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Focus means saying ‘no’

Last week Richard Huntington shared this video of Jony Ive talking about how Steve Jobs was brilliant at focusing. Many of us think about focus in terms of being able to sit and work exclusively on one thing and yet this is only the half of it. Jony makes a great point here about how focus is really about saying no. It reminded me of reading in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs about how, when he returned to Apple in 1997, he simplified an overly complex product line by drawing a 2 x 2 matrix on whiteboard (with ‘consumer’ and ‘pro’ across the top and ‘desktop’ and ‘portable’ down the side) and placed one product in each quadrant.


Strategy is about making choices about what you won’t do as much as what you will. So many ‘strategies’ are full of non-choices. Good prioritisation is not only about moving important and urgent things to the top of the list, it’s about de-prioritising less important and urgent stuff to free up capacity. As I was watching the Jony Ive clip i was reflecting how much this applies at a personal level as well as corporate one. As David Ogilvy once said: ‘the essence of strategy is sacrifice’.

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