A VHS copy of a long lost 1995 interview with Steve Jobs was recently found in a garage. The interview is from when Jobs was at NeXT, shortly before returning to Apple. As these things do, it made its way online. Here are some choice comments, lightly edited.
On monopolies and innovation:
At Pepsi, a new product meant a new size. That happened once every 10 years. Product people couldn't influence the direction of the company, but sales and marketing people could, and so they were promoted.
The same thing happens in technology companies that get monopolies. When you have a monopoly, product people can't make the company more successful: you already own the market. The people who make the company more successful are sales and marketing. And they end up running the companies.
The product people get driven out of decision making and the companies forget what it means to make great products. The product genius that brought them to that market position gets wrought out by people who don't understand.
In business, a lot of things are folklore: They're done because they were done yesterday and the day before. If you're willing to ask questions and think about things you can learn business pretty fast. It's not rocket science.
I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer. It teaches you how to think. It's like going to law school.
Now, I don't think anybody should be a lawyer. But I think going to law school would actually be useful because it teaches you how to think in a certain way. Computer programming teaches you how to think in a different way.
I view computer science as a liberal art. It should be something that everybody takes a year to learn.
On talent and process:
People try to institutionalize process. Then people get confused and start to think that the process is the content. That's the downfall. The best people are great at content, and they're a pain the butt to manage.
On doing good work:
What does it mean when you tell someone their work is shit? It usually means their work is shit.
Sometimes it means, "I think your work is shit and I'm wrong." But usually it means that the work that they have done is not good enough to support the goal of the team.
You have to point out when work isn't good enough. Do it clearly. That's a hard thing to do, and I've always taken a very direct approach.
On building things:
John Sculley got a disease. The disease is thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work, and that if you just tell people about it, "here's this great idea," then of course they can go off and make it happen.
The problem is that there's a tremendous amount of craftsmanship between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out as it started out because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties. There are tremendous trade-offs you have to make.
Designing a product is keeping 5,000 things in your brain and fitting them all together and continuing to push to get them together in new and different ways to get what you want. And everyday you discover a new problem or new opportunity to fit them together a little differently.
It's that process that's the magic.
You can watch the full interview here: