businesspersons in the 60s and 70s, today’s employee knows that they’ll make up the work at a later time—thanks to the availability of the personal computer.

“The blurred lines between work and leisure has made work more pleasurable, but has also resulted in spending more time working—which has increased productivity,” Devlin points out. (Read more on work-life balance.)

Introducing Simplicity

It’s much easier to make something complicated than to make it simple—and this was part of Jobs’ genius, according to Carmine Gallo, communications coach and author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

“He taught us about simplicity; just think about Apple products—they are among the most simple, elegant and easy to use products out there; he did that by eliminating the clutter,” says Gallo.

This approach translated into his presentations, where he would captivate audiences with a simple photo or slide containing only one word.

“We all know about death by PowerPoint, but Steve taught us how to take a product launch and turn it into a theatrical event by just thinking simply—he taught us how to inspire, educate, inform, and be funny at the same time,” he says.

 Read more on Steve Jobs and technology.