Innovation principles by Markkula


The genesis of these thoughts on marketing from Mike Markkula are detailed on page 78 of Walter Isaacson's intriguing biography of Steve Jobs.  In their clarity, simplicity, and actionability, they are stunning.  As a marketer, I take three lessons from them.

First, they are about people.  Markets are made up of individuals.  When striving to bring something new and cool to life, we're much better off imagining the life of a single customer than we are trying to disaggregate and disambiguate mountains of anonymized market data.  A holistic understanding of the customer experience you wish to enable is a great way to start creating mind-blowing products.  As a way of being, empathy is to product developers what The Force is to Jedi Knights.

Second, they are focused on the market.  Surely great marketing is always about the market?  Not always, and not so often: in my experience, many marketers worry more about communicating with each other internally than they do with real people in the marketplace.  They spend more time reading reports created by others than they do learning from the market directly.  They don't use products created by competitors, nor do they try to experience their channels in the way that an end user would.  They may or may not love their product segment — I mean, can you imagine Steve Jobs hawking anything other than stuff he believed in? Significantly, none of Markkula's dictums explicitly mention the internal functions or structure of the enterprise.  Granted, it could be argued that "Focus" is about both the internal choices an organization makes about what not to do, as well as on all the market-facing features, line extensions, and complementary offerings it chooses not to invest in.

Third, they focus on the big picture and on the smallest details.  Yes, you need to understand where the market is going and how culture, politics, and macro economic trends may influence your future state in three to five years.  But you also must appreciate the nuances of texture, smell, form, sound, proportions, and color.  The realm of the visceral is always there, our minds and hearts want things to feel good and true.  Everything matters, and marketers (or designers, or businesspeople, or engineers — it's all the same to me) ignore this truth at their peril.


Back on planet metacool, I believe the following innovation principles are at work in Markkula's document:

Principle 1: Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world

Principle 3: Always ask: "How do we want people to feel after they experience this?"

Principle 9: Killing good ideas is a good idea

Principle 20: Be remarkable