A Simple Thought from the Life of Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011 at 8:48 am Leave a comment

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs[1]

When I was in college, I worked as a DJ at the number one radio station in Austin.  It was a country station, owned by a former mayor of Austin, and operated by a general manager who seemed to have a knack for picking the next country hit and formatting the station in such a way to draw in thousands upon thousands listeners – even those far beyond the Austin city limits.  But then, in 1998, the station was sold to a large conglomerate that operated hundreds of stations across the country.  The changes to station came almost instantaneously.  The corporation set up several focus groups, asking listeners what they wanted out of a country station.  Changes to the format were then made accordingly.  And the ratings plummeted.  In fact, they were cut in half.

How could this have happened?  After all, the corporation was only listening to the listeners!  But then, the listeners stopped listening to the very things for which they asked!  Perhaps they should have taken a lesson from Steve Jobs:  “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

There has never been, nor will there probably ever be, anyone quite like Steve Jobs.  He revolutionized – quite literally – the way we interact not only with technology, but they way we interact with each other and our world.  The products he dreamed up are everywhere.  In fact, I have to chuckle to myself even as I type this blog.  I am typing it on my MacBook Pro.  On my desk, sits my iPhone, on which I have already texted and talked this morning, as well as my iPad, on which I read the news of Steve Jobs’ passing.

One of the secrets to Steve Jobs’ success seems to have been his ability to dream.  Rather than reacting to what people wanted, he dreamed of what could be.  He figured that if his dreams of what could be captured his imagination, they might capture the imaginations of others as well.  Indeed, Jobs often described his own creations as “magical.”  Now there’s a word that captures the human imagination!

Apple’s products have certainly captured my imagination.  Just three years ago, I did all my work on a PC.  Now, I do everything on Apple products. Why?  Because Steve Jobs cast a vision for me of a highly integrated system of devices that would increase my productivity and, of course, be a lot of fun to use!  This is something I would never have dreamed of for myself.  But I’m happy that somebody dreamed it for me – and for countless others.

People don’t know always what they need.  So someone must dream what people need for them.  Understanding this simple truth has served as a catalyst for many of the most visionary corporations in our world today.  It is also the simple truth of the gospel.  The fact of the matter is this:  On our own, we do not know what we need.  We do not know that we need a Savior.  As Jesus tells the Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who thought they knew God well, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).  On our own, we cannot fathom the seriousness of our sinfulness.  On our own, we cannot confess the depth of our depravity.  On our own, we cannot recognize our requirement for a Redeemer.  This is why, rather than leaving us grappling to understand the desperate state of our wicked and wretched plight, God sends us Jesus to tell us what we need.  And what we need is simple:  We need Him.  And so Jesus gives us Himself on a cross to sanitize us from our sinfulness, destroy our depravity, and escort us into eternity.

Steve Jobs was a brilliant man.  And I am thankful for his life and his legacy.  But as great as his technological innovations may have been, they cannot save us.  They cannot save him.  Only Jesus can do that.  I hope you know that you need Him…even more than your iPad.

[1]Back To The Future At Apple,” Business Week (May 25, 1998).

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