NexCon16 attendees were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on the last day of the conference last November when Nextiva co-founder and CEO sat down for a fireside chat with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
The conversation covered topics as wide ranging as what it was like to work with Steve Jobs, secrets of the early days of Apple, Wozniak’s advice for companies on how to innovate and more. Several thousand people packed into the largest ballroom at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale to hang on Wozniak’s every word.
Gorny started the conversation by asking Wozniak if he thought Apple was going to be the world-changing success it turned out to be. Wozniak responded by explaining that he and Jobs created Apple to help gamers play on home computers, a concept unknown until that point in history.
“We knew we had a hot product and we thought we knew the market was going to be real,” he said the crowd. But it was only after an investor told the “Steves” that the company had the potential of hitting $10 billion in revenues that their eyes started to open. “That guy was very smart,” he said with a laugh.
Innovation best practices
“The market is more crowded today than ever before,” said Gorny. “How can companies stand out and innovate?”
Wozniak answered by saying that it is important to put out products that are good but not necessarily perfect yet. He also said a company needs a strong drive and knowledge that products will make them a lot of money.
“Your product needs to be pure and good; it needs to be a product that you would use yourself,” he said. “And you have to have great engineering. That doesn’t mean hiring university people who’ve already done what you are trying to do. Instead, get someone out of the box that will write the book and do something no one has seen before.”
Wozniak also recommended companies designate a “chief disruption officer” and have that person assemble a small staff and work off-site.
“Have them work in a little building outside the main campus and not report to the CEO, but report to the board,” he recommended. “In the day to day, no one thinks independently because they are trying to crank the wheel and keep revenues going, but the disruption team might think of something that disrupts competitors in the future.”
Gorny and Wozniak discussed various topics in front of a rapt audience. At the end, Gorny asked him why it is so difficult to create things that are simple and beautiful, like Apple’s products.
“You have to be willing to put in a lot of time and keep it a secret,” he responded. “Steve Jobs didn’t show Bill Gates the early iPhone.”