You can’t throw a stone on the Internets right now without hitting ten dozen posts on What Steve Jobs Taught Us. Or perhaps, What We Can All Learn from Steve Jobs. Or something identical. I’ve got a problem with all this.

I don’t think we have too much to learn that we can actually apply.

This isn’t the first time we’ve gone down this path in recent memory. How You Can Apply the Social Media Strategies of Barack Obama ring a bell? Equally useless.

The problem with both is that you’re not them. You’re not the taste-maker who happened to be the guy the moment the moment arrived. Hell, even Steve Jobs wasn’t Steve Jobs a few years ago. He only became Steve Jobs in the last couple of years. Same with the current president.

You can’t be them. Circumstances aren’t the same.

In particular, though, I push back on the idea that somehow the reader of whichever article or post or diatribe or webinar will think that they can take this advice to heart and it will somehow help his or her career, brand or company. In most cases – in fact, in nearly all cases – your aping the behaviors that ostensibly characterized this business icon will drive you and your colleagues crazy and probably to ruin, as well.

Examples? Here are a few. Feel free to add your own.

Never listen to your customers. They don’t know what to think.

Wait, I thought this was the age of social media? I thought that co-creation was all the rage? No? Hell. Wrong again.

And to hell with social media, while we’re on the subject.

You have a problem with your Charter internet connection? Tweet it. They’ll be on you in sixty seconds. iTunes software crash again? iPhone can’t send emails again? Best of luck, amigo, because you’re on your own. Unless you’ve got a credit card. To be honest, I can’t think of a “major brand” that’s particularly active in social media to any serious degree. Disagree and provide examples if you’ve got a moment. Really, I don’t have a bone to pick with the social media world, it’s just that I’ve noticed that the leaders just don’t do it. Educate me if I’m wrong.

And before we forget about not listening, don’t listen to your people either. Make 100% of the decisions yourself.

I have too many Apple friends, most all of whom are ex-Apple now, who just laughed and nodded on this point. One guy made all the decisions at Apple, and if your name wasn’t Steve, it wasn’t you.

Create a culture of abject fear.

Great. This is just what I was looking for in an employer – internal secret police, a behind-the-Iron-Curtain sense of camaraderie, and worse. Seriously, I thought we were supposed to be friendly and happy, like Zappos. No? We’re supposed to be like this?

Design matters. We’re not just talking products either. We’re talking the total user experience, from un-boxing to beyond. Packaging, materials choice, user interface, the whole thing.

OK. I’m in. I believe. Apple packaging has influenced me strongly and I’ve taken those lessons to heart when designing them for my clients. Sony had this in the 1990’s, when I was there. And when Mr. Morita had his stroke, turning over the reins to his hand-picked successor, everyone said all would be well too.

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In short, it worked for Steve Jobs. Try this approach where you work and you’ll get the results you deserve. They might be fantastic and we’ll see your face on Time Magazine. They might not and maybe we’ll still see your face on the cover of Time Magazine, albeit in a different cover story entirely.

The funny thing is, I hear the same stories about Jeff Bezos – the closest thing we have to a true Apple killer out there today – and about Walt Disney.

From a results standpoint, you can’t argue with these guys.

Maybe that’s the lesson after all.


PS: Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.