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Steve Jobs – iVisionary

Since his untimely death, so many tributes to the co-founder of Apple have poured in from across the world that the internet has buckled under the weight of the words 'Steve Jobs'. It is a measure of the depth and breadth of his impact.

One thing in particular accounts for that impact: Jobs' foresight and vision in anticipating, and seeking to fulfil, people's needs and desires. This was not the result of the superior market research and technology consultancy; he disdained such services because he sought to generate new markets and products: 'You've got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology, not the other way around'.

This reverse progression is made difficult by the fact that most potential customers find it hard to articulate their needs and desires - either because they cannot imagine solutions or because they are looking for them in the wrong place. The generation that initially dismissed personal computers, mobile phones and emails as unnecessary is now the generation that cannot live without them. As Henry Ford is attributed with saying: 'If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would've said "a faster horse"'. Steve Jobs, arguably Ford's successor as the world's greatest entrepreneur, put it even more succinctly: 'A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them'. He used ice hockey to make his point: 'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.'

Jobs was no saint. His employees often found him arrogant, impolite and mercurial. Following complaints about his 'Management by Frightening' technique, he was ousted from the leadership of his company, only to return years later. He has also been criticised for bequeathing products to the world that encourage individualism, hedonism and social disintegration.

But the art of anticipating people's wants and needs before they know they have them, or whilst they are looking in the wrong place to satisfy them, belongs to the role of the seer. It is reflected in the lives of the great prophets, pastors, leaders and teachers of history. They are revered as visionaries because they saw people's needs and desires with greater clarity than did the people themselves and re-directed their search for gratification. All who seek to follow such leaders in the arena of ultimate needs and desires can find inspiration in Jobs' understanding of the human psyche.

Peter Heslam

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Steve Jobs follows Henry Ford as one of the world's greatest entrepreneurs
anticipating people's wants and needs belongs to the role of the seer