Steve Jobs Initially Thought the Genius Bar Was Idiotic
On the Recode Decode podcast, former Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Operations Ron Johnson, who pioneered the Apple Store, revealed that Steve Jobs initially called the Genius Bar “idiotic.” Jobs argued that people who know technology don’t know how to connect with people, but the next day he ordered Apple Legal to file a trademark for “Genius Bar.” It’s a good reminder that Jobs not only didn’t come up with all of Apple’s good ideas, he also rejected many of them at first. But it also shows how Jobs was willing to be persuaded by people whose opinions he trusted.
The way that the Genius Bar works (at least here in the UK) IS idiotic! Only ONE appointment for ONE issue!! I live nearly a hundred miles from Manchester ( the most accessible GB) which makes it VERY impracticable to use!!!
While inconvenient for you, the limitation is doubtless a response to supply and demand—the demand for Genius Bar appointments exceeds the supply of Genius Bar employees (I won't bother to call them geniuses since a real genius is unlikely to be working in an Apple Store—bearing in mind that genius in this context is nevertheless a relative term). If you're that far from an Apple Store, perhaps you should learn to do your own tech support, or find someone locally who can do the work for you, if "time is money" is a value proposition for you.
Perhaps the reason Steve thought that people who know technology don't know how to connect with people was because he didn't know how to connect with people. Apparently he didn't notice that Steve Wozniak was much better with that sort of thing than he was. Jobs was known, after all, for his tunnel vision.
In fact, many early Apple (and Adobe) evangelists were people oriented. As were the folks who participated in Apple (and Adobe) user groups.
Still, Jobs was at least half right. It has always been a problem for programmers and other technical specialists, like engineers, to interface with clients and customers. You know, like your average IT manager.
But people skills and technical expertise are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Theoretically it's a personnel manager's job to match people with the right combination of skills to the jobs they have to fill. When they fail to do so it's a reflection on their own (in)competence.
I think it's safe to say that most small business owners have to have a balance of people skills and technical expertise of one kind and another if they expect to be successful. Or they have to have a partner or partners who balance the skills they lack. Which puts a premium on teamwork. Of course Steve Jobs was not a team player or a team builder. He habitually made unreasonable demands on his employees, requiring that they sacrifice their personal lives (and health) for their business lives—another reflection on his lack of people skills and human insight.
By the time he changed his mind and trademarked Genius Bar perhaps he was beginning to understand his own limitations and to make allowances for them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he apparently showed a lighter hand at Pixar than he did at Apple, cultivating the kind of collegial atmosphere that nurtures creativity.
Despite the obvious hype in the name Genius Bar, it is the genius of Apple stores that you can get the kind of technical help that once was lacking in other retail tech outlets. The Genius Bar has served as a model for other businesses, like Best Buy, that now provide in person technical support to their customers. Comcast is notable in this regard as well, offering both in store and on sight assistance. Even AT&T is making an effort these days. That's the sort of influence that's hard to measure, but anyone studying business trends must take it into account.
So, it would be hard to find a more significant change of heart on Steve's part, for which he truly deserves his props.