As some of you know, I am fascinated by the complex character of Steve Jobs, who is one of the people featured in my forthcoming book (though not at all in his usual context).
So I enjoyed reading this interview with John Sculley, Jobs’ erstwhile nemesis (when Sculley pushed Jobs out of Apple in the 80s).
The interview may be too geeky for some of you, but I like it, first, because of the noble tone in which Sculley speaks. He is not bitter; he does no underhand sniping; he does not furtively try to redeem himself or get even. Sculley simply moves on from what was an extremely painful episode in the two men’s lives to evaluate — and bow to — the genius of his enemy.
(Steve Jobs, from everything I hear, has never got himself to take that same step.)
Sculley speaks, in other words, as Hannibal would speak about Scipio, or Scipio about Hannibal. Great men and women are ennobled by their enemies. Kudos.
Second, I like the interview for this glimpse into the nature of Jobs’ genius. Sculley:
What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do. He’s a minimalist… He is constantly reducing things to their simplest level. It’s not simplistic. It’s simplified. Steve is a systems designer. He simplifies complexity.
Simplicity is, of course, a big thread here on The Hannibal Blog. It is interesting that Jobs also admires Einstein, as I do (he is another main character in my book), probably because Einstein had that same yearning for elegance and simplicity. As Sculley recalls:
I remember going into Steve’s house and he had almost no furniture in it. He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly, and he had a Tiffany lamp and a chair and a bed. He just didn’t believe in having lots of things around but he was incredibly careful in what he selected.
Third, I like it for what I interpret as Steve Jobs’ instinctive nod to the Dunbar hypothesis.
Named after the anthropologist who came up with it, the thesis says that primates can form effective social groups only to the extent that their neocortex can compute the interactions among the group. The cognitive limit for human groups seems to be about 150. (I once worked with Facebook to find out whether technology might change that. Not hugely, it appears.)
Anyway, listen to Sculley:
Steve had a rule that there could never be more than one hundred people on the Mac team. So if you wanted to add someone you had to take someone out. And the thinking was a typical Steve Jobs observation: “I can’t remember more than a hundred first names so I only want to be around people that I know personally. So if it gets bigger than a hundred people, it will force us to go to a different organization structure where I can’t work that way.”