I’ve been thinking about that phrase this morning. It’s a goofy phrase, easy to dismiss as typical Jobs hyperbole.
I’ve decided it’s quite a precise phrase, though. At Apple, at NeXT, at Pixar, Steve Jobs was by most accounts incredibly difficult to work for, but in a way that made people want to make products that met what were, compared to those of typical corporate leaders, insanely perfectionist standards.
That drive to achieve his vision, to drive everyone to make whatever it was better, to make it better than they could even imagine, resulted in some insanely great products—”cartoons” that are great films, phones and computers that remain pleasures to use long after their novelty wears off (if it ever does).
One could wish, hoping for a better world, that exacting drive on more executives in all fields, except that in those without a focused and inspiring vision like that of Steve Jobs, we wouldn’t get insanely great—we’d just end up with a bunch of megalomaniac martinets who were merely insane.
“Insanely great” is not an easy standard to pull off, and Steve Jobs did it routinely.