As I sat stunned by the news that Apple Chairman Steve Jobs - technology visionary, founder of two computer companies and master marketer - had died , I couldn't help but think about his life and career, both at Apple and during his time away at NeXT and Pixar.
Lately we've seen a series of CEO shufflings and near-scandals in the tech world - most recently at HP and Yahoo - along with CEOs that never quite seem to live up to their role in major companies. I think that there are some prescient lessons that CEOs and managers in all sectors and in companies of all shapes and sizes can learn from Jobs' example.
Be committed to excellence - Steve Jobs was nothing if not a perfectionist, and many of Apple's most successful products (the original Mac, iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad) grew out of his seemingly endless quest for a product or a company to be the very best it could.
Keep it simple - One hallmark of many of Apple's recent products like the iPhone and iPad (both creations of Steve and Jonathan Ives) is their simplicity. The concept of a device or of a piece of software is pared down to its core - leaving something that is uncluttered, easy to learn, and looks beautiful in its minimal approach.
Design matters - All of Apple's products, from OS X to the iPad to Apple's retail stores, have a signature look and feel to them. That's unique for such a diverse company but it instantly communicates itself. Design, be it industrial, graphic or architectural, matters immensely, and should easily communicate itself to customers and clients.
The user experience begins at the store - This is where Apple retail and product packaging is brilliant. It sets the mood for a product, guides the customer, excites them and takes them on a journey from the first second of an unboxing through the day-after-day use of a product. User experience is a key part to almost any company -- even when it may not seem obvious.
Marketing is about understanding and connecting with people - Entire books have been written about Jobs' ability to market solutions. Apple's iPad and iPhone commercials are successful for a single reason: they don't focus on tech specs that many viewers won't understand and they don't focus on special effects or other gimmicks. They simply show someone using the device, which let's the viewer connect to it in their mind and begin to understand it and why they might want it.
Be involved in every facet of your organization - During Jobs' time as Apple's CEO, the organization chart resembled a wheel with Steve at the center and managers or departments as the spokes. That almost certainly won't work for most other CEOs, but being aware of what's going on in every part of a company -- and taking an active interest and role in those disparate elements -- builds a better, more tightly connected team.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.