Steve Jobs, the Way
John Sculley Tells It
A quarter-century after the best-known romance and breakup in modern executive
history, the partner who vanished has popped up with insights to share.
WHEN IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE appeared in 1982, it instantly divided management
writing into Before (The Age of Drucker) and After
(the age when even Malcolm Gladwell qualifies as a
“management author”). The dividing characteristic was stories. Post-Excellence, any idea that any
business thinker offered came illustrated by anecdote. Sometimes lots of anecdotes.
And in all that time since 1982, no anecdote has
etched itself into collective memory better than the
story of Steve Jobs recruiting John Sculley, then the
CEO of Pepsi-Cola, by asking, “Do you want to
spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or
do you want a chance to change the world?”
Leander Kahney has very probably repeated that
anecdote thousands of times. Kahney is editor and
publisher of cultofmac.com, and author of Inside
Steve’s Brain (the most managerially useful book on
the Jobs shelf). He used it again recently when he pub-
lished an extraordinary interview he elicited from
John Sculley. Go read it here: cultofmac.com/john-
It’s an ex-CEO conversation like no other I’ve seen.
In a short space, it’s hard to convey what makes
the Sculley-Kahney chat so provocative. Part of it is
Sculley’s abject frankness and vulnerability — his
Apple “partners” Steve Jobs and John Sculley in 1984, in one
of their countless photo ops with the new Macintosh. Do you
want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do
you want a chance to change the world?
was first to fix the company, but I didn’t know
how to fix companies...
I’m actually convinced that if Steve hadn’t
come back when he did — if they had waited
another six months — Apple would have been
history. It would have been gone, absolutely gone.
Looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever
hired to be CEO … When Steve left I still didn’t
know very much about computers. My decision
But even better are Sculley’s efforts to describe what
he calls Jobs’s sacrosanct “methodology”— design-centric, customer-experience-focused and committed
to the belief that it’s what you decide not to do that
matters. Read it, and judge for yourself.
— Michael S. Hopkins
Reprint 52217. For ordering information, see page 8.
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