The Economist: What other companies can learn from Apple, California’s master of innovation

“For a company that looked doomed a decade ago, it has been quite a comeback. Today Apple is literally an iconic company. Look at your iPod: the company name appears only in the small print. Some of the power of its brand comes from the extraordinary story of a computer company rescued from near-collapse by its co-founder, Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple in 1997 after years of exile, reinvented it as a consumer-electronics firm and is now taking it into the billion-unit-a-year mobile-phone industry (see article). But mostly Apple’s zest comes from its reputation for inventiveness. In polls of the world’s most innovative firms it consistently ranks first. From its first computer in 1977 to the mouse-driven Macintosh in 1984, the iPod music-player in 2001 and now the iPhone, which goes on sale in America this month, Apple has prospered by keeping just ahead of the times,” The Economist reports.

Apple “inspires an almost religious fervour among its customers. That is no doubt helped by the fact that its corporate biography is so closely bound up with the mercurial Mr Jobs, a rare showman in his industry. Yet for all its flaws and quirks, Apple has at least four important wider lessons to teach other companies,” The Economist reports.

• Innovation can come from without as well as within
• Design new products around the needs of the user, not the demands of the technology
• Sometimes ignore what the market says it wants today
• Fail wisely: learn from mistakes and try again

For the moment at least it is hard to think of a large company that better epitomises the art of innovation than Apple,” The Economist reports.

Full article here.

22 Comments

  1. All wrong…. Apple marketing used to suck… products were always very good and way ahead of the rat pack. marketing picked up since the iPod only.

    Near callapse? When, I must have missed that, or is it these people who write this stuff don’t have clue.

  2. It’s really quite simple:

    Before making any decision no matter how trivial, think.

    The same sort of decision process that gave us the original Mac / Lisa interface, extended throughout the whole range of company activities, is what gives Apple the ability to set a target and execute it.

    The difference between the Cupertino and Redmond boys and girls is their point of view. The latter are unable to think from a user perspective: it’s always about owning the technology; extending the monopoly; backward compatibility; developers, developers, developers….

    So the corollary to this is:

    Understand just what you want to achieve.

    MW: extremely relevant but withheld. Nah-na-na-na-nah.

  3. > Sometimes ignore what the market says it wants today

    That statement is exactly what the iPhone is. The competition and media nay-sayers are predicting failure because they say the iPhone does not address “what the market says it wants today.”

  4. Here’s a good story about IT guys and Windows:

    We got two second had instruments which both had WinNT PCs running them. I hooked them up to the ntetwork and asked the IT guys to get the domain etc correct so that we can transfer data. After several hours the tech says NT wasn’t designed for networking and we wouldn’t be able to connect to our servers. He did show me that I could connect to one of the machines from my office PC. That afternoon, out of curiosity, I surfed the network on one of the NY machines and lo and behold was able to access our servers. Two minutes later I did the same on the other machine.

    I hate PCs but have to use them at work and have little knowledge about their innards, but apparently know more that a trained IT guy.

  5. The article is almost entirely positive in regards to Apple and Jobs, but it does criticize Jobs in a subtle and convincing way.
    It mentions ‘the bumptious Mr. Jobs’.
    Now if S.Jobs is not above criticism, and I believe that he is not, then the word ‘bumptious’ hits the nail on the head, for despite all his positive characteristics, S. Jobs is also and most certainly ‘bumptious’.

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