The Woz: Steve Jobs' lack of technical skills drove Apple's success

The Woz: Steve Jobs' lack of technical skills drove Apple's success

"If a human is more important than technology, the technology must work in a human way" - Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak believes successful innovation will be dependent on simple human-centric design and doing things differently, rather than better.

During his Q&A session at the 2016 Future Transport Summit in Sydney, Wozniak said the success of Apple was largely due to the fact that Steve Jobs was not an engineer.

In collaborating with Jobs on the first personal computer, Wozniak said Apple really benefited from Jobs’ lack of technical skills as it meant they were better able to foster the simplicity needed for the human-centric design.

Wozniak encouraged entrepreneurs to create something they want, noting that his early success in designing games was based on the fact that he was both a game designer and a game player, giving him the right consumer perspective.

Speaking on artificial intelligence, Wozniak said he found the phrase to be “horrible” because in reality machines are starting to act more like people, rather than robots.

“They understand hand written human dialogue and now I feel like it can speak it. I say to my phone, ‘what’s the fastest route from A to B?’, or ‘how many mountains are there in Australia?’ I ask it these questions, and it speaks back. It’s a person.”

Though he feels computers will never be able to mimic the intuitiveness and unpredictability of a human brain, technology has changed our reliance on the brain and how we seek knowledge, especially with the masses of information now available via the Internet.

“Now instead of asking a person with a brain a big question, who do you ask? It starts with G O – and no, it’s usually not God. It’s Google.

“You get all these incredibly answers, so it can replace a part of the brain without trying… it’s not the intuitive part of the brain, it doesn't have feelings yet.”

The human element in innovation will always be important however, as Wozniak notes that “if a human is more important than the technology, you need to make sure the technology works in a human way.”

Often it is easy to forget the simpler human needs for a product or service, as many engineers and entrepreneurs think that if they have a special skill they need to apply it, and this often makes the offering too complicated, he said.

In discussing true innovation, Wozniak said too many people are focusing on improving what already exists rather than looking to change the way things work.

“Real innovators are those people who do things differently than by the book, in ways that nobody expected,” he said.

This can be challenging though, he noted, as many larger organisations don’t often see the value in new and different products.

“When Apple started, the big companies were saying ‘your PC doesn't do the job that computers are used for’ – yeah it didn't do the old job, it does a new job!

“These companies did marketing research, they knew how people used computers, but they didn't talk to the new market. The research didn't cover all the normal people at life that might just find good use for a personal computer.

“So we took a risk, we didn't know it was really going to be successful. But change is key. Understanding the market is important- being the market is even better.”

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