"If I'd have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me 'A faster horse.'"
--Steve Jobs quoting Henry Ford, on why asking customers what they want is not always the best way to do things.
Fortune via CNN.Money.com has an excellent interview with Steve Jobs, perhaps the best we've read yet. This is not mere Apple-idolatry--Jobs lauds the company as usual, sure, but he also speaks candidly about self-doubt on a corporate level, reflects on Apple's failures, and offers some surprising insights. It's refreshing to see this kind of...well, humanity, coming from a key product planner and a guy who really gets industrial design.
Read on for a list of our favorite excerpts.On what drives Apple employees:
"We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we've chosen to do with our life. We could be sitting in a monastery somewhere in Japan. We could be out sailing. Some of the [executive team] could be playing golf. They could be running other companies. And we've all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. And we think it is."
On Apple's focus:
"Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we've got less than 30 major products. I don't know if that's ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully...I'm actually as proud of many of the things we haven't done as the things we have done."
On finding talent:
"When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They'll want to do what's best for Apple, not what's best for them, what's best for Steve, or anybody else.
"Recruiting is hard. It's just finding the needles in the haystack. We do it ourselves and we spend a lot of time at it. I've participated in the hiring of maybe 5,000-plus people in my life. So I take it very seriously. You can't know enough in a one-hour interview. So, in the end, it's ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they're challenged? Why are they here? I ask everybody that: 'Why are you here?' The answers themselves are not what you're looking for. It's the meta-data."