Considering the impact Steve Jobs has had on Apple, you’d think the folks there would have poured his essence into some sort of supercomputer to guide them along the journey ahead. Believe it or not, though, Jobs left very different instructions before his untimely death. Al Gore, who sits on Apple’s board, told Walt Mossberg all about those at AllThingsD’s AsiaD conference:
10:20 am: Walt: So, no offense to Tim Cook, at what point does the lack of having Jobs at the helm of the company become apparent? There’s a pipeline, “but at some point that pipeline runs out, and then what happens?”
10:21 am: Gore: Steve cultivated a team, “and we had discussions at every single board meeting, for several years, about cultivating that team”. No one will replace him, and he’s totally unique. “And yet, he also served on the board of Disney… and he used to talk initially about how after Walt Disney died, the company always got in trouble about asking ‘what would Walt do in this situation.?’ And he made it very clear ‘I don’t want that.’ He made it clear to Tim Cook and everyone else ‘Don’t ask what Steve would have done. Follow your own voice.’”
When asked if he expects "risk-taking and game-changing" from the Apple team, Gore responded, "Of course. Everyone on that management team could be CEO of a world class corporation." Encouraging words for sure.
Jobs’ instructions pretty much go along with what he said in that famous Stanford commencement address:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice; and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become
I think that, at the pace the tech industry is going, turning Apple into a rigid and dogmatic institution would probably lead it down the path of irrelevance all too quickly. If the company remains sufficiently flexible and open to change, its talented work force and unique corporate culture could take care of the rest, keeping Apple a driving force in the industry even without Jobs at the helm.