What is 1% Smarter?
Greetings fellow lifelong learners. 😎
Today’s topic is around people or interpersonal skills.
I came across this nice clip of Steve Jobs handling what could have easily been an awkward situation during the 1997 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
Now I know Jobs didn’t always have the best reputation for being the nicest of guys to work with (see for example here) but I still think we can learn something by observing how he handled the tricky question.
Firstly, here are the components of the “insulting” question that was asked of Jobs:
- “You’re a bright and influential man” – the guy in the audience opens with this to presumably soften the blow that is to come…
- “It is clear on several counts you don’t know what you’re talking about”
- “I would like you to express in clear terms…” – suggesting Jobs isn’t always clear or avoids answering questions directly.
- Questioned Jobs specifically on some technical issue which I am not entirely familiar with (something about Java and Open Docs). Basically criticizing some decision made by Jobs.
- “And when you’ve finished with that, perhaps you could tell us what you personally have been doing for the last seven years.” – ouch.
Here are some of my notes from observing how Jobs handled it👇
- He uses humor at the start and draws some laughs from the audience (makes a joke and playfully hides behind a stool).
- He never loses his cool. Notice how he remains completely calm the whole time.
- He uses a widely known truism: “you can please some of the people some of the time….”
- He uses pauses (for quite long too) to powerful effect. Showing he is not afraid of long silences.
- Says up front in his response that the gentleman was right – though he qualifies with “…in some areas…”
- Openly admits there are many things he doesn’t understand.
- Readily admits he was wrong before and he has learned from his mistakes.
- Appeals to the customer by explaining that everything Apple does starts with the customer experience in mind first and foremost.
- Towards the end he even apologizes to the guy who asked the question, saying “I’m sorry that Open Docs is a casualty along the way and I readily admit there are many things in life that I don’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about so I apologize for that too”
- Clarifies at the end that is just his own point of view. Acknowledges it is normal “some people will be pissed off.”
- Acknowledges that it is not perfect but it is still “so much better than where things were not that long ago and I think we are going to get there.”
Some side notes 📝
- He focuses on the “grand or big picture” – notice he made reference to a “cohesive larger vision”
- Apple’s secret to success? – Jobs put heavy emphasis on customer experience over engineering. He said “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it. I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room.” – perhaps this is one of Apple’s secrets to success?
So next time you face a tricky or borderline insulting question, I hope you can add some tools from the Steve Jobs playbook. 📔
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