The Steve Jobs Legacy

Harvard Business School faculty offer their perspectives on the legendary career of Steve Jobs, who remade several industries even as he changed how we use technology.

News of the death this week of Steve Jobs reverberated around the world. And the Harvard Business School campus was no exception. Everyone felt a keen sense of loss for a man who was an iconic figure in the worlds of technology, entrepreneurship, innovation, and design. A number of faculty members gave their views on a legendary life and career.

Bharat Anand (Strategy)

It is hard to imagine anyone who had a bigger impact on technology, media, and culture than Steve Jobs. In doing so, he transcended business to become a public figure.

Rohit Deshpande (Marketing)

Steve Jobs's genius was knowing how to create culture. His work at Apple transcended business to marketing iconic products that consumers imbued with human attributes. iPod, iPhone, and iPad are more than technology. They are objects of desire. Jobs's legacy is a brand that will live on because he connected it to consumer emotions.

Bruce Harreld (Entrepreneurial Management)

I met Steve Jobs many times over twenty years, and one word always comes to mind—passion. Steve was always passionate about everything he did. No detail was too small to escape his passion for what he called "taste." His sense of taste positively shaped our lives. He will be sorely missed.

Regina Herzlinger (General Management)

The life of Steve Jobs is like a biblical saga. A mighty prophet emerges, visionary and charismatic, but he is imperfect. He deserts early allies (Steve Wozniak) and has other troubled relationships. He is widely spurned because he is so harsh and demanding. He is in turn betrayed by his closest ally (John Sculley), but ultimately the clarity of his vision and charisma triumph, and he transforms the world. The transformation in communications he creates gives ordinary people the voice to topple mighty businesses and governments. Would you expect any less from a mighty prophet?

Robert Higgins (Entrepreneurial Management)

Steve Jobs will be remembered as the Great Innovator of our age. It is no wonder that he chose Walter Isaacson, biographer of Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, to tell his story. Jobs is another star in that constellation.

William Kirby (General Management)

Steve Jobs's legacy is everywhere, not the least in Chinese cities where the Apple stores are crowded from dawn to dusk, and where there are not only knock-off phones on the street but also beautiful knock-off stores across the land. Emulation is the highest compliment.

Janet Kraus (Entrepreneurial Management)

Steve Jobs said he wanted to "make a dent in the universe." A force of nature, he was more supernova than asteroid. Jobs made more than a dent in the universe; he forever transformed the universe by atomically changing how we communicate, interact, imagine, discover, consider, create, and enjoy.

Vineet Kumar (Marketing)

Steve Jobs may be best remembered for creating products and user experiences that consumers actively craved, not just tolerated. Business has an important role and responsibility in creating value for consumers, and by extension, for society. At this broader level, Jobs's leadership was the clearest demonstration that creating value for consumers, shareholders, and society does not have to be a zero-sum game. Apple's products may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about quality-of-life and how it can be measured and improved, but they have certainly improved the daily experience of billions of consumers when they interact with technology. Although an aspect that's hard to quantify, that to me is the reason Steve Jobs ought to be considered among the greatest business leaders of all time.

Rajiv Lal (Marketing)

In Steve Jobs, we have lost a visionary who forever changed the way we communicate, interact, and live our lives. The magnitude of this impact is evident from the fact that Apple is now the most valued company by market capitalization. All this achieved by one man in one lifetime! It is truly a legacy for the ages.

Michael Porter (Strategy)

Steve Jobs stands out as the business leader of his generation who best understood innovation, differentiation, strategic positioning, and how to change the structure of industries. What's especially remarkable is that he did this not once but several times in industries that touch many peoples' lives.

Meg Rithmire (Business, Government & the International Economy

The passing of Steve Jobs has been met with great sadness and reflection in China, where many are already calling the iPhone 4S the "iPhone 4 Steve." In China, where especially the younger generation is looking to technology and business to transform lives, Jobs symbolized innovation and leadership in both.

Noam Wasserman (Entrepreneurial Management)

Steve Jobs was probably the most complicated company founder I have ever studied. He had an extremely complex personality, yet his products were paragons of clarity, simplicity, and elegance. He suffered a very public failure in the 1980s, when he was fired at the company he had cofounded, yet he made one of the greatest recoveries ever. He had a single-minded focus, yet he was able to learn and radically evolve after his failures. In short, his career was a glaring cautionary tale, but he was also a tremendous role model for the next generation of founders. In the end, Jobs did indeed leave the large "dent in the universe" to which he aspired, one that was at least as big as that left by any other founder of his generation. We will be much the poorer for having lost him too soon.

David Yoffie (Strategy

Steve Jobs was a revolutionary in all senses of the word. Through his charisma, his brilliance, his leadership, and even his abrasiveness, he transformed three industries—computing, music, cellular telephony, and computing a second time with the iPad. He was one of a kind.

Read more faculty comments on the death of Apple's cofounder, Steve Jobs.

    • Chirag Swamy
    • Manager Pre-Sales, Animika Studios
    The magnificence of apple products was how they marketed themselves through sheer brilliance.
    Steve Jobs casually revealing the Ipod Nano from his jeans pocket sold a million pieces in less than 20 days!!

    Truly a legend!!
    • Anonymous
    Steve meant different things to different people but he is all the things people say he was - a technological icon, a revolutionary enterprenuer, a pathfinder, an institution personified. There can never be another Steve Jobs!
    • Elle
    Truly, Steve Jobs appealed to the universe by touching the inner core of emotions, as the users of Apple have that sense of "ultimate experience" as far as technology is concerned
    • Anonymous
    The only legacy I see left behind by Jobs is one of division and social destruction. He single handedly turned a generation of people who used to walk around with their eyes up to the sky into a mindless group of people staring at their thumbs as they incessantly plug away at little machines that they now claim they cannot live without. He convinced a nation to pay $1000 for an iPad so that they could read a newspaper that they were only paying $.99 for before. He made devices that could hold so much music there'd be no more need to ever have to take your earbuds out to change the tunes and run the terrible risk of actually having to maybe communicate verbally with the person standing next to you while you did it. He brought television and the internet into the automobile, a place neither was ever meant to be in.

    Creative genius? Sure. Technological innovator? Absolutely. But savior? I think not.
    • Luke Ferguson
    • Student, University of Greenwich
    Steve job can be summed up by looking at Apples 1997 advertising slogan, 'Think Different' and he did.

    He reinvented the PC, the MP3 player and the tablet. Its a shame that Apple did not follow Microsoft into the video game market and create a video game console (iGame or iPlay)

    He will be sadly missed by a lot of Apple fans. RIP