Like you, I have been looking for pockets of inspiration during these trying times. When I first heard that we would be required to shelter at home, my first thought was, I can read! I can read anything I want for extended periods of time. And so, I have. I am reading old newspapers and magazines and new books and old favorites. I accidentally came across Steven Jobs’ biography and it made me wonder what he would have thought of COVID-19 and how he might have responded and if there aren’t lessons we can learn from him for our nonprofits today.

Our paths had crossed when I worked at Georgia Tech years ago, and I am not really a Jobs fan. I do acknowledge what he has meant to this computer generation.  Jobs was apparently not philanthropic, and he did not encourage others to be. I appreciate author Walter Isaacson, his biography about Jobs and other books he has written. 

It has taken me quite a while to finish Jobs’ volume, again. If I had ever known the breadth of Jobs’ reach, I had forgotten. Pixar blockbusters like Toy Story with their digital animation, Apple stores, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, the App Store, the iPad, iCloud and of course, Apple, were all signature creations of Jobs.

He had a knack for putting together ideas, art and technology and relentlessly pushing innovation and the big picture, all while mastering fine details. Jobs always thought of “the journey as the reward.”

Brutally honest, Jobs knew how to build teams of workers he could depend upon. He opined, “if you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.” His work required intuition and unlimited amounts of creativity. He knew that to create something artistic, it took real discipline. Jobs knew you had to “work with your peers” and “watch each other’s back.” 

Apple became the world’s most valuable company by coming up with new ideas first or by leapfrogging when it found itself behind. Jobs thought “less is more” and “simpler is always better.” He also said, “if something isn’t right, you can’t just ignore it and say you’ll fix it later.”

Currently, Apple is designing and implementing a COVID-19 app and website and is collaborating with the CDC and the Whitehouse. Just this morning, I read that Apple is now making millions of medical face shields. It seems that Apple is continuing the Jobs legacy.

Jobs thought a “good company must convey its values and importance in everything it does-from packaging to marketing.” I say a nonprofit should do the same.  Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. Jobs said that was true of companies and of products. I say that is true of nonprofits and our work together.

Jobs knew how to focus on what was important. He took long walks with colleagues to discuss topics and try to figure things out. I guess these days he would have to do that remotely. But I love how he asked advice of his colleagues and regularly partnered with the competition. This is a time where we all need to be sharing knowledge and collaborating.

Apple’s “think different” commercial from 1977 sums up Jobs’ business mantra. 

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

It works for nonprofits, too.