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Updated 24 Sep 2020

Steve Jobs helped Apple grow by doing less

To build a business, it might seem logical to increase your product offerings, but is this always a good idea? Apple’s Steve Jobs didn’t think so. 

GG van Rooyen, Entrepreneur, 24 May 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after years of exile, he found a company with way too many fingers in way too many pies. Apple was hedging its bets, building a multitude of products in the hopes that one or two would be hits.

At the time, Apple had more than 30 products in production. Jobs wasn’t impressed. He called a meeting, during which he proceeded to draw a two-by-two grid on a whiteboard. He labelled the columns ‘Consumer’ and ‘Pro’, and the rows ‘Desktop’ and ‘Portable’.

These, according to Jobs, were all Apple should be focusing on: One desktop and one portable solution for both consumers and professionals. With one single blow, he had reduced Apple’s product offerings from 30 to four.

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products,” he said.

Related: Richard Branson on entrepreneurial determination

When Larry Page was looking for advice on how to steer Google to greatness, Jobs had the following to say.

“The main thing I stressed was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.”

The above is recounted by Walter Isaacson, who wrote a biography on Steve Jobs. He has also written an illuminating article for Harvard Business Review titled The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs, which can be found online.

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GG van Rooyen, Entrepreneur

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