What did Steve Jobs say was key to his innovation?



In personal lives, business, investing, and relationships, instant gratification is often portrayed as a vice.

But there is one place where it might be a key virtue: design.

In scattered interviews, Steve Jobs has consistently shown a single principle that has held again and again in his designs: instant gratification.

When Apple entered the MP3 music player market, there were already hundreds of other MP3 players on the market.

The Archos Jukebox, the I2Go eGo, and the Creative Labs Nomad were widespread examples but they all took the same approach to navigation: a four point rocker. Navigating hundreds of thousands of songs using four point rocker-buttons was inefficient. Getting to an artist at the end of the alphabet using key presses meant potentially tapping through every artist. It didn’t deliver instant gratification.

Apple had a different vision. The principle of “instant gratification”, choose a song and play almost instantly, demanded a different solution. There was almost only one design that could solve that: the scroll wheel.

The scroll wheel enabled Apple to deliver a solution that was closer to instant gratification than any before.

Strikingly, Jobs would employ this same design principle in other products as well.

iTunes Movies was offered by Apple when bandwidth reached the point where people could choose a movie and then watch it within minutes. Near instant gratification.

When Apple released the iPhone, the typical way new software was installed was to plug a phone into a computer and download it. The iPhone replaced that with the “App Store” and near instant downloads became possible. Instant gratification for App installation spread from Apple’s iPhone to Windows phones, Google phones, and ultimately to the the operating systems themselves, Windows and Macintosh. Billions of Apps are now delivered this way a year.

The precedent that Steve Jobs set leaves a legacy question for entrepreneurs in healthcare, where can Jobs’ principle of instant gratification be applied in digital health to deliver a game changing revolution?

Mike Gillam, MD, FACEP 2014

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