Learn to Make Smarter Strategic Decisions from Steve Jobs

Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was known for being a visionary, a perfectionist, a taskmaster, and a master of marketing. But he was also one of the most effective and brilliant business leaders in history. Even someone with an advanced business degree, could still learn from him.

That’s because Jobs was able to bridge the gap between theory and practice when it came to strategy. One of Jobs’ hallmarks was smart decisions — sometimes they were downright brilliant.

Not that he was above mistakes. But more often than not, Jobs did exactly what the companies he lead needed. He started by understanding some fundamentals of successful business:

  • Every product and service should excel at what it does.
  • Marketing is the process of connecting with the customers in a real way, not doing what you like and then rationalizing that it was for the customer.
  • Pare things down to the essentials: what consumers want and how you provide it is what counts. Everything else is window dressing.
  • When the world flattens you, get back up and keep going.
  • Love what you do.

Principles are vital to good decision making because they provide a framework for what you want to achieve and help set priorities of what must happen. But that is only the start. Ideas, not organizational structure, must rule. Here’s something that Jobs once said to the journalist Walt Mossberg:

If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to, you have to, be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay.

Making a smart decision has to be more important than who makes the decision. Only then is the “right” decision the one that pushes forward the ideas, not the person who said them. Look at any of the major decisions that Jobs made during his career, and you’ll see how these principles informed and supported them and how he made them. With the principles in place, Jobs could then be open to change.

There were multiple times that he took a company in a completely different direction from where it had previously gone. For example, before Pixar made award-winning animated feature films, it produced advanced graphics hardware. But when it was clear to Jobs that the value the company could bring was in what it did with the hardware, he got it out of that business and into entertainment. Finally, good decision making also requires courage. If you buckle under resistance, you can’t make a good decision because you won’t stand buy it. Will these ideas make you into the next Steve Jobs? No, but they might help you to become who you are meant to be.

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