Thursday, March 19, 2015

Principles of Apple

This is one of the best Tim Cook interviews about Apple explaining the differences between Apple and other tech companies. In a nutshell, it's about Apple's culture, philosophy, and principles, not stock price, market share, or profitability.

What was Steve Jobs's greatest invention? Was it the Apple 2, the Mac, iPod, iPhone, etc? Nope, Steve Jobs's greatest invention was Apple, the company, or more precisely the culture he created within the company.

Apple focuses on principles. Principles are fundamental ideas that don't change. This is why they do what they do. We (people and companies) implement principles in the form of values. Our values can change depending on the situation, but the underlying principles never change. A good example of the difference between values and principles is the difference between a map and the lay of the land. A consumer, surveyor, and pilot may all use maps, but each requires a different type of map such as Google Maps for roads, surveyor maps for contour lines, or an aeronautical chart for mountains, towers and airports. As long as your values represent the underlying principles, then you have harmony; wrong map for the wrong land and you've got a problem.

Companies focus on metrics to attain goals. (It's important to note that Apple, like many other companies, has no mission statement.) The key metric for success is profitability. Obviously, Apple has that one nailed. However it's not their ultimate goal. But, Microsoft is profitable too. The key difference is in how a company attains their goals. There are different ways to do that. Microsoft does it by going after market share. In order to maintain market share Microsoft is reluctant to walk away from legacy products. Other companies may sacrifice future earnings for a good showing in the latest quarter. Apple chooses to focus on making the best products and that's measured, holistically, by customer experience, from when you walk into an Apple retail store, to buying, unboxing, using and calling for support. Steve's focus was not on quarter to quarter profits or Apple's stock price. Instead, his priority was maintaining a responsibility to the long-term. Sure, it's important for the price of Apple's stock to go up otherwise the executives lose their jobs, but that's a pleasant byproduct of making the best products in the world.

And, keep in mind, that not every one of Apple's products is a home run. Don't forget about the Apple G3 Cube (sexy, but too expensive), iPod Socks (too generic), iPod Hi-Fi (expensive and poorly designed). Make the best possible products that are simple to use and recognize the bad ones as soon as possible. In other words, do not reinforce failure; do not throw good money after bad.

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