Steve Jobs: Genius at Tweaking, Not Inventing
He was brilliant at perfecting the ideas of others: Malcolm Gladwell
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2011 5:19 PM CST
Steve Jobs in a file photo from March 2, 2011.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Forget those Thomas Edison comparisons to Steve Jobs—the man was far more of a "tweaker" than an inventor, writes Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. It's not a slight. As the new biography makes clear, Jobs could take the ideas and inventions of others, zero in on their weaknesses and strengths, and make them singularly his own. "The great accomplishment of Jobs’s life is how effectively he put his idiosyncrasies—his petulance, his narcissism, and his rudeness—in the service of perfection," writes Gladwell.

He cites a new theory about the Industrial Revolution: Two economists think it began in Britain because that nation had more "resourceful and creative men who took the signature inventions of the industrial age and tweaked them—refined and perfected them, and made them work." The same holds true for Jobs and his tech revolution. He borrowed the Mac's mouse and icons from Xerox, for example, and his iPhone came out a decade after the first smartphones because he noticed something about his competitors' early models: "They all stank."