Thursday, November 8, 2007

oPtion$ reviewed...

I can't remember another book of that size (248 pages) written in a different than my native language that I was able to suck up non-stop in less than 6 hours altogether. Is it because I've been a geeky Apple fan for so long I can't even remember? Or, is it because Lyons has a way of saying things that shake-up non-aficionados and alike? I don't really know...

I am not a professional book reviewer. I haven't read that many books from beginning to end in my entire life either. So, I poked around the net and found a really, really well written review of the book right here. Read that first and come back here afterwards.

Let me tell you what I felt about the book, anyways.

Some passages felt déja vu. Reason is, some of them are priceless pieces of prose that were engraved into my subconscious neurons first time I read them at FSJ's blog. I read some other books about RSJ (the real Steve Jobs) and Lyons did the same and from time to time he describes anecdotes of Jobs' life that are broadly known often taken out of those earlier works. Nevertheless, it wasn't bad to hear these stories, in first person, again. Lyons is quite a skilled writer and handles this seamlessly.

Outside some well known personalities like Oracle's Larry Ellison and Al Gore, most of the other folks in the book carry fictitious names. You can figure out who they are, especially if you are close to Apple, but Lyons keeps himself carefully at the sidelines as far as real names of real people are concerned. Even of those who we know were eventually indicted in the real Options scandal last April.

There are passages and dialogs written with so much humor that you'll LYAO for days and months to come. My favorites was Jobs' prank calls to Sculley asking him to become the CEO of Apple again, the handling of Hillary at a CEO fund raising meeting in Silicon Valley, Al Gore's decision to resign from the Board of Apple Inc. and his handling by the Boards' chairman (a capitalist monster called Tom Bowditch), the handling by Steve of the Asian origin Assistant US Attorney General going thru life under the family name of 'Poon' (honest to God, I had no idea what that meant and had to look it up -- see here), and a conversation among Steve, Larry and a retired VC waiting for the storm to subside at a Valley billionaire private jets airport. But the best I thought was Lyons description of the Jobs management principles, quite early in the book.

It's true that if you Google 'Jobs' and 'A-hole' together you come up with tens of thousands of hits. Nevertheless, Lyons description of his Jobness creates a peculiar and unique character who you sometimes hate and often love to death. At thirty thousand feet the Apple revival story, ever since Jobs returned to the company ten years ago, is a management wonder never experienced before. Quite often in the past we witnessed super-managers like Welch, Gerstner, Geneen driving their companies to the top . Even Gates, and Watson and Ford for that matter. I don't believe though that anyone has ever achieved what RSJ has started 30 years ago and is doing for the last 10 years at Apple. The man is material that can fill-up MBA curricula all talking about him and his methods and nothing else. Fine, he's probably got a lousy character like many say. Fine, and there are probably more who hate him than like him. But who cares? He has a mission and a job to do. And he's changing the world we live in. People don't actually like his ways? Et alors? (so what?) like former President François Mitterand said when a tabloid reporter confronted him with the fact that he had an extra marital experience long ago leading to the birth of a child...

On the other side, Lyons creates that vulnerable character who needs love and tender but he's got no-one to get it from (even Mrs Jobs), and needs to resort to shrinks with Zen backgrounds to get hugged and loved. It's there where the story becomes sort of surreal and you remember suddenly it's not RSJ but FSJ who's telling the story. Quite often you wonder though.

It's a stunning work. The best present one can do to friends and people who manage companies as a career. It's a great idea for year end gift to the scores of middle and junior managers running the business world day to day. I wish there were enough creative and competent CEOs around to take that kind of initiative. I know I used to do that for my managers not long ago with some other interesting mgt literature. It's doable, if you want to.

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