Science & Technology

Steve Jobs "Made Business Cool Again"


Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel eulogizes Steve Jobs as the man who "made business cool again":

Apple's rapid success, by contrast, made quite an impression. Before long, the ideal of the loyal company man working his way to the top was being replaced by the ideal of the brilliant, arrogant college dropout conquering the world before he was 30: the entrepreneur as Alexander.

Business became more like sports or fashion: a topic of social conversation, a source of rooting interest and an expression of personal taste. The cultural, or even religious, war between Apple and Microsoft devotees would have been as inconceivable in 1981 as a "brand evangelist" or a corporate chieftain who appeared in public without a tie.

Now, by contrast, people far removed from the executive suite, working in entirely different companies or even completely different industries, have strong opinions about what strategies Apple or Microsoft or General Motors or Wal-Mart or Amazon should pursue.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work," Jobs said in a 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, which has been much quoted in recent days. "And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."

Jobs and the new raft of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that got big in the 1980s redefined work as something more akin to artistic struggle - the building over a lifetime a body of work that grew and took on some sort grand narrative shape like Balzac's Human Comedy.

This view upended far more conventions than what bosses wore or whether the Foosball table was a standard part of the corporate HQ. Postrel again: "The aspirations for pleasure and self-expression that the sociologist Daniel Bell had condemned as the cultural contradictions of 'capitalism' turned out to be its fuel." Nobody, Postrel reminds us, wonders why Jobs kept working after he'd made a pile of loot: He liked to create and work was a way of pursuing his passion.

All of us who work in less-punishing literal and figurative office spaces than our parents owe Jobs something on that score. And I say that as someone who lost interest in Apple pc products for the most part after writing a Master's thesis on a Apple IIe and working at an early job on a Lisa and then the first generation of true Macs.

Read the whole thing at Bloomberg

Read this: "John Markoff, author of What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, told a D.C. audience at a December [2005] event hosted by the Copyright Clearance Center, both [Steve Jobs and Bill Gates] have acknowledged the formative effect of dropping acid, with Jobs going so far as to call it "one of the two or three most important things that he'd done in his life."

And read Nick Schulz's recent appreciation of the role of epic failure in Jobs' long-run success.

Last night's open thread on Jobs.