Innovation lessons SMEs can learn from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs will be revered as one of the greatest innovators of the past three decades.

The secret to his success aside from his keen eye for design and consumer electronics lies in being able to create a vision, innovate new products within that vision and replicate this over and over.

Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple was focused on creating new ideas that no other company was working on. This is a legacy that he leaves behind and one entrepreneurs need to observe.

In a nutshell, here are seven lessons to take away:

Do what you love

When asked how entrepreneurs can hope to replicate his success, during a digital conference last year, Jobs’ response was “ you need to have a passion for what you do” He is also quoted saying that one should have the courage to follow their heart and intuition because they somehow already know what you truly want to become.

Jobs was successful because he cared about his products; he was so hands-on that he finalized key details, including the exact weight of products, to the wood to be used in apple’s retail stores. His love for what he did caused him to place such a high priority on seemingly unimportant bits and pieces.

Put a dent in the universe

Many wonder why the iPhone continues to sell millions of products while others fail to reach the same level of success – the reason is Apple’s focus on creating something new.

Part of Jobs’ skill was fore vision- being able to see where a market would be in two or three years and getting there ahead of time by creating products that suit the vision of the future. Steve Jobs was famous for  Apple would rather gamble on its own vision rather make “me-too” products. Creating something new is always better than copying. Your success will be greater than if you created a slightly better version of something that already exists.

Get creative

Many entrepreneurs are intelligent thinkers, but few are creative. Jobs once said that the reason Mac was successful was because “the people working on it were musicians and poets, artists and zoologists and historians; who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

Successful innovators need to be creative and foster creativity within their own businesses. Don’t restrict your staff, or yourself, from bringing up new ideas

Sell dreams, not products

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is that they sell a product without the reasons why someone should buy it.

Consider Apple’s marketing of the iPad. Its advertisements show families connecting via FaceTime, children learning to write, and board members reading reports on the fly, backed by the comforting, simple sounds of an acoustic guitar or piano. The message is simple – the iPad will help you be creative, work and connect with your family, and it’s easier than what you’re doing now.

Successful innovators identify problems, tell their customers how they can fix it, and then introduce a product. Sell the idea of your product and what it can do, not just the product itself.

Say no to 1,000 things

In 1998, Steve jobs returned to Apple to help straighten the company out. He lamented taht Apple was heading in too many directions without much focus. He once said that having focus was the ability to say “no”.

As an innovator you need to learn when a product isn’t good enough and when you can do better. Like an editor, an innovator’s work is to cut out the worst parts of a product, and then work on the promising parts.

Create insanely great experiences

Most smart phones in the market can do more than the iPhone, but iPhone still outsells them. Why is this? It just works!

Most people want simplicity and power. They want to be able to do all sorts of things with their computers, but don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to do it. Apple products are powerful, yet simple. Their user interfaces are so easy to use that children can operate them.

Innovators must not only create good products, but recognise the experience of using them is just as important. Your product might be powerful, but if it doesn’t “just work”, then you’ve wasted your time.

Be in control of your message

One of Apple’s biggest successes this past decade has been its ability to control a cohesive message and brand. Jobs has steered the company away from a complicated, unattractive mess, to a firm that is inherently tied with attractive, simplistic design. Less is more

Controlling your company’s message is critical to good innovation. Building a brand helps cement your company in the minds of your customers, and that message needs to permeate throughout the entire business and its values.

Part of being able to innovate is also being able to create a cohesive message. Too many businesses fail because they don’t have a singular vision. Build one, and then ensure it stays intact.