The Apple Lesson

Apple Special Event, March 2, 2011, Steve Jobs (1:08:40) after introducing the iPad 2:

So, I’ve said this before. I thought it was worth repeating. It’s in Apple’s DNA. That technology alone is not enough. That it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.

And nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. And a lot of folks in this tablet market are rushing in, and they’re looking at this as the next PC. Hardware and software are done by different companies. And they’re talking about speeds and feeds, just like they did with PCs. And our experience in every bone in our bodies says that that is not the right the approach to this. That these are post-PC devices that need to be even easier to use than a PC. That need to be even more intuitive than a PC. And where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC.

And we think we’re on the right track with this. We think we have the right architecture, not just in silicon, but in the organization to build these kinds of products. And so I think we stand a pretty good chance of being pretty competitive in this market. And I hope that what you’ve seen today gives you a good feel for that.

Horace Dediu:

This is where Jobs’ quote above strikes me as valuable. The lesson the world should take from Apple is that a company needs to become multi-dimensional. It needs to mix the core business with the disruptive innovation. It needs to combine the intellectual with the artistic. It needs to maintain within it the rational and the lunatic.

That sounds nice and all, but I don’t think Steve Jobs would put it that way. What I hear over and over again from him, from when he introduced the original Mac to the most recent keynote, is that Apple is focused on building the best thing it can build. It’s as simple as that.

Playboy, 1985:

We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.

I wouldn’t call it multi-dimensional; it’s single-dimensional, meaning: all Apple wants to do is build the best stuff it can. Singular. Focused. When you want to build the best phone, you can’t just build the hardware. You need to build a lean but high performance operating system. And then you need awesome software. This isn’t multi-dimensional; this is so Apple can build the best phone. That’s it.

NBC Nightly News, 2006:

I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.

Mix the core business with disruptive innovation. What does this even mean? Apple’s core business is about building great stuff. Great stuff naturally tend to be disruptive. But how in the world would a company try to mix its core business with disruptive innovation? Those two are not ideologically separate things you mix. What Apples does is what Steve Jobs said in the above quote: figure out what’s next. When Apple conceptualizes a product and starts to bring that dream into reality, the people involved are not thinking along the lines of disruptive innovation. No. They’re simply doing everything they know how to do to transform the concept into reality, a brilliant reality. It’s called not dwelling on pretty good stuff for too long and getting going on the next great thing.

Combine the intellectual with the artistic? What truly intellectual thing isn’t beautiful? What truly beautiful thing isn’t intellectual? You might think I’m just playing with words, but just look at the world. Look at all the beautiful stuff. There is design intelligence. You can’t separate the two. It is an all together different thing when you’re trying to combine the intellectual and the artistic. In the process of building stuff a company doesn’t combine the intellect and the artistic. Apple doesn’t do that. When Apple strives do build the best stuff it can, art and intellect become fused. This isn’t something Apple does, it is part of the building process toward the very best stuff.

The Wall Street Journal, 1993:

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done somethings wonderful, that’s what matters to me.

The rational and the lunatic? This doesn’t make sense at all. I might sound like a broken record, but I’m just reiterating what Steve Jobs have been saying all along. In the quest to build the very best stuff, as it progresses in the transformation of an incredibly fantastic idea to awesome reality, all this stuff about rational or lunatic… these things don’t matter. When the vision and the pure determination to make that into a reality burns through your brain, your heart, your soul, everything else doesn’t matter but this: making the very best stuff you can. Apple doesn’t give a shit whether it’s rational or lunatic.

Let me say it one more time: Apple is in the business of building the best stuff it can. That’s it, no more, no less.