During Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address, President Obama honored the memory of Steve Jobs by underscoring the creative and technological engines that drive America. He also called attention to one of the necessary evils of progress: risk. “We should support … every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs,” said the president. “After all, innovation is what America has always been about.”
By embracing risks, Steve Jobs inspired his employees, his competition, and most of all his customers, who developed a cultish attachment to his products. So it was appropriate that even as Congress was applauding Jobs’ impact on the business world, the man who arguably knew the Apple founder best – his biographer, Walter Isaacson – was at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s Upper East Side telling a standing-room-only audience of 600 of insights gained during the two years he spent interviewing Jobs.
In this case, the questions were being asked by TIME managing editor Richard Stengel. Isaacson preceded Stengel as head of TIME – and had been Stengel’s boss – so the conversation included moments of nostalgia as well as some frank discussion about managerial styles. As a boss, of course, Jobs was famously prone to extreme bluntness, which was often construed as intentional meanness. Isaacson saw it a little differently. “He intuitively did not have that filter,” he explained, pointing to an example he witnessed first hand. “When the person at Whole Foods is making his smoothie and she’s taking too long, [most people] have a filter that says, ‘Don’t jump on her.’ But Steve was brutally honest.” Read the rest of this entry »