Novel Approaches to
Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs
James Kundart OD, MEd, FAAO
Optometric Education welcomes Dr. Kundart as the editor of ASCOTech. He is the Chairman of the Educational Technology Special Interest Group for the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. He is a researcher and author and an Associate Professor at the Pacific University College of Optometry.
t the American Academy of Optometry meeting last
October in Boston, many of us saw the glass walls of the
Apple Store covered with Post-It note dedications, and the sidewalk stacked with iPod cases and McIntosh fruit.
Those who weren’t there perhaps saw a similar outpouring of emotion onsocial networks. Some were surprised that these expressions of grief stretched around the globe at the untimely loss of the co-founder and longtime CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs.
When his biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, went on sale, it outsold all other books printed in 2011, a particularly remarkable achievement considering it was rushed to publication in late October. Those who remember
Jobs from the Macintosh computer may have wondered why so many felt this way, particularly in a persistently
Windows world. But whether one is an
Apple or PC user, it is undeniable that
Jobs’ foresight and innovation changed the way we use computers, particularly in the area of educational technology.
Although I am recording these thoughts on a Macintosh laptop, I wasn’t always an Apple user. I was one in that fortunate first generation of students who came of age with the first personal computers in the 1980s, but I was a PC user. In fact, before entering optometric education, I once taught Microsoft applications (before they were available
cross-platform) and even DOS 6.22.
Yet I couldn’t help but notice the innovative products that Apple developed, particularly after Jobs’ triumphant return in 1997.
As optometric educators, whether we use Macintosh, PC, or both, we can benefit from reflecting on the following six lessons that Jobs taught us.
Lesson #1: Market
Research Can Lead You
Backward, Not Forward
Consumers, be they retail customers or optometry students, are often more comfortable with what they know than what they don’t. Imagination of how things could be can fail the young and the old alike. Jobs knew this. In the early days of Apple Computer, the Apple
II generated more than two-thirds of the company’s profit. It’s hard to believe that a circuit board and attached keyboard was all it was.
If Jobs had surveyed his customer base back then, he would have only made the small stylistic changes in Apple’s best-selling product, like improving the keyboard and adding an internal (albeit floppy) disc drive. If market research had been important to Jobs, the sleek, stylish Apple IIc would have marked the end of a good run for the company, and it probably wouldn’t be with us today.
Fortunately, Jobs trusted his intuition
more than market research. Despite the fact that there seemed to be no demand for it, he insisted that Apple pursue a new, all-in-one computer, which eventually became the first Macintosh.
While Xerox can be credited with invention of the first graphical user interface, it was Apple that was able to mass-manufacture and popularize it.
This eventually gave us the Macintosh
OS X, and led Microsoft to mimic it with Windows. This benefitted us all
(except in the short term, DOS teachers like me).
Another idea Jobs took from Xerox and made popular was the computer mouse.
You couldn’t ask consumers what they thought of a computer mouse back then; no one knew what they were. But
Jobs correctly intuited that end-users of technology wanted to use their hands to manipulate technology, a truth that led Apple to the mouse as well as the touch screens on iPhones and eventually iPads.
The lesson that market research is overrated can be applied to optometric education. For example, I have noticed that many of my students have a hard