It’s Better to be a Pirate than Join the Navy

With all the hullabaloo about the sales numbers for Apple’s iPhone 6 over the weekend (10 million phones!), here’s a reminder of what’s behind Apple’s success:

Leading Apple with Steve Jobs details the management principles Jay Elliot learned from Jobs – and what every manager can learn about motivating people to do the best work of their lives.

Elliot was personally hired by Jobs just in time to accompany him on the last of his historic visits to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center – visits that changed the course of computing (the graphic user interface and the mouse, among others). Elliot was Senior VP of Apple, overseeing all company procedures and strategic planning, as well as software development and HR.

First, an image:

Recognize it? This is the flag designed by a couple of the original Macintosh team and flown over the building that housed the small but outspoken crew that was responsible for bringing Jobs’ vision of the personal computer to the masses. It reflected a phrase that Jobs used at a team retreat:

It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy

Those with a cursory knowledge of the Apple story might think that this is a reference to Apple against the rest of the computer world – which it has been for all of its existence. But the real origin of this phrase and the accompanying image comes from Jobs’ insistence of creating a visionary team within Apple – a team that would band together and fight against the corporate bureaucracy that Apple had become in just a few short years.

To protect innovation, Jobs created a company within a company, gave them their own identity, and turned them loose. He didn’t want the Macintosh group to be dragged into the same mess (Jobs used a more earthy term) and lose their entrepreneurial focus – the ability to see and be motivated by an inspiring vision of the future. Jobs’ achieved this by

…building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision.

The rest is history…

Application for ChurchWorld:

Churches don’t have a product like Apple, but then again Apple has always been more than just a product. It’s about creativity and innovation and experience and passion and people – terms which certainly have application to the church – or should. One thing that the church (no matter what its size) has in common with Apple or any large business is a tendency to gravitate toward institutionalism and bureaucracy. Leaders need to resist this, and one way to do this is to create a “pirate” crew that has the qualities of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and an absolute passion and commitment to the vision of the church.

Choose your crew wisely, and they will challenge your thinking, fuel your ideas, pump up your momentum, sharpen your creative edge, and accomplish great things.

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Design Like Apple

John Edson is president of Lunar, a leading global design firm that has worked with Apple on many products. Edson’s book Design Like Apple uncovers the lessons from Apple’s singular approach to product creation, manufacturing, delivery, and customer experience.

From his earliest days at Apple, Steve Jobs set the standard that all products should be “insanely great.” Continuing that standard today, Apple sees design as a tool for creating beautiful experiences that surprise and delight, but also convey a point of view down to the smallest detail – from the tactile feedback of a keyboard to the out-of-the-box experience of an iPhone package. The entire Apple organization is designed to give top priority to design considerations.

Design Like Apple is subtitled “Seven Principles for Creating Insanely Great Products, Services, and Experiences.” Here are the seven principles with a short description:

  • Design makes all the difference – beauty, ingenuity, and charisma create a unique competitive advantage
  • Design the organization – nurture taste, talent, and a design culture
  • The product is the marketing – great products sell themselves
  • Design is systems thinking – product and context are one
  • Design out loud – prototype to perfection
  • Design is for people – connect with your customer
  • Design with conviction – commit to a unique voice

The content of Design Like Apple is a fascinating read, but the design of the book itself is amazing – this is a book that you won’t want to get on Kindle or other e-reader, but instead hold in your hands as you see how the author practices the book’s message in its own design.

You may wonder why I’m recommending this book for further study by leaders in ChurchWorld. That’s simple:

Leaders are designers.

The sooner you accept and apply that statement, the better off  you will be as a leader.

inspired by and adapted from Design Like Apple by John Edson

Design Like Apple

I plan to dive into the individual principles at a later date, but if you are curious about design and leadership, take a look at these posts:

An Apple a Day

While doing some research recently, I came across a back issue of “Fast Company” magazine and a great article on Apple entitled “Apple Nation.” It’s one observer’s version of what “the Apple playbook” might look like. It may be dated, but it’s fascinating – and it has some implications for your organization.

  • Go into your cave – Apple is fanatic about secrecy when it comes to their development process. Behind it’s often closed doors, Apple can ignore the clamor of the world and create its own unique brand of “magic.”
  • It’s okay to be king – Apple’s engineers spend 100% of their time making products planned by a small club of senior managers – and while he was CEO, sometimes entirely by the late Steve Jobs himself. It may seem dictatorial, but it works. The hyper focus lets everyone know exactly what is needed.
  • Transcend orthodoxy – despite all the noise about Apple’s closed ideology, the company adopts positions based on whether they make for good products and good business. Results are the driving philosophy.
  • Just say no – CEO Steve Job’s primary role at Apple was to turn things down. “I’m as proud of the products that we have not done as the ones we have done,” Jobs once told an interviewer.
  • Serve your customer. No, really – however great your product or service, something will go wrong – and only then will the customer/client take the true measure of your organization.
  • Everything is marketing – Apple understands the lasting power of sensory cues, and goes out its way to infuse everything it make with memorable ideas that scream its brand.
  • Kill the past – no other company re imagines the fundamental parts of its business as frequently, and with as much gusto, as Apple does. Nothing holds it back, so it can always stay on the edge of what’s technologically possible.
  • Turn feedback into inspiration – Apple doesn’t exactly ignore the many customer requests for improvements in its products. They simply use their ideas as inspiration, not direction; as a means, not an end.
  • Don’t invent, reinvent – revolutionary is one of Jobs’ favorite words. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own.
  • Play by your own clock – Apple doesn’t get caught up in the competitive frenzy of the industry; it plays by its own clock. Apple’s product release schedule is designed around its own strategy and its own determination of what products will advance the company’s long-term goals.

Everyone wants to be like Steve Jobs and the powerhouse company he created and led. It’s not easy. But the lessons of Apple above may just help move your own organization forward.

 

Have you had your “Apple” today?