Posts Tagged ‘CEO’

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

My Letter to Steve Jobs at Apple when he was fired: What is the meaning of being a founder or The Invisble Hand

In 1985, less than 18 months after the launch of Macintosh, we all heard the stunning news inside Apple that sent shock waves throughout the company – Steve Jobs, the man behind the greatest personal computer ever built had in fact resigned from Apple in an apparent power struggle with the board. The person he had brought in – John Sculley, the marketing wiz from Pepsi was to be the new CEO.


How could this be? We all had just see the future last year didn’t we? In the grainy blue and gray tones depicting the dystopian future of the brilliant George Orwell’s 1984, directed by Ridley Scott right after the masterpiece The Blade Runner and conceived by the talented Steve Hayden at Chiat/Day said “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984, won’t be like 1984.”

It’s interesting what we remember when things have a deep impact on us. I remember where I was. I remember the air. I remember the sounds of the people clicking away at their keyboards programming. All packaged together in what I would get to know later as shock.

Some facts here – I did not know Steve Jobs personally at all. I was very very young. Though I worked at Apple, I had never worked for him directly. I had not met him or spoken to him in 1985. Yet how could hearing the loss of this visionary have such a profound and emotional impact on me?

I would only exchange the first words directly with him 12 years later, on an Air France flight in the upper deck long after he left Apple, founded Pixar and NeXt and with some amazing karma, was back at Apple and was flying to his first keynote at Apple Expo in France as CEO of Apple again.

Steve asked me on the flight— “Do I know you? Did you work at Apple?”

To which I replied, “No you don’t, and yes I worked at Apple and stayed after you left. The company, the products and the culture you created changed my life completely. Thank you.”


Steve would then go on and transform the company he had helped found, build insanely great products again like iPod, iPhone and iPad. And change the way we interact with devices- touch versus type.

Susan Kare, who worked for Steve—the digital graphic designer who created the UI icons of the original Macintosh, would go with Steve to NeXt continued to work with me on projects such as NetObjects and would later be one of the first founders of Glam Media.

So what about Steve Jobs leaving Apple in 1985 shocked my so deeply?

I remember sitting down and writing a letter to Steve. A letter that was sent, but in the drama that unfolded at Apple in Cupertino, probably never to be received or read. Last year,when I heard that Steve was deeply ill. and was fighting for his life, the memories of his impact resurfaced and I decided to try to remember what I felt when he first left Apple. So I did. And here it is. My letter to Steve Jobs. Originally written in 1985, transcribed from distant memory because it’s always best to say thanks for things that deeply move you and change your life forever.

Dear Steve,

As a software designer and engineer working for Apple, I was recently informed that you are leaving the company you helped found. Waves of emotion hit me when I heard this that I spent the last few days working through and the feelings that came up inside me are best summed up as—The meaning of being a Founder or The Invisible Hand.

Passion. The fire in the belly of you the founder to drive people to create  something much bigger than ourselves. Every part of Apple felt your passion for creating something great and that added to the fire in our own belly the desire to given everything we had.

Love. It is not building a product but doing something out of deep love. We said Changing the world, one person at a time, now realizing that it came from you. Great things come from the heart, you taught us to listen to it.

Courage. Giving the courage to not follow the norm and think out of the box—going against it all. Without courage, Apple could not have done all the great things we did.

Drive. Working at Apple was not a job, it was everything. Like they say in Cha-do, the Japanese Way of Tea—Give 100% of you to making tea. We could feel you were consumed by Apple, that helped awaken the parts of us that wanted to give everything we had.

Energy. The spirit of you is felt in every hallway and cubical. This essence brought us all together and gave the power that a few people could take on the world, and win.

Today, I feel the sad loss of you leaving Apple. Like an invisible hand that was once there and has suddenly been removed. Its strength will help us keep building and creating for a while, but will eventually be felt. I don’t know what happened for this to be, but Apple will be never the same without you.

From my heart, I want to thank you for this life changing experience and being a part of your company that helped transform the world.

Samir Arora

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The Art of Continuous Change or the World transformed by William Edwards Deming


Hobo seifu okoru

At each step, the clear wind arises

It was the early days of computing, and an average project at Apple ran 3-4 years. It was then I started to notice something – the longer the project, the more the delays. Something about the complexity of people working together over a period of time in a new field called software. Was very hard to do the 3 things: Features, Time, and Quality. And over and over the teams ended up on features that took much longer or had poor quality, that took even longer to fix. Specially complex were the operating systems and large applications.

W._Edwards_DemingIn one of these times, I was introduced to Deming.

Most people have not heard of Deming, or if they have, as a name after World War II – largely in manufacturing or sometimes as one of the core reasons Japan went from bad cheap transistor radios that break to the world leader in design and quality. Who was this man, and how was his learning essential for the web?

Here is what Wikipedia says about him:

“A number of Japanese manufacturers applied his techniques widely and experienced theretofore unheard of levels of quality and productivity. The improved quality combined with the lowered cost created new international demand for Japanese products.”

“The prevailing style of management must undergo transformation. A system cannot understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside. The aim of this chapter is to provide an outside view—a lens—that I call a system of profound knowledge. It provides a map of theory by which to understand the organizations that we work in.

“The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge. The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people.”

Gregory_Abowd-June2004Fast forward to 1992, the world wide web was still not known. A professor at Georgia Tech Gregory D. Abowd had decided to teach a course to computer science and design students on something that was developing in Silicon Valley called Rapid Prototyping Design based on the pioneering work that the team at Rae Technology was doing. The ideas started at Apple, but really got developed as a process at Rae.

In Alan Kay’s words – a point of view is worth a 100 IQ points.

What was interesting about this was by taking the view that projects should be done on very short time schedules, you not only change the point of view, you introduce the idea that it is far better to try and do and learn then plan and do perfectly. Or simply put, in Deming’s words, quality is not a by-product or secondary goal – it needs to be designed in the process. This simple notion is transformative- at a personal level in companies and in society at large.

One of the times I was with Nathaniel Brandon in LA, we spoke about this idea. His books talk about bringing 1% change in your life. The same principle here. How do you abandon the idea of a long term future where perfection exists, only to realize that you never actually can get there. And embrace the idea that you need short and mid-term projects with long term vision.

This idea that Deming had was a very big idea, and it has influenced my focus on the “process” and undoubtedly has lead to many successes in my life. What does this mean to me? This gets to the heart of creativity and productivity. After leaving Apple, I started to experiment with this – what would happen if we completely changed the way things were and instead of long large projects, we would start something small.

The largest change was to create a process around “Date, Quality, Features” instead of “Features, Date, Quality.” Today, this is deep in the vocabulary of the Internet and technology & media development. Getting products launched fast, that work, and then evolving creates an intimate bond with users. They are a part of what you build. As an example, NetObjects Fusion continued to have 10,000′s of “fans” because they helped participate in the building pf the product. Their ideas were heard and captured and responded to early part of the cycle.

Today, in the age of open source and Twitter, where information and media have become “real-time” it is good to look back and see how this was created. The human processes and focus are as much a part of the technological and social changes we have seen in the last decade as the ideas themselves. Also important is the notion of evolving and learning, as opposed to our focus on perfection. Being early or first makes a big difference.

Glam is a fascinating study in this. The company with focus on Vertical Media targeting women, is always on the technological try and build process. Some projects stick and have survived, others tried and merged into learning or newer projects. Perhaps it is this process and curiosity that allowed a company like Glam to launch one of the first “Real-time” applications on Twitter- before Twitter became a household name. This discovery and creativity allows for teams to come together and work and release things that can be category changing. I remain a firm believer that a culture that supports rapid prototyping, supports learning and evolving, ultimately supports innovation.

Even business plans can be like this. Startups in Silicon Valley wait far too long sometimes before trying something new. A culture of innovation needs to be flexible and above all – fast.

I launched one of the applications that was built using this process in 1992 for Macintosh. As many of you know, the entire architecture of Mac- hardware and operating system has gone through complete change, and to my surprise and excitement, it worked flawlessly. A great reminder to me of the Art of Continuous Change helping create long lasting value.

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Win, then Strike: the Art of Strategy, Takuan Soho Writings from a Zen Master to a Samurai


Victorious warriors win first and then go to war

Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

If there is but one Art of Strategy I would use before launching a product, a company or going up against a competitor, it would be this one. Far too many times you see people jump into a conflict, without thinking through the strategy of how to win. Once you are in the battlefield, Art of Strategy reduces to the Art of Street-fighting and its too late in most cases other than a lengthy drawn out conflict to easily win.

Ultimately, if possible I would change the first rule to: Win, without striking. Asking the question, Are you likely to succeed. If so how, and if not, what can you do to succeed.

Many a warrior has used this technique. Part of it is getting ready in mind or in attitude to win. But the art is actually deeper.

My path to understanding this came after many years at Apple, where we launched product after product, only to find ourselves always getting killed by Microsoft. True the products were always better in design, quality and ease of use. Yet we would find Microsoft at every step, out flanking any move that Apple made. It was only later that Apple changed its strategy, instead of Macintosh “for the rest of us” it became Macintosh for “design and desktop publishing” In doing so, Apple survived and grew to be a great company, only to almost lose it all, and then like a phoenix, rising again under Steve Jobs.

By the time I was running Glam, this was used very effectively by the team. Glam became #1 before it went out and became known as the leader. The focus was to reach Number One, or win and then strike right through it in the market.

How does one build the Art of Strategy? How does one learn to think like that? How does one bring the Way of the Warrior in everything you do?


Tshua-Roshi Starts by placing the arrow

Quick, look, has the arrow already struck the target?


Just like Al Ries says in the Positioning: the battleground of the mind- Winning in positioning is meaningless, unless one wins in the minds of the people.

It starts with your attitude and then your thoughts. Have you won in your mind? Are you sure this is something you can and want to win? Are you being realistic and honest, yet pushing yourself to your maximum limits? Do you consider success as a reality?

In many ways, this is one of the most common things I see with leaders, visionaries, CEO’s, and founders. The ability to see the future and plan for it.

The Art of Strategy goes deeper. Not just to win in your mind, but to be able to see you and the world in a way victory is possible. This is the most elusive part. Josh Stein, one of the talented VC’s at DFJ says this many times- “You are dealing with running the company now, but are planning and working through things 6 months to 1 year ahead of time.” Winning in your mind is not just seeing the future, it is seeing the present, the full real Now, and every step along the way, the world around you and your competitors, their mind and moves, and the work it will take to win, the execution and the follow through to ensure the victory.

Fudochi Shimmyo Roku

Takuan Soho

Essential Dialog for Developing the Mind

In the writings on the way to train your mind in Fudochi, or unmovable wisdom, the question is asked “where to place your mind?” For me this has been a source of tremendous learning and focus. Lets take the example of Win, then strike. Is your mind placed on the winning or the striking? One of the reasons we hold training to build the team on Art of Strategy is that this is a path that needs learning, time and experience. (Takuan Soho is the zen master who also known for the little yellow daikon pickles “takuan” that you enjoy in Japanese Food!)

For beginners, the mind is asked to be placed at one place or focus on one step at a time. At work, this would mean taking a long term goal, and as Steven Covey suggests, break it down to mid-term an then to short term baby steps. The mind is placed on these baby steps, as we learn to build ourselves. With time, the mind can be placed at the whole. Sort of like hearing Bach’s music without following one of instruments in a Fugue, or seeing the sky not only the moon. Then with time, the mind can be placed anywhere- seeing the whole or parts without loosing the experience. Finally the mind can be free to be anywhere and  nowhere. Always, as we transcend through the barrier, there is always a duality that breaks through our beliefs. That is the goal of learning the Art of Strategy and practicing it in our everyday lives.

Takuan says: “If you place your mind in the action of your opponent, the mind will be taken by the action of the opponent. If you place your mind in the sword of your opponent, it will be taken by the sword. If you place it at the intention of the opponent, it will be taken by the thoughts of the opponent to strike you. If you place it on your own intention of not being struck, it will be taken by your own thoughts. If you put it in the posture of the opponent, it will be taken by the other person’s posture.” What this means is there is no place to put the mind. Not stopping the mind is the object and essence and takes training and discipline. Put nowhere, the mind can be everywhere. If not restricted to one direction, it can be in all.

Once we have found a way to place the mind nowhere, it becomes our tool and we are free of it. Again, another path that leads to the way. But how to train the mind? That is another story, one with kings, treasure and gifts…

There is the story from The Zen Ways to Martial Arts of the king that wanted a fighting cock that would always win, so he asked a zen master of the samurai to help teach it the techniques of combat. After a few days the king asked if it was ready at which the zen master replied:

“No. He is strong, but his strength is empty. All he wants to do is fight.”

After a few days the king asked again to which the response was “No, not yet. He is fierce now, and looking for a fight to to test his strength.”

Again after days of training the king inquired if it was now ready. “Now, it may be possible” said the zen master. “He remains calm , his posture is good, and yet it has a lot of power deep within.”

“So we should go ahead with the fight.” said the king.

To which the zen master replied, “Possibly”.

So all the great fighting birds were brought together and the combat started. But not one would come near that one. They all looked at him and ran away terrified and he never needed to fight.”

Or as the koan goes:

Although it does not

mindfully keep guard,

the scarecrow

does not stand in vain

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Magnificence in Life: my story of Bill Campbell at Apple now at Intuit


Ro: Present, Appearance
Do-do:  Magnificent

Magnificence in Life: my story of Bill Campbell.

How one man helped me take the leap to do a startup


Bill Campbell

Apple BOD

Chairman, Intuit

Former CEO Claris

Former CEO Go Corporation

EVP Apple USA, Sales & Marketing

Former Coach (In real life :) )

It all started in 1987, when I was called to fly to Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of Apple Computer’s potential large customers we were trying to convert to Macintosh Domino’s Pizza was having some problems. A big presentation was schedule for Friday, and here it was Monday of that week and things were simply not working. I was on a plane Tuesday morning- my first visit to the Domino’s campus.

Dominos pizza

It was typical, software on PC’s was still evolving, and applications for pre-web e-commerce and brand catalogs were all done as one-offs. Tuesday to Thursday was spent in this beautiful FLW Prairie Style offices working to show how Macintosh could completely change the way Domino operated.

Friday came, a beautiful sunrise hit us as we raced to finish the last 3 days and nights work. Physically exhausted, but charged we walked into the conference room. A tall man, dressed in a suit with a big smile on his face walked over to me- giving me a big hug and loud pats on the back.

“Hello Samir, I’m Bill Campbell. Thanks for the work to help Apple USA out today.”

And that’s the first time I met Bill.


Over the years Bill became a very important mentor to me with his attitude, energy, coaching and of course the twinkle in his eyes. Probably the most important time, when I was trying to decide to do something at Apple or so a startup- Bill was at Claris as CEO. Over lunch,  I remember his words clearly to this day:

“There are only two types of companies- startups and departments of large companies. Decide what you want to be and do it 100%”

These are simple but very power words that had a deep impact on me. Coming from someone at a large corporation that had started in a garage, it really summed up what I needed thinking through. I realized I wanted to go back to my roots as an entrepreneur, and this was one of the most life changing decisions I made.

Following this period in history, Bill left Claris to become CEO of Go, as Apple did not spin-off Claris completely- it remained in Bill words, a department of a large company. Bill went on to become CEO of Go, then Intuit, and finally returned to Apple as Chairman of the Board and helped many companies and CEO’s like Google in Silicon Valley.

I chose the words Magnificence in the present or appearance as it captures this wonderful person. I remain very fond of Bill, as he continues his path as Chairman of Intuit and on Apple Computer’s Board helping people everyday through his essence.

Here are some words from Bill from his article in Fortune by Jennifer Reingold:

Think big with talent
Campbell believes startups often hire “early stage” people without thinking about whether they will succeed as the company grows. They should instead hire major players who know how to scale up. Once they’re in, Campbell uses a review system that measures four areas: on-the-job performance – the typical quantitative goals; peer group relationships; management/leadership, or how well you develop the people around you; and innovation/best practices.

Be honest – and accountable
“I remember him describing me as a human missile,” says Danny Shader, CEO of Jasper Wireless, who at the time was a disgruntled employee at Go Corp. Campbell, the CEO, sat him down, saying, “Here are a bunch of things you need to do to improve yourself and things that I need to do.” By talking straight with employees – and committing to helping them succeed – Campbell helps create a team dynamic.

Skip the chief operating officer
Most Campbell-led or -mentored companies (Google and Intuit, for example) have no COO. Campbell thinks the COO often takes over management details that the CEO should be deeply involved in. And COOs often end up isolated, with star managers insisting on reporting to the CEO.

Invest in the future
Campbell believes technology companies should never slack on innovation. “He is a huge advocate of having to be on the leading edge,” says Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, Opsware, and Ning. “He was always on us [at Opsware] with the budget about having to invest more in R&D.”

Empower the engineer
Campbell thinks engineers are the innovation core of any tech company. Giving engineers the freedom to create, free of marketing dictates, is critical. On Campbell’s suggestion, Intuit CEO Brad Smith gave his engineers four hours a week of unstructured time. The result: six new products in the past year.
In closing
Bill has spent years behind the scenes in Silicon Valley as a friend, mentor and coach to many people. As  Intuit founder Scott Cook said once, “This is a story that needs to be told.” He is really a magnificent human being and someone that really helped shape and mentor my management style and the desire to give back by helping mentor and see the potential in people as future leaders.