"The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs" : New Book Review

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs book

Who of us would not include Steve Jobs in our top three innovators? Indeed, wouldn’t many put him at number one?

After all, Jobs is the CEO of Apple, the company that has customers queuing up overnight to be the first to get their hands on the latest product launch, be it the I-phone or the I-pad.

So what are the ingredients in Jobs’s particular brand of innovation pixie dust? A new book The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo promises to reveal all.

Described by Gallo (The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs 2009), in the first chapter as ‘the ultimate field guide to breakthrough success in business and in life’, I wondered whether such a ‘cross over’ positioning of business and self-help might be problematic. But no, it works. Indeed the book confirms what we have long suspected that specific personality traits of Steve Jobs have been critical to the success of Apple. It confirms that successful leaders often weave many aspects of their personality into the fabric of the culture of their organisation.

Seven Principles

The book is arranged around seven principles that we are told have influenced Steve Jobs and driven his success. I don’t think we’re meant to believe that Jobs operates with these seven principles consciously front of mind. Rather, it is Gallo’s research that has identified these as recurring themes in Jobs’s success.

My one criticism of the book is that these principles are described as ‘insanely different’ which is hyperbole. Listed out, these principles would not greatly surprise anybody, particularly those who read business books. Many of the usual suspects are there – “do what you love”, “sell dreams, not products” and “say no to 1000 things”.

No, the principles are not ‘insanely different’ but that does not leave the book without a raison d’être.

Far from it, I found the book inspiring and that was due to the stories and examples that support the principles. Drawn from the last thirty years, this ‘evidence’ covers the whole period from the time that Apple was a start-up, through its dramatic rise and fall, and rise again. Because of this longitudinal view, we can see how these principles really can deliver business success. My one caveat would be that it is likely that Jobs adheres to the principles with a perfectionism and energy that is greater than average.

Greater Vision - More Passion

And this is key, because the book shows us that while vision is important to Jobs – Jobs has greater vision.

We learn that in the late 1970s there was no personal computer industry. It took Jobs to envision it. On Jobs's 1979 visit to PARC, the research and development centre of Xerox, he learned that scientists there had developed a graphical user interface (GUI) that allowed users to interact with computers via icons on the screen rather than using text based commands. Jobs realised that the GUI was a key technology in putting computers into the hands of everyday people.The Xerox researchers who didn’t really have a vision for the computer industry had missed the full implications of their discovery. The visit to PARC was the starting point for developing the first Apple computers.

We learn that passion, another of the principles is important, but once again Gallo’s stories to demonstrate this, reveal that perhaps Jobs has greater passion than other entrepreneurs – passion for his products and for his customers. We hear that success for Jobs is about his customers ‘falling in love’ with his products – that’s aiming high!


This brings us to emotion. Indeed, one of the key things that differentiates Jobs from many CEOs appears to be his determination to consider both the rational and the emotional in business.

In contrast to those who have been encouraged, often through a business school training to be doggedly objective, data driven and coolly analytical, Jobs gives the emotional side equal credence - if not more, sometimes. Design is obviously key to Apple products – both function and aesthetics. But this emotional approach also impacts on strategy. We learn that “Steve does not think conventionally, nor does he underestimate the power of an emotional experience that doesn’t always fit conveniently into a spreadsheet.”

Furthermore Jobs’s language is infused with the emotional notes that inspire colleagues and customers. He described his ambition for the Mac OS X  launched in 2000 as “ wanting to make the screen look so good that you’d want to lick it.”!

A Different Kind of CEO

At the heart of this book we learn that Steve Jobs’s approach is fundamentally different from that of many CEOs.

Business is not about making money for him, it is about changing the world, making people happy, enriching lives. Steve believed that if he got all these right, then the money would come along almost as a ‘by product’ – and history has proved this.

Gallo draws on a wide range of published sources and insider insights to create a thought provoking and energising book. His succinct style and pithy insights challenge the reader to consider how their business/life might benefit from applying the Jobs approach.

Ultimately this text shows us that Jobs is a born innovator. His vision and imagination border on the superhuman, his self belief is rock solid and his intuition acts as a personal compass he can rely on.

No matter how much we follow Jobs’ ‘secrets’ I feel that few of us will become as innovative as him. However, the principles in this book and the inspiration from how Jobs uses them are a valuable resource for anyone with ambitions to innovate. Improving your skill in just one area of his 'innovation secrets' is likely to yield rewards.

A Practice For The Long Term

Be warned, these ‘principles’ won’t provide a quick fix. For me the opportunity is to use them more like a yoga practice – commit to them for the long term and keep working on the postures (principles) even when progress seems quite slow.

Just as the apparent flexibility and longevity of the yoga master can offer inspiration to the yoga student to maintain a yoga practice, until she too, is rewarded by greater flexibility and healthfulness. Observing Jobs’s success over his career can reassure us that there is much to be gained from working with these principles over the long term.


The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo will be published October 2010 By McGraw-Hill. 234 pages.

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