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传记作者眼里的乔布斯和山姆·沃顿(节选)

Andy Serwer 2012年11月19日

沃尔特·艾萨克森和约翰·休伊非常罕见地接受了《财富》杂志主编苏安迪的采访。对于史蒂夫·乔布斯和山姆·沃顿这两位卓越的商业领袖,他们有着非常细致而深刻的了解。

    回顾过去100年最伟大的商业思想家,史蒂夫·乔布斯和山姆·沃顿肯定处于这份榜单最顶部的位置。乔布斯创建了地球上最有价值的公司——尽管苹果公司(Apple)的股价已经从历史最高位跌落,但这家公司的价值依然超过5,000亿美元;沃顿则是世界最大公司沃尔玛(Wal-Mart)的创始人,该公司过去12个月的营收额高达4,500亿美元。但乔布斯和沃尔顿的功绩并不止于此。两人开启了零售、商业,甚至社会革命。他们改变了我们购物和互动的形式,甚至改变了我们工作和生活的方式和场所。两人出身的背景迥异。乔布斯是一位来自加州、带有浓厚商业气息的反文化偶像。来自加州的沃尔顿则是一位老派的保守主义者。但两人又非常相似:他们当然都反对偶像崇拜,而且冷酷无情,对其身边的人往往非常地严苛。但这仅仅是表面现象。如果真的深入到他们的生活和事业之中,各种妙不可言的见解就会浮现出来。

    就比较和对比这两位杰出人物而言,还有谁能比两人杰出的传记作家沃尔特·艾萨克森和约翰·休伊做得更好呢?《乔布斯自传》(Steve Jobs)的作者艾萨克森是阿斯彭研究所(Aspen Institute)CEO,曾任CNN主席、《时代周刊》(Time)编辑,也是基辛格、富兰克林和爱因斯坦的传记作者。《富甲美国:零售大王沃尔顿自传》(Sam Walton: Made in America with Walton)一书的作者休伊则是时代公司(Time Inc.)的总编辑、《财富》杂志(Fortune)前编辑(我的老板)。

    这次交谈的灵感源自笔者9月初在寡头控股公司全球峰会(Global Summit for the Closely Held)上对休伊和艾萨克森进行的一次采访。峰会主办者BDT公司(BDT & Co.)是一家面向家族企业的商业银行。3年前,离开高盛公司(Goldman Sachs)之后,拜伦·特罗特创办了这家公司。在高盛期间,他有一个著名的身份:为沃伦·巴菲特服务。一提起他们的传记的主角,休伊和艾萨克森似乎有说不完的话要讲(正如你将看到的那样,我其实没必要问许多问题!)。以下是这次访谈的摘要:

    苏安迪:对于商科学生和经商者来说,这两本传纪是必读书——这一点毫无疑问。山姆·沃尔顿和史蒂夫·乔布斯位居史上最伟大的商业领袖之列。所以我首先想问两位传记作家的是:你们与他们是如何结识的?

    沃尔特·艾萨克森:1984年1月份,那时我还是《时代周刊》杂志一名刚刚入行的记者时,史蒂夫·乔布斯来到我们杂志社显摆最初版本的麦金塔电脑(Macintosh)。从那时起,我就认识他了。我发觉他的性格存在两面性。他让我们使用一位珠宝商的放大镜观察电脑的图标。尔后,他的脸色突然变得阴沉起来,开始训斥我们,他说我们永远都无法体会这玩意的美妙之处。我看到了他个性中极端的一面,开始逐渐喜欢上了这个家伙。

    我先后成为《时代周刊》和CNN的编辑之后,他就成了我的好朋友,只不过这种友情每年仅延续2天——因为他要发布新产品,我们才有了这种关系。

    When you consider the greatest business minds of the past 100 years, certainly Steve Jobs and Sam Walton have to be at the very top of the list. Jobs created the most valuable company on earth (though down from an all-time high, Apple (AAPL) is still worth more than $500 billion), while Walton founded and built Wal-Mart (WMT), the biggest company in the world, with more than $450 billion in sales over the past 12 months. But Jobs and Walton did even more than that. Both created retailing, business, and even societal revolutions. They changed the way we buy, shop, and interact, and even how and where we work and live. The two men were vastly different. Jobs was a business version of a California counterculture icon. Walton was an old-school heartland conservative. And yet they were remarkably similar too: iconoclasts, of course, relentless, and often very tough on the people around them. And that's just for starters. If you really drill down into their lives and careers, all kinds of really cool insights emerge.

    Who better to compare and contrast these two remarkable men than their remarkable biographers, Walter Isaacson and John Huey? Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, is the CEO of the Aspen Institute, a former head of CNN and editor of Time, and also the author of biographies of Kissinger, Franklin, and Einstein. Huey, who wrote Sam Walton: Made in America with Walton, is the editor-in-chief of Time Inc., the former editor of Fortune, and my boss.

    The inspiration for this conversation came from an interview of Huey and Isaacson that I conducted in early September at the Global Summit for the Closely Held, put on by BDT & Co., a merchant bank for family-controlled companies headed by Byron Trott, who founded the company three years ago after leaving Goldman Sachs, where he was famously Warren Buffett's banker. Huey and Isaacson had plenty to say about their subjects. (As you can see, I didn't really have to ask many questions!) What follows are the highlights.

    Andy Serwer: These books are must-reads for students and practitioners of business -- there's no doubt about that. Sam Walton and Steve Jobs are two of the greatest business leaders in history. So I want to start by asking our biographers: How did you get to know the subjects of your books?

    Walter Isaacson: I'd known Steve Jobs since 1984, January, when I was at Time magazine, a junior writer, and he came to show off the original Macintosh. I saw both sides of his personality. He had us use a jeweler's loupe to look at the cool icons. Then all of a sudden he turned dark and started berating us, saying we would never get the beauty of this sort of thing. I saw the intensity of his personality, and I came away liking him.

    When I became editor of Time, and then at CNN, he was my good friend for two days a year when he had a new product out. So there was that relationship.

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