Can we talk for a moment about Steve Jobs?

By Julie Johnson | Editorial

Steve Jobs

Not about the man so much as the myth.

Steve Jobs has become a larger-than-life legend that even death has not managed to diminish. Synonymous with innovation, elegance and getting every consumer to want something they never knew they needed, he is the modern-day equivalent of PT Barnum.

Unfortunately, he is also an idea no one should aspire to.

I know that sounds counterintuitive, but stick with me for a moment.

The definition of innovation is “a new method, idea, product, etc.” So to want to be the man, the myth, the legend is to commit an act that was counter to what he stood for: constantly pushing the bounds of what is possible. In essence, to be like him, you must always be pushing beyond what he was.

I know … I know … when business leaders say they want to be Steve Jobs, they don’t really mean that they want to be like him as much as they want to be known as he was known: for being a leader, an innovator, a forward-thinker who brought amazing products to market that revolutionized the world.

Here’s the rub with that: You actually need to revolutionize the world. In the day of market-changing advancements like Uber and Airbnb and Netflix, an iterative, version 1.1 (heck, even a version 2.0) improvement on a standard product won’t cut it.

Even in healthcare, where providers need reliable technology to ensure patient care, companies are clamoring to be known as the most innovative in the industry. The Steve Jobs of healthcare, as it were.

My question is always, “to what end?”

After all, many healthcare institutions invest in medical advancements and technology with an eye toward the longevity of the product. They don’t want to make major capital equipment investments every 18 months to get the latest and greatest 2.0 product.

That’s not to say they don’t want companies to innovate. They do. Like most people, though, they want companies to innovate in ways that will truly revolutionize their work and the lives of their patients. They want products that will solve problems that they encounter on a regular basis: Definitive tests that can accurately diagnose a patient’s auto-immune disease. Bedside monitors that warn of an impending issue with a patient before it even happens. A cure for cancer.

Then, and only then, will they ever call a company or executive “the Steve Jobs of healthcare.”

Until then, everything is just a cheap imitation. And customers will wonder why you are wasting their time trying to convince them you’re innovative instead of simply showing them you are.

After all, Steve Jobs and Apple (as well as Uber and Airbnb and Netflix) were considered innovative because they put their time and energy into bringing industry-changing breakthroughs to the market and letting the products speak for them.

Just a little something to think about.