Everyone talks about Steve Jobs's creativity and passion. Of course these qualities were central to his character. But the real reason he was revered, rather than just respected, was his ability to completely inhabit the mind of the user and to design products from that perspective -- then propel that vision through every stage of the process without compromise. Users sensed he was their passionate advocate.
Apple will continue to thrive because Jonathan Ive has the same singular talent of being able to put himself in the mind of the user -- and because Jobs himself reengineered Apple so that it could usher visionary user-driven ideas, almost always fragile at the beginning, through the usual gauntlet of corporate bureaucracy without damage.
Design-driven companies are still rare. Maybe more will emerge as the industry continues to learn from Steve Jobs's legacy. Through the decades I have been in tech, I've always been surprised at the number of products that reflect little understanding of how the user thinks or feels. Thanks to Jobs and Apple's incredible success, I hope the industry recognizes, cultivates, and rewards the product designers who have the ability to make that mental leap. May they be protected from those who recoil from originality as too great a risk.
This article, "Steve Jobs's special talent," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.