IPBlog would be remiss in not commenting on the death of Steve Jobs, and we asked Glenn Foster, Founder, Multitech Synergies, why Jobs was special. It appears every Founder/ CEO who really drives innovation in their organization has 1) the perfect multi-technology background for their company, and 2) the perfect ability to drive others in the cross-technical areas in which they are not expert. Edison was able to create GE not only because he was the consummate EE/ME with the most patents issued to date of any inventor, but also because he knew how to handle other EE experts like Steinmetz and keep them focused on their tasks. Bill Gates was able to craft Microsoft not only because he was programming software since a young teenager (very rare at his time), but because his other skills (perhaps honed while playing poker at Harvard) taught him how to deal with the likes of IBM. Also, Gates let Allen and Ballmer handle the business end at Microsoft, tasks they were well suited to (and Gates did not care as deeply about).
This premise that founders are almost always the correct "multitech" combination for successful companies applies to innovator-founders not only at Apple, but at Ford, Boeing, Bell, Google, Toyota, and Amazon.com. The optimum mixture of multitech skills can be correlated to the oft-used but seldom understood term “vision,” as vision also entails utilizing others in the organization to perform to the best of their abilities. That is why Lean and Six Sigma production and management techniques that flourish at such multi-technology companies are so different from more traditional management techniques that rely on my-way-or-the highway management concepts. Steve Jobs has been the most multitech founder and CEO in a very long time, likely since Edison. Perhaps he was our greatest. Not only are the Macintoshes, iMacs, iPhones, and iPads software centric, but they are incredibly hardware centric. The hardware aspects of all of these devices satisfy the Bilski test, and Apple has a very successful patent portfolio (as almost all multitech companies do). Steve Jobs had the ability to tie in all of the computer, mechanical, and electrical technologies so well, and do it with style, a certain sexiness, and an enviable coolness not defined by age group. Consider that prior to the iPod and successive products, the leader in this market was Sony. How cool and innovative did Sony’s Walkmans look at the time compared to the iPads now? Once a multitech visionary like Steve Jobs dies or leaves a company like Apple, there is seldom any one to take their place. Consider the list of multitech visionary founders and companies above, and how each of the companies struggled when their founder left. (We saw what happened to Apple much earlier when Jobs was removed.) What is needed at that point if a company is to succeed is either another cross-technical visionary (like Jack Welch or Lee Iacocca) to be able to get the entire company to function as one, or the adoption of Lean Six Sigma management techniques. Good luck to Apple. Good bye to Steve Jobs.