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How to Innovate Like Apple By Chris Morrison published on BNET.com 8/10/2009
Apple makes it look easy. From the sleek design of its personal computers to the clever intuitiveness of its software to the ubiquity of the iPod to the genius of the iPhone, Apple consistently redefines each market it enters by creating brilliant gadgets that put the competition to shame. What's the secret? Apple has built its management system so that it's optimized to create distinctive products. That's good news for would-be emulators, because it means Apple's method for innovation can be understood as a specific set of management practices and organizational structures that - in theory, at least - anyone can use. This Crash Course outlines the techniques Apple uses to make the magic happen.
Things you will need: • It may take several years to cultivate new skills and rebuild your product lineup.
• You'll need funding to create a dedicated innovation team and sufficient capital to rethink your product lineup.
• Strategic clarity: Innovating effectively means creating your own opportunities in a crowded marketplace to avoid both mediocrity and commoditization.
• Patience: Creativity is a fickle thing, and it doesn't always follow the clock. False starts and the occasional flop are part of the process and must be accommodated.
• Strong leadership: Innovation doesn't happen by committee. Visionaries with effective management skills are hard to find, but they're a critical ingredient for success.
Clear Your Mind GOAL: Understand what it takes to create truly remarkable products.
The word "zen" is often applied to both Apple's products and the company's highly focused CEO, Steve Jobs. And while the compliment usually refers to the beauty of the company's minimalist products, enlightenment is more than skin-deep. "In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains or the sofa," Jobs has said of his product philosophy. "But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design." Design is a "fundamental soul," Jobs says, that expresses itself through an end result - the product.
What is Apple's fundamental soul? The company's motto, "Think Different," provides a hint. Apple maintains an introspective, self-contained operating style that is capable of confounding competitors and shaking up entire industries. For example, Nokia, once considered the
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undisputed leader in mobile phones, never anticipated that a single product from a computer maker might throw its ascendancy into question.
Internally, Apple barely acknowledges competition. It's the company's ability to think differently about itself that keeps Apple at the head of the pack. Current and past employees tell stories about products that have undergone costly overhauls just to improve one simple detail. Other products are canceled entirely because they don't fit in or don't perform up to par.
Apple's culture has...