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The Social Narrative of Steve Jobs

The Social Narrative of Steve Jobs

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Published by Woody Lewis

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Published by: Woody Lewis on Oct 11, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Home> The Social Narrative of Steve Jobs
The Social Narrative of Steve Jobs
10/10/2011I was in Kenosha, Wisconsin when I heardthe news about Steve. Like those other moments, when I heard about JFK or John Lennon, Iremember the physical context, early evening on the high prairie, dark blue supplanting fieryred in the sky outside my hotel window. I had just spent all day in a windowless conferenceroom discussing content management strategy. My mind was somewhere out on the highway,literally catching up to the images on the television screen, the news crawl underneath thebaseball game that said Steve had died.Strangely, I felt peaceful and calm, as I'm sure he was during those final moments, thoughthat is abject speculation on my part. We knew that he was ill, that the signs were increasinglyforeboding, and yet there was this sense that he would go on forever, that he would lick thisthing. We wanted a happy ending, however improbable.Inan earlier piece about the velocity of innovation, I referred to an article that described Jobsas "a skilled listener to the technology...tracking vectors in technology over time." This was insupport of my thoughts on the mechanics of social networks, the vectors of knowledge andthe accelerating speed of distribution. At the time, I agreed with the idea of Jobs listening, butI now realize that this was part of his storytelling. Like any social narrator, he was playing offhis audience, though he manipulated that audience more than most. His now-famous dictumthat it's not the customer's job to know what they want (we'll forgive the blurred distinctionbetween singular and plural) became Apple's driving force, the spirit that led them away fromthe brink of disaster.Apple pioneered storytelling in technology, creating the role of evangelist to promulgate aplatform. Without a cohesive story, its early deficiencies might have proved fatal, asnarratedby Guy Kawasaki, its former Chief Evangelist. In the blinding clarity of hindsight, we now seethe accuracy of the Jobs narrative - the focus on Next as a Unix platform that eventuallymigrated into the core Mac OS, making it the machine of choice for most of the Webdevelopers I've come across in the past few years. The vision to put digital music in your

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