In an early morning in August 1983 on the Apple campus in Palo Alto. Coming out of his car, Steve Jobs notices with a smile the pirate flag that floats above his building. This flag was created and placed there at night by two members of his team.
On the black fabric are drawn two bones that form a cross, and above it is a skeleton skull. Finally, on one of the eyes of the skull was placed a blinker in the shape of a rainbow apple, the previous logo of Apple.
This pirate flag embodies Steve Jobs’ recent speeches to his team: “It is better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.” The founder of Apple wants every member of the team to consider themselves as a pirate aboard an artistic boat. This ship aims to revolutionize Apple from the inside out. The company has become a bureaucratic armada that struggles to retain and cultivate its creativity. The reason Macintosh exists is also to revolutionize the world. The mission of their band of hackers is to make computers accessible to as many people as possible and to prevent IBM from building a monopoly.
A collective vision for innovation
Looking at this flag, Steve Jobs particularly appreciated the idea of welcoming each member of his team that morning with this symbol, this prototype, which materializes the vision that he seeks to transmit to them.
For the following days and weeks, the Macintosh team’s pirate flag floats and reminds team members of what they are coming to work for. The pirates-artists that they are, engage in a quest of manufacturing this Macintosh which must make the computer accessible to the general public thanks to its graphical interface. Steve Jobs describes this new computer with a clear vision, made of simplicity and aesthetics at the service of users. The Macintosh must be the Sistine Chapel of the 20th century.
Onboard the “artistic boat” the crew members sometimes receive the bullying of an authoritarian, but also a charismatic and visionary captain. Together, they develop an environment conducive to the sharing and circulation of ideas, exploration, and innovation. Together, they engage with passion and develop a culture of risk-taking and rediscover their way of working.
From that moment on, the Macintosh became a reference in computer history. What Steve Jobs didn’t know, is that it will also be his last success with Apple before being dismissed from his own company by his board of directors in the summer of 1985. It will take him 12 years to return to Apple’s life. A period during which he will launch NeXT and buy a small studio called Pixar Studio.
The epic Steve Jobs is often narrated from the angle of the «individual star» and the «solitary hero» and thus neglects a large part of the real story. Steve Jobs never succeeded alone but rather with the collaboration of a team. Steve Jobs would never have created the Macintosh and made it a success without the help and enormous work of his team members. We never innovate alone, but rather through the collaborative efforts of a team.