According to Walter Isaacson, who ‘wrote the book’ on Jobs and Musk, the two have a lot in common.
It turns out that two of the world’s best-known tech entrepreneurs have a lot in common, at least according to renowned biographer Walter Isaacson.
Isaacson, who wrote a biography of Elon Musk, once said that he was ‘in some ways the Steve Jobs of our time’. Having shadowed Musk for more than two years and met with Jobs at least 40 times, Isaacson probably knows a thing or two about overlapping qualities.
In his new book, Isaacson compares the Tesla CEO to Jobs. So much so that the Apple co-founder’s name is mentioned several times in the new book. Here are some similarities (and one important difference) that Isaacson identifies between Jobs and Musk.
Both Musk and Jobs have a ‘dark’ side
When Isaacson was writing a book about Steve Jobs, Jobs’ partner Steve Wozniak said that the most important question to ask was: “Did he have to be so ruthless?”
The author states that Musk’s behavior leads to the same question and that he has a dark side, which his ex-girlfriend Grimes calls ‘Devil mode’. He also says that Jobs and Musk even use the same expression when criticizing their employees: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Isaacson describes the brutal honesty of these two names that have left their mark on the tech world as frustrating, even offensive, and emphasizes that this attitude restricts rather than encourages sincere dialogue. But at times, he says, it was also instrumental in creating a team of A-list players (as Jobs called them).
Elon Musk did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. Musk has previously denied allegations that he berates his employees and said he only gives ‘honest and sincere’ feedback.
Poor sense of empathy
Isaacson emphasizes that the duo is too focused on accomplishing a big task and, as a result, not empathizing enough. He also says that both Jobs and Musk are difficult to work with, and that both are incapable of building amicable relationships that foster team spirit. And for Musk, “Just like Steve Jobs, he is not afraid to offend and threaten the people he works with, as long as success comes”.
The author says that both Jobs and Musk play the role of the ‘alpha male’, exerting a high level of control over even the smallest details, either dismissing their co-founders or forcing them to stay in the background. And he draws attention to Jobs’ turbulent relationship with Stephen Wozniak and Musk’s with Martin Eberhard (co-founder of Tesla).
They have the same weakness
Elon Musk’s CyberTruck is a weird FU to Tesla haters’Tesla is counting the days to start delivery of the Cybertruck’ we’ve heard time and time again.
Isaacson says that pressure on employees to ‘get it done’ and high expectations feed both men’s biggest weakness: The tendency to set overly ambitious deadlines.
Tom Mueller, Musk’s ‘former right-hand man’ at SpaceX, puts it this way:
“If you set a high-paced schedule that’s achievable, people will try to go the extra mile. But if you give them a physically impossible schedule, and engineers are not stupid, but you demoralize them. That’s Elon’s weakest point.”
Isaacson writes that Jobs had a similar weakness; he reportedly gave engineers working on the original iPhone two weeks to come up with a vision for the device’s software, and threatened to hand it over to another team if they didn’t.
Musk, too, is known to constantly push for impossible deadlines at Tesla and SpaceX. For example, the billionaire has been saying self-driving cars are on the horizon since 2015, but the deadline for Tesla’s Cybertruck has changed several times in two years.
Isaacson thinks Musk and Jobs’ rigid approach to deadlines is ‘demoralizing’ but acknowledges that it also helps them stay ahead of competitors.
Both passionate about simplicity
Isaacson underlines that Musk and Jobs have similar design sensibilities and writes about Musk’s Tesla plans: “He follows the principles that Steve Jobs and Jony Ive adopted at Apple: Design is not just about aesthetics; true industrial design must link the look of a product to its engineering.”
In Musk’s biography, Isaacson points out the similarity between Tesla’s recessed door handles and Apple’s 1998 iMac handle. According to him, neither design makes much functional sense, but both aim to increase the ease of use and accessibility of the product.
Isaacson points out that both Jobs and Musk understood the importance of creating an allure around products that ‘transforms it into an object of desire’.
So what is the most important difference between Jobs and Musk?
A new biography of tech billionaire Elon Musk was recently published.
Isaacson states that Musk is a more application-oriented engineer compared to Jobs. “Although I think he was a genius, Steve Jobs, after designing a product like the Mac or the iPhone, would send it to a manufacturing plant in China and never visit the factory,” the author says:
“Musk, on the other hand, spends a lot of his mental and physical presence in the design room in factories and believes that ‘designing the machine that makes the machine’ is more important than designing the original product.”
Musk has been known to walk the production line at Tesla and SpaceX and sleep at X Corp. or Tesla’s headquarters during long product runs.
Summarized from a Business Insider report.