Be like Steve Jobs: Hire smart people, learn from them 

  • Tim Neary | October 18, 2019
Steve Jobs. Apple Inc.

When Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do,” he was talking, according to Forbes, about empowerment. 

It’s clever and progressive and so typically blue-jeans-black-sweater that many, many business leaders have aimed to clone it. But just as many don’t have the follow-through to pull it off. 

And what they do when they don’t is kill creativity. It’s a mistake, obviously, and not one that SJ would have taken lightly. 


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Forbes calls Apple a "historic leader" in innovation.

"Because they hire the best and they coach their people to believe in their abilities and encourage them towards autonomous decision making and idea realisation. It's a leader’s job to motivate people to go places they wouldn’t otherwise go. But when you tell employees where to go, and how to get there, it squashes their desire to come up with great new ideas.” 

The Independent says Apple's leaning into out-of-the-box thinking is all on Jobs, calling him "unconventional" and "a genius". 

It says Jobs knew from day one he was onto something special with the Macintosh. And he knew to take it all the way he’d need to hire special people. He just didn’t know (frustratingly) who they were, or how to find them. 

Early years

Now, says The Independent, a video from the 80s has resurfaced where young Steve tells of his early hiring mistakes, and how he made them right. 

 “Jobs says his early hires of what he called ‘professionals’ didn't do well,” it adds. 

“It didn’t work out at all,” recounts Jobs on the video, “Most of them were bozos. They knew how to manage but they didn’t know how to do anything.”  

So Jobs changed his search, instead going after “people that were insanely great at what they did but were not necessarily seasoned professionals.” It worked. He hired them, empowered them, and changed the world.   

But a warning from Forbes - empowerment isn’t a free for all.

“Empowering people doesn’t mean letting employees do whatever they want,” it says. 

“Formalise empowerment by setting boundaries that give people room to be creative while keeping them in alignment with the organisation. Giving employees permission to learn, whether it’s seeking outside learning, experience sharing or allowing them to recover from and learn from their mistakes is a great place to start.”


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