Steve Jobs was a legend, a genius, a pain in the neck and the best CEO of his generation. The man created Apple (AAPL), got sent into exile then returned to invent the company all over again. It was the greatest comeback in 2,000 years, outdoing Napoleon's return from Elba and Muhammad Ali reclaiming the Heavyweight crown.
Jobs passed away one year ago today. So far there isn't much evidence that Apple is willing to deviate from his playbook. "There is no way, given the lead time that he had on his disease, that he would not have, I think, had his fingerprints all over the product road-map for at least the next decade," says Eric Jackson, founder of Ironfire Capital in the attached video.
If Jackson is right, and he probably is, Apple should stop following the map. In order to keep its title as the epitome of excellence and style, Apple needs to let go of the past and start creating the future again.
The HP Way
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) had not one but two charismatic, legendary founders. When Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard finally left HP they sealed their offices like living time capsules. To this day the rooms remain lovingly untouched. "The HP Way" represents the company's core values and remains a core element of a new hire's indoctrination.
The garage in which Hewlett and Packard created the company is literally a museum, celebrated as the birthplace of Silicon Valley. There's no word yet where the Valley's cemetery will be located but it's almost time for HP to start looking for a good plot.
There's nothing wrong with respecting core values and honoring the founder(s) of a company. HP truly is a visionary set of core values to which all companies should be held. But it's a set of building blocks, not a business plan. A museum has no place at a tech company. It's not entirely coincidental that HP is being dragged down in large part due to being consistently slow to adapt.
Legacy Issues & Mickey Mouse
Disney (DIS), of which Jobs was the largest shareholder at the time of his death, very nearly went bankrupt asking itself "what Walt would do?" It took a corporate raid by the Bass brothers and the brilliant Richard Rainwater to make Disney start asking what they should do instead. Disney started becoming great again when the raiders hired Michael Eisner, a man who was able to balance respect for the past with a vision for the future.
Jobs and Walt Disney had much in common, not the least of which was unrelenting confidence in their own abilities. In not one of the thousands of pages written about either man is there any evidence that they made decisions based on what they thought someone else would have done. They were visionaries, not psychics.
People at Apple already know what Jobs would do. He would come up with an amazing idea then relentlessly push his people until the vision became reality. For Apple to remain great that's exactly what they should do.
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- Steve Jobs