Did Steve Jobs worry about ROI?

What did the ROI calculation for the iPhone development look like? For the iPad? Or for iPod?

I never met Steve Jobs. I never worked at Apple. Still, based on what I’ve read about him I doubt that there ever was an ROI calculation for the investments made in any of Apple’s and Steve Jobs’ breakthrough innovations. He believed and he dared. His compass knew it was the right thing to do.
Yet he was the most acclaimed business innovator in the past decade.

Next time I’m asked about the ROI of social intranets I will counter with this question: Would Steve Jobs have bothered calculating it?
I hope it will go down better than my current standard question of: when did you last see an ROI calculation for implementing SAP?

Comparing the investment needed to unchain the potential of the company staff with making an investment in production equipment that can produce faster or more efficiently is nothing short of an insult to the people working for you.

Innovations can be classified into two categories: Enabling or Improving. Either they make something possible that was not before – like the automobile once made it possible to travel long distances fast and with a flexible route. Or something currently possible to do easier, more efficient or with better quality – like more fuel efficient cars, safer cars or innovative service programmes. Improvement innovations are suitable for ROI-calculations, enabling are not.

So, if you allow the social intranet-train pass you by and wonder:

  • why all talented people work for the competition
  • why your customers keep telling you that your competition are faster at getting up to speed and at solving problems
  • why people keep working in silos
  • why you keep reinventing the wheel
  • why your competition is more innovative than you are
  • why customers tell you that you’re old fashioned

– then go back to your archive, pull out that ROI-calculation run it through the shredder and realize that inspiration, collaboration and staff commitment is not to be reduced to numbers.

References:

Author: TheSocialSwede

Passionate about social business, enabling people and organizations develop and grow through building, sharing and reusing knowledge, through working with people, their networks, aspirations, curiosity and social capabilities. Working WITH people FOR business.

2 thoughts on “Did Steve Jobs worry about ROI?”

  1. I would argue that for breakthrough or enabling innovation, if you can calculate ROI, then it’s not really very radical. Jobs was famous for taking the ROI debate a step further, saying of market research: “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”

    We are sitting on a mountain of data that provides unprecedented insight into the way we do business. Let’s keep in mind both the value, but also the limitations of that data in charting a new, groundbreaking directions. Despite the explosion of new analytics capabilities let’s leave a little wiggle room for some good ol’ fashioned intuition and creativity.

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