What Can We Learn From Steve Wozniak About Launching Apple?

3 October, 2017 / Articles
Idea concept with row of light bulbs and glowing bulb

Launching anything is tough. Launching something that becomes an iconic global brand like Apple can be daunting. So, how did Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak think about the process and what can we learn from this?

Work with others to refine an idea

No launch is ever done in silo. No matter talented or capable anyone is, we all need each other to test out and refine ideas, if not for emotional support. Even before Apple started, Wozniak spent time speaking with other individuals about what computers can do and how people can benefit from them. Those people may not be in the Apple history book, but to Wozniak, they were co-founders. He took this so seriously that when Apple went public, he gave 5 of those early “co-founders” $20 million of his own stock.

“They were a part of it, and there’s a rightness and a wrongness to these things. In addition, I gave 80 other employees $20 million of my own stock pre-IPO, so they could each get a house from it. If it were that successful, why shouldn’t all the workers benefit from it?” he says.

Part of working together in teams is key to recognizing the value that others bring and just as they’ve invested in your success, be generous back and invest in their success.

Allow others to build on the idea

No good idea grows in a vacuum. If we have a good idea, chances are, it’s built on other existing good ideas. So if we want to see our idea become even better, why don’t we invite others to build on top of it. When you think about some of the most enduring ideas in human history, they are found in literature (think Shakespeare) and art (Monet’s haystacks). What enables these works to capture our imagination and last through the test of time? They have a life of their own in that they inspire other pieces of art. They are generative. Think of the number of iterations and versions that have been created around Romeo and Juliet, in different forms. I don’t think Shakespeare may recognize his own work in some of the modern day form, but he inspired them.

Same goes for any launch idea. If we want the idea to become the best version(s) that it can be, invite others to participate in its co-creation.

Wozniak shares how he thought about this in the Apple story and the critical role that Open Innovation played.

He says:

Computers have enabled us to collaborate in ways that were unprecedented before. At Apple, we could leave things open, so people could buy and modify things for their needs, and sell a different version. Or we could keep it closed, to have total control over everything and not give anyone else credit.

Some of apple’s greatest jumps into success were when they were most open. When we wrote iTunes for windows, so those without Mac could use iPod, sales doubled, and our stock started a huge climb. The Apple product that has made the most difference in my life is the third party App Store. That has generated all of these incredible apps and the ability for every single restaurant or hotel to have their own app.

Treat your launch as continuous learning journey.

The best launchers never stop learning. They have this deep sense of curiosity about the world around them. Here’s how Wozniak thinks about curiosity in the context of launch:

  1. There’s two ways to think of education: intelligence, which means learning a lot of facts, and the other side of education where we learn how to think. That’s creativity. We are born with imagination. We are born curious, we’re born to explore, to find out how the world works, and to create new things. That’s nature in us, but from early on, a lot of times, our environment tell us no. Don’t go off in a different direction than others, or you will get a bad grade. That spoils a lot of creativity.
  1. Ask people questions. It’s much better when you teach yourself and don’t learn straight out of a book. The best education is when you discover how to do something yourself.

Be passionate about what you engage in.

You should believe in whatever you are launching.  For Wozniak, computers and education are his passion. As he shares:

I didn’t think I could have a job in computers, but I just loved doing it. In college, I bought every computer manual in the University bookstore for classes I wasn’t even allowed to take. I would spend my weekends reading every chapter and answering every question. By the time class started, I was half way through the book. Why? Because if you love something so much, you can’t be held back

Take joy in what you do.

Wozniak had this parting thought. Happiness is the most important thing, and smiles are key to creativity. I’ve had a very happy life. I went after jokes and pranks, laughs with friends, which made my days light throughout life.

So while you may not be launching a company like Apple, the capability to launch something impactful and meaningful is at your fingertips. Just remember to engage others, include others in building on your ideas, be curious, be passionate and have fun.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.

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