Book Review: Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney

3 min read

Original Title: Inside Steve’s Brain
Author: Leander Kahney
Published: 2008

Compared to a similar book from the same series (about founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin) this book is better written and actually gives you a deeper dive into Steve´s management style, how he leads the company, and some tangible advice. Reason for that can also be that Apple has (or had with Steve Jobs) a different dynamic of work compared to Google, as Steve Jobs was very involved in development of hardware and software. He tested everything on him first, he was customer and user zero.

What I really appreciate about this book is that almost every chapter ends with a several pieces of (about ten) advice based on Steve Jobs´s experience and management style, and summarizing the previous chapter.

What I take from this book

Focus

Focus on areas in which you can excel, as a person, as a manager, as a team and as a company. Do only things you can do and delegate everything else. Focus is the power to say No. To be able to decide which task and project you should do and which to delegate, cancel or save for another day. Apple used to make about five hundreds different products and variations and after his return to Apple, Steve Jobs reduced it to four. Once they felt confident in this core, they added some more.

Creating process

And when creating anything, involve everybody, involve people from different parts of business. Engineers, developers, sales, marketing, customer support. Good idea can come from anywhere.

Do the bare minimum, stop the snowball effect with the functions. Simplicity is one of the advantages of Apple products.

Nothing was perfect from the beginning, things had to be improved. Build prototypes and versions, iterate and track and map the changes and decisions why it is exactly like that.

Build the team

Surround yourself with the best people possible. Get rid of anybody who does not meet your standards. And be cautious about the size of the team – more people does not automatically mean better and more work done.

Get rid of people who just nod. Support discussions and arguments, that is a great way to improve the product and its functions, justify them or find the ways to promote them.

As a manager you need to also lead the team. You need to appreciate people when they do an excellent job and yell at those who will mess it up. You need to find a balance between carrot and stick to motivate your team to move forward.

Fun fact

Mouse and graphic user interface were originally developed by Xerox. Unfortunately for them, their managers did not see its potential and it was gathering dust in the research laboratories. (Before that, computers were controlled by typing commands or navigating through a list of files with your arrow keys. Just google MS-DOS.)

My recommendations

I think this is a good book for anybody who is planning to start a new role of manager to lead a team or project, or somebody who is about to hire a first employee and wants to start planning and figure out their management and leadership style, team or company values, rules and principles. And because people are not usually preparing themselves for such roles, I would highly recommend reading it exactly for that reason as it might give you a little kick to start actually thinking about your upcoming role.

And as I mentioned, after every chapter there is a summary in the form of tips and advice for you as a manager based on Steve Jobs, so if you are in a hurry, read at least the notes.

Is this book a keeper?

No. Even though it is beneficial to re-read the book, it is not a book for a good night reading. I would read it again only if you are preparing for a new role of a people manager.

Marek Le Xuan

Hello there! I'm Marek Le Xuan, passionate educator, prudent planner, life-long learner, and Google Sheets lover. On this and other platforms, I share ideas, tools, and practices about entrepreneurship, self-improvement, planning and lifestyle design, so enthusiastic individuals and organizations like you can achieve their goals in life and business. My mission is to help you own it, be a badass and kick ass!