Okay – hands up, we’re guilty. When we started these articles, we knew we’d talk about Apple at some point, and you probably did, too. But in our defence, how could we not? Created by the formidable Steve Jobs, Apple was the first to champion design as much as function, changing the way that the world saw technology from the preserve of geeks to an aspirational lifestyle must-have. This refined aesthetic radicalized the way in which the world literally works, and it’s the first company to break the trillion-dollar value ceiling by doing so. But while Jobs broke new ground, he did it with a singular vision that alienated and corrupted as much as it innovated. He reportedly never gave a penny to charity, scorned collaboration, and loathed criticism, preferring to call even his customers idiots than face feedback. However, there is more than one way to run a company, and Apple’s now CEO, Tim Cook, who turns 61 today, is proof that it’s possible to lead – and to change – differently.
A quiet and private man, who prefers solitude and exercise to the more glamorous life his fortune could offer him, Cook focusses on holistic values, such as collaboration, diversity, and simplicity, and has transformed Apple in his decade at the top, turning it into the most valuable and desirable conscience-led company in the world. Let’s find out how.
A wider vision
While Jobs was a purist, Cook’s willingness to explore other markets has given the world a greater diversity of products, such as AirPods and the Apple Watch. But he’s also developed Apple as a services company, with subscriptions to Apple Music, AppleTV+ and podcasts being just three of the ways in which Apple earnt a staggering £53bn from their services alone in 2020. This canny move, providing the content to go with the products, has also strengthened Apple’s already impressive ecosystem, too.
Keep it simple
A company that earns over $3,600 of pure profit every second might be expected to have a lengthy mission statement, but Cook sums up Apple’s in just a few words – ‘We focus on making the world’s best products and enriching people’s lives.’
Overcomplicating mission statements is a common mistake for companies to make, but if you can’t sum it up in a sentence, it needs to go back to the drawing board. Certainly, at RedWizard we simply want to help people do change better; that the nature of that change will be different for every client doesn’t take away from the focus of what we do. So, maybe it’s time to think about your mission, too.
Love what you do
A notably quotable man, Cook proves once again that he understands the process when he said, ‘Let your joy be in your journey – not in some distant goal.’ Understanding that each step builds upon itself, the end result becomes a consequence of focussed, passionate thinking and development, rather than the other way round in which companies mistake their goal for stock price or revenue. As Cook says,
‘You have to focus on the things that lead to those.’
While Apple created their own market, and keep it hungry for more, they wouldn’t be successful if they weren’t good at delivering on the dream. ‘You have to find the intersection of doing something you’re passionate about and that, at the same time, is in the service of other people,’ he once said,
‘I would argue if you don’t find that intersection, you’re not going to be very happy.’
Nothing is wasted
Apple have tried – and failed – at many things. You probably won’t remember its defunct social network Ping, or its attempted email service MobileMe, but you might remember the pain of its botched attempt to usurp GoogleMaps with its own version. But change that doesn’t work can lead to change that does – if you can examine the mistakes you made. Cook again; ‘The most important thing is, do you have the courage to admit that you’re wrong? And do you change?’So, make some time for a little self-reflection and ask yourself what’s been your biggest mistake? And how did you learn from it?
Don’t be afraid to diversify
It can be difficult to broaden your vision to include other people, and this was something Jobs was infamously poor at doing. But Cook actively seeks the dissenters, the critics, and the outliers, firmly believing that it takes discomfort to make brilliance. ‘I think the most diverse group will produce the best product,’ he has said. Cook is also a keen champion of personal diversity, and in 2014, became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to come out as gay. In his public letter, he noted that ‘If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is…then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.’
Cook said it best when he said that ‘People should have values, so by extension, a company should.’ So, Apple has been part of the ConnectED initiative since 2014, giving $100m of teaching and learning solutions to US schools, while its Employee Giving Program means that they match every hour or dollar donated by its employees to community organizations. Cook has also pledged to give away all his personal fortune in time. Now, while we can’t quite see ourselves doing that, we can all use our professional platforms to do good, whether we volunteer, donate, or connect with community initiatives to share skills and knowledge. We’ll close with Cook’s words –
‘You don’t have to choose between doing good and doing well. It’s a false choice, today more than ever.’
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