From the December 2007 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Make 'Em Laugh

I read a book last weekend that turned heads at the hair salon, and prompted a 12-year-old to banish me from the family room, because, "How can I concentrate on my math homework with you giggling over there." So, in celebration of the year-end holidays, and the start of the New Year, we're forsaking our normal titles that help you attract clients, serve them well and achieve all your business goals, by sharing a book whose main goal is to make you laugh.

Options was written by "Fake Steve Jobs," (actually Daniel Lyons, a senior editor at Forbes.) In early 2006, in an effort to understand the technology involved with blogs, he decided to launch one himself (http://fakesteve.blogspot.com/). He had watched as several large-company CEOs, notably Jonathan Schwartz at Sun Microsystems, launched their own blogs, and was taken with how truly uninteresting they are with far more spin than insight. It would be interesting, he thought, if there was a CEO out there who expressed what he was really thinking. Lyons said that Steve Jobs was an obvious pick because of his dual personality of being very spiritual and "Zen-oriented," while also having a persona described as aggressive, demanding and notoriously difficult -- a person who instills both fear and respect in the people working with him.

Over the months interest in the blog mushroomed, eventually attracting more than 1 million readers per month. Lyons kept his own identity a secret, and there was much speculation in the tech community over who was "Fake Steve Jobs" until Brad Stone, a New York Times reporter, put some pieces together and identified Lyons.

Options centers on Jobs' interaction with b-f-f Larry Ellison, Bono and Yoko Ono while detailing the all-too-real backdating options scandal that Jobs and other company executives are facing. The over-the-top egocentric Steve Jobs is introduced right out.

"Your average frigtard probably figures I've got it pretty sweet. I'm one of the richest people in the world, and I'm hailed everywhere as the most brilliant businessman of all time. I'm lean and handsome...and I'm famous...I love it."

At a Sunday morning emergency board meeting to discuss the district attorney's investigation of the back options scandal, Jobs is mad that he's missing his weekly outing. "To show that I am here under protest," Fake Steve writes, "I'm wearing the uniform of the Apple Ultimate Frisbee team -- black shorts, black socks, black shoes, and a black mock turtleneck T-shirt with a tiny black Apple logo silk-screened on the shirt, a half shade darker than the shirt itself, so that you can barely see it. In other words, classy."

When defense attorneys move into offices down the hall from his own, complete with Windows PCs, Jobs returns to his life of drinking green tea, meditating and irritating those around him. Like Ross Ziehm, Apple's PR guy. "Ross is the ultimate flack, a cross between a pit bull and a weasel, but with the face of a school boy." Jobs has him write a press release announcing they've brought in a team of lawyers to conduct an internal investigation. "Then I do what I always do. Without even looking at the paper I say, 'This ...is too wordy. Fourth sentence makes no sense...do it again and bring it back.'" Jobs makes the PR guy write five drafts over three hours. "I sit back in my chair and read the whole thing, very slowly. Then roll it up into a ball and tell him I like the first one best, so go with that."

Is the Steve Jobs character in Options over the top? Yes. Are he, and his pals Ellison and Bono, really such buffoons? I kind of doubt it. But that's OK. And if you're like me, reading Options will give you a few hours of laugh-out-loud moments, and we all know we can use more of those.

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Mary Scott is the co-author of Companies with a Conscience and can be reached at maryscott303@comcast.net.

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