Why Apple University matters more than ever

“When Steve Jobs hired Joel Podolny in 2008 to create Apple University, the marching orders were to help the company do something it had never spent much time doing: Study itself,” Peter Burrows reports for Bloomberg.

“Jobs had run the company much like a gigantic startup, enabling him to imprint his management philosophy on everything from product design to advertising,” Burrows reports. “But with his cancer worsening, Jobs wanted Podolny, the well-known, youthful dean of the Yale School of Management, to create a program to distill his approach so Apple’s executives would be able to reinforce it after he was gone.”

“Working closely with Jobs — who gave him an office between Jobs’s and current CEO Tim Cook’s, according to the Los Angeles Times — Podolny quickly built up a curriculum of courses, including one called ‘What Makes Apple Apple.’ Some courses were taught by top Apple executives such as Cook and former retail chief Ron Johnson, according to Adam Lashinsky, author of ‘Inside Apple.’ Other courses were built around case studies written by a faculty that includes Richard Tedlow, a Harvard University business historian.,” Burrows reports. “Fulfilling Jobs’s vision for Apple University won’t be easy. ‘Joel is a very creative guy, but it’s hard to create instant Steve Jobs,’ said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, another Yale professor who worked with Podolny last decade. ‘The essence of genius is that it’s a misfit quality. Misfits don’t fit well into institutionalized assembly lines.'”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Steve Jobs to live on, virtually, in Apple University – October 6, 2011
Apple University teaches Apple employees how to think like Steve Jobs – July 19, 2011
Apple Hires Yale’s Business School Dean for Apple University – October 22, 2008


  1. This pains me. All I got out of this article was that I wasted my college years. My parents were poor, and they could only send me to a “technical college” for poor and disabled students. I could not go to a real university and have a true and honest college life. The majority of the
    student body consisted of men, and many of them were ex-cons who were
    assigned courses at this joint as part of a rehabilitation programme. The rooms you’d
    live in weren’t a far cry from looking like the rooms patients stay in at a mental
    hospital or some sort of place like it. I just couldn’t wait to leave, and go to Northwestern in the Chicago area. 4 years…wasted…

    1. You pitty potty is showing. What’s your point? Those of us who not only did not go to a private school and were taught by some of the greatest minds of our generation or to a tech school have missed out on Apple University, too.

      Gee, all I had was a high school education, but I discovered that many of the topics I was interested in were in books I could find in libraries. So, I studied my ass off and in a five year period, I knew as much as, if not more, than many of my compatriots who had BS of MS after their name.

      How I would have loved to had the opportunity of Apple U. Wow! But alas, I was only to create a good life for myself, my family and develop some rather unique products in my life that created jobs for people who were willing to be a part of a team rather than feel sorry for themselves.

      Having even a “technical college” education places you in the top 5% of the world. Get over your self-pitty and start making a difference. No one is forcing you to remain in your shit. If it stinks, get out of it. If it doesn’t, you’ve been in it too long. Take a attitude bath!

    2. Education is a precious thing. Rejoice in your learning to date. If you missed a 4 year long party, have one now. If you learned the same material as someone in an expensive university and only spent a few thousand buck, GREAT. Make your education a firm foundation for the learning during the rest of your life. I too, came from a very poor family and saved and got student loans and scrimped, graduated, went back to school, got more student loans, scrimped, got a job, went back into instructing at the same school I graduated from. Now I am off to Saudi to teach electrical engineering there.

      Keep up your spirits and keep learning. Its fun and profitable (eventually).

    3. I think you failed to make use of the opportunities that were made available to you, and like a bad workman you’re blaming the tools. I have heard of people in prison with limited education, coming out with law and other degrees. When you are in a tough situation, you grab the bull by the horns!

  2. “could only send me to a “technical college” for poor and disabled students”

    This is TOTALLY weird.
    – There are, I am sure, HUGE numbers of people in the US who wish there parents had enough money to send them to anything. I’m one, for sure. It took me a long time working at crappy jobs before I could save a little and arrange my time to do some distance education and better my position.
    – You didn’t have to go. And if you went and then didn’t like it, you weren’t imprisoned.
    – While there, you could have studied as deeply into the courses as you liked.

    If you WASTED four years, that is, for sure, on you.

    1. How could I study what I wanted there if they didn’t even have the courses I wanted? I wanted to study music, but the school didn’t have it. I was eventually placed into Custodial…and I really hated that! I wanted to go to Syracuse up in Upstate New York, but that was too expensive. Then…finally in 2001 (I graduated HS in 1993, pathetic huh?) I finally made it to Northwestern University in Illinois. I loved my time there, but my time at that “tech school” sucked out some years from me.

      1. I agree 100% with “Cry me a river”.

        You didn’t HAVE to go to that school. You certainly didn’t HAVE to spend four years there!

        I put myself through school, not getting a dime from my parents. In fact less than a week after high school graduation my parents effectively showed me the door. And yes, they were very poor. My family was well below the official U.S. Poverty Level my entire life while growing up.

        Working multiple jobs to support myself (and others dependent upon me) and pay for what school I could, I took more than six years to get my first BS. It took another four years to get my first MS. And so forth and so on.

        Yes, I took out a couple student loans, which I paid off within a year after leaving school the last time. Yes, I went to a state run university because I didn’t want to drag it out further by going to a big name private university as I could have only afforded such a thing at a much lower attendance rate. But, that was my *choice*. It was not because I HAD to do so.

        No one in the U.S. can whine about not being able to go to school. PERIOD. If you really want to go to school you can get it done.

      2. If you have a “technical education” you’ll always be in demand. If you’re really good. But just because you’re really good technically doesn’t mean that you can’t also go to school at some point to learn the fine arts and or sciences too. I did. You can improve your life or you can feel sorry for yourself. The choice is yours.

  3. There’s no such thing as “wasted time,” especially in reference to improving yourself, which includes learning. Now, if you directly equate education with monetary gain, sure.

    This trend of directly equating learning with how much you’re eventually profit from it isn’t new, but appears to have grown so strong in the past 10-15 years that it seems like that if you’re not getting a significantly greater return on your money by going to college the whole experience–in its entirety–was somehow a waste.

    Which is a tragedy when you think about it.

  4. But I was in a unique situation. The trade school I went to was 100% Free! and was paid for by the state. And, like they say, “you get what you pay for”. The facilities were ugly and were always in disrepair. When I went there , the gym celing was leaking and they had to keep that place closed for an ENTIRE year! I couldn’t even get in some yoga practice! They had no “creative” classes such as writing, music, or art. I had to suffer with learning how to clean the toilets! It was much worse in person.

    1. That’s why they called it a “technical school” rather than a “creative school”.

      No offense, but if you were expecting a liberal arts education from a technical school, well, you really aren’t in a position to complain.

      1. That’s the problem. They knew that school didn’t have anything for me, but I still went because I had no other choice. I couldn’t go to NYU, Syracuse, or even any of the SUNYs because we just didn’t have the money. This was all we could afford.

        1. Yes, you could have found a job for four years to save some money and tried to find a better education. Opportunities does not come to every one. I do not think you tried hard enough. I am not sure.

        2. “You get what you put in” may apply here too.. How interactive were you with your professors? Also did you even try applying for financial aid or scholarships so that you could apply to a ‘better’ college/university? Also how were your grades in H.S.? Enough to get into a college of your choice if you disregard the tuition costs?

      1. I wasn’t too stupid, that joint didn’t have anything for me, so I was pretty much forced to go into Custodial. At least we got enough to send to to Northwestern, but that wasn’t until 2001! And my first day of class was on 9/11 too!

        1. You weren’t “forced” to do anything. You gave up. You made the choice. And going to Northwestern is such a punishment. How could you handle such degradation a second time?

          IMHO, in this thread you have been an attention suck. Get over your Self and start giving to the world. Your life just may change.

    1. Speaking of the Disney college thing, I knew a guy who went there for a semester. He told me all about the craziest things that would happen at Disney World, and other weird stories. I won’t reprint them here, because it’s like they say “what happens at Disney, stays at Disney”.

  5. Technically, this wasn’t a college, it was a “training and rehabilitation” center for those too poor to go to regular university, or those too disabled to do so. That place had a bunch of ne’er do wells, and several people were violent at me. It didn’t help that the place mostly had males from the nearby prison so they could do studies while being incarcerated. The mid-1990s have no nostalgic value for me.

    1. Get over yourself. It is now 2014. Live in the past and you will never progress. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from Steve Jobs: “Let’s go invent tomorrow rather than worrying about what happened yesterday”.

      You may want to have a think about that. You sure have commandeered this thread with your ‘feel sorry for me” shit.

      Get over it. Your opportunities in this life are over when they nail the box shut. Prior to that YOU can make a difference. It’s your choice. Just get on with it.

  6. The Bloomberg article seems to be without a real focus. The point that I seemed to get was that Burrows believes that Podolny faces an uphill struggle to keep the spirit behind Jobs as a real force within Apple.

    Burrows overlooks the point that most journalists overlook. Apple doesn’t operate like other companies do and to an outsider, it doesn’t make sense. Apple University is all about developing a culture so that staff intuitively think along the lines that Jobs advocated without needing to have things explicitly explained. The culture of the company is a huge asset and one that isn’t obvious on a balance sheet, but it makes a huge difference to the success of the company.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.