Ed Catmull: How to Argue with Steve Jobs | Summary and Q&A

May 5, 2014
Stanford eCorner
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Ed Catmull: How to Argue with Steve Jobs

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In this video, the speaker discusses his experience of working with Steve, highlighting their frequent disagreements but lack of loud arguments. The speaker shares how they would present their counter arguments to Steve and the different outcomes that would arise from these discussions.

Questions & Answers

Q: What was Steve's reputation that everyone knows about?

Steve had a reputation that was public knowledge and often discussed among people.

Q: How did Steve respond when someone disagreed with him?

Steve's response to disagreement was to explain his point of view until the other person understood his perspective.

Q: Did the speaker ever argue with Steve loudly?

No, the speaker never engaged in loud verbal arguments with Steve over the course of their 26 years of working together.

Q: How did the speaker and Steve handle their frequent disagreements?

The speaker reveals that they would often have disagreements with Steve, but their conversations would end quickly as Steve could think faster and shoot down their arguments.

Q: What did the speaker do when Steve immediately shot down their initial argument?

When Steve would shoot down the speaker's point, they would wait for a week before calling him up and presenting their counter argument.

Q: How long did these discussions and counter arguments sometimes last?

These discussions and counter arguments could last for weeks or even months.

Q: What were the three possible outcomes of these discussions?

There were three possible outcomes: 1) Steve would realize the speaker was right and agree, 2) Steve would reconsider and agree that he was actually wrong, or 3) they would not reach a consensus and Steve would let the speaker proceed with their own approach.

Q: What percentage of the time did Steve admit the speaker was right?

Approximately one-third of the time, Steve would acknowledge that the speaker was right and that would conclude the discussion.

Q: In what percentage of cases did Steve change his mind and admit he was wrong?

Another one-third of the time, Steve would come to the realization that he was, in fact, wrong.

Q: What did Steve do when they couldn't reach a consensus?

When a consensus couldn't be reached, Steve would allow the speaker to proceed with their own way of doing things without further discussion.


In this video, the speaker provides insights into their working relationship with Steve. Despite their frequent disagreements, they never engaged in loud arguments. The speaker highlights the approach they took to present counter arguments to Steve, waiting for their turn to debate. The outcomes varied, with Steve occasionally acknowledging the speaker's correctness, sometimes realizing he was wrong, and at other times allowing the speaker to proceed as they desired. This case study illustrates the importance of effectively communicating and providing alternative perspectives in achieving successful outcomes in professional collaborations.

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