Sunday, January 18, 2009

Burk on Books: Inside Steve's Brain

Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney
Published by Portfolio (the Penguin Group) in April 2008
ISBN: 591841984

“Inside Steve’s Brain” by Leander Kahney is a nice little read (7.2 x 5.4 inches and under 300 pages) that is both entertaining and educational. The Steve in the title is, of course, Steve Jobs and the book provides a look into how he thinks about things like leadership, user experience, product design, and teamwork.

The introduction describes parts of Jobs’ career and private life. The next six chapters focus on his personality traits and how they impact the way he (and Apple) works. The last two chapters describe how it all comes together and enables Apple to do things other companies seem to find difficult to emulate.

Each chapter ends with a list of “Lessons from Steve” and while we may not have the ability to follow all of them ( “Partner only with A-players and fire bozos” – who wouldn’t love to do this!) they are still worth remembering. The book includes a case study of how it all came together with the iPod, and ends with a look at why Jobs (and by extension, Apple) keeps producing closed systems (think iPod, or Mac) while the rest of the industry produces open systems that allow the user to plug in third party hardware. While this is controversial, it does make sense from a certain point of view; doing so allows Apple a tighter integration between the hardware and software, which means a more pleasant user experience with both.

The book is interesting and thought-provoking. Whether or not you are a fan of Steve Jobs and Apple, you must admire the loyalty of their customers base; they must be doing something right. Any of us should be thrilled if our customers felt the same about us. So maybe it’s worth spending a little time exploring the territory “Inside Steve’s Brain.”

P.S. You an go to a page on the book's website ( and see a three minute video of the author talking about the book. Or better yet, download the Introduction and see if it appeals to you before you buy the book.

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