There’s a Tremendous Amount of Craftsmanship Between a Great Idea and a Great Product

One of my favorite quotes about building great products (or indeed, great open source projects) comes from Robert Cringely’s 1995 Lost Interview with Steve Jobs:

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease.

It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.

And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product.

And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it.

And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make.

There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do.

There are certain things you can’t make plastic do.

Or glass do.

Or factories do.

Or robots do.

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want.

And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.

In other words, neither pure ideas nor pure execution make amazing products. The magic of great products comes from synthesizing great ideas with great execution through craftsmanship.


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Another favorite Steve Jobs quote is from his 1997 WWDC fireside chat with developers, which happens right after everyone knows “Steve is back” but before he’s been announced as CEO (or even iCEO, the cutesy shorthand they gave him for... Continue →