Monday, December 20, 2010

Innovation Lessons from Apple an extremely well-produced & informative online magazine for Innovation Management practitioners, recently ran a piece that I have written about Apple and it's lessons on innovation for all of us. The complete article can be read on their site by clicking the link at the start of this note, but I've taken the liberty of articulating a few points below in the hopes that they will get you interested in reading the entire piece:
  1. Take motivation from mistakes: the iPod was more of a great response to a big mistake, than a well-thought-out innovation strategy;
  2. Hire for skills, deal with the attitudes: as opposed to "hiring for attitudes & training for skills", which is by far the more popular approach;
  3. Look outside for great ideas: before Apple extended an 8 week contract to outsider [& lead user] Tony Fadell, they had a great team, but essentially the same ideas as everyone else in the industry. The blockbuster idea that set the iPod apart from everyone else came from outside;
  4. Create innovative work zones: at a time when everyone is talking "space" -- e.g., market space -- "place" still matters in the hunt for new ideas. At Apple, as at IDEO, the design of conversational environments gives then an edge in developing new ideas;
  5. Defining Leadership Boundaries: the boundaries of the iPod project were extremely well-defined and as a result, Jobs was able to get more than 100% of the talent offered to him in his "virtuoso team" by giving them precise, yet inspiring, objectives [1,000 songs in my pocket!] which made it easier for them to believe that they had Absolute Freedom in innovating, while Jobs felt he still had Complete Control;
  6. Be the Police, but dress like a Cheerleader: Aside from being an extremely self-confident leader, Jobs set the project parameters and the team did the work; Jobs stayed closely in touch; but the team did the work..... Jobs took on the job of being the project's sponsor & principal supporter without taking the project out of the hands of those doing it. Our experience is that when senior managers jump into the actual project work they diminish everyone else. Jobs did not do this;
  7. Stand on Firm Ground: The rapid and complimentary evolution of various types of iPods, iPhones; iPads has given Apple an impressive edge in each of the different industries that it competes in. In fact, in nearly every instance, Apple has blown-up existing industry models, that were authored by the incumbents, and established new models [platforms/value-chains/business models] for moving into the future.

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