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.


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:

One Button: The Official Symbol of Simplicity

…a single iconic image can be the most powerful form of communication.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity.

The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. Led by Steve Jobs’ uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

Like this:

Or even this:

Apple branded itself using iconic images and two words that perfectly described the spirit of the company. Every Apple produce sold contributed to the brand image; every product became a manifestation of the brand.

There’s one more example:

One is the simplest number ever invented. It’s so simple, a child can understand it. The further you get away from one, the more complicated things get.

That’s why Steve Jobs insisted on iPhone having only one button, rejecting many models before arriving at the final version. You don’t even have to use an iPhone to get that it’s simple. In fact, one could say that the single button has become an icon of Apple’s devotion to Simplicity.

Simplicity requires little effort.

If Apple had it’s way, all of its products would feature a single button. Now that the iPhone has Siri, the voice-controlled assistant, you might want to prepare yourself for Apple products with zero buttons.

After all, zero is the only number that’s simpler than one.

I’ve really enjoyed reading Insanely Simple and its true insider’s perspective on Apple’s obsession with Simplicity. Ken Segall has really brought the concepts of Simplicity home.

As a leader, are you practicing Simplicity?

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?


Simplicity Never Stands Still

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

– Leonard Bernstein

Former ad agency creative director Ken Segall’s new book Insanely Simple is written from a unique perspective: developing marketing campaigns for technology giants like IBM, Dell, Intel, – and Apple. It was the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity – and inspired him to help others benefit from it.

In the chapter entitled “Think Motion,” Segall refers to Apple’s practices of fast-tracking project and marketing development.  Apple has grown to point where it does a tremendous number of things at once, and in doing so has built one of the world’s greatest juggling acts. Apple:

  • lives in constant motion
  • never stops thrilling its audience
  • never lets things get old

The best illustration of this comes from an example of Segall’s work with both Dell and Apple on similar ventures – developing a new branding campaign.

Apple set out to create a brand campaign in 1997.

   Dell set out to create a brand campaign in 2008.

Apple wanted to start its campaign immediately.

   Dell pondered a schedule that would take months.

Apple’s brand team was led by its CEO.

   Dell’s brand team was led by a committee.

Apple trusted a small group of smart people.

   Dell trusted a small group of incompatible people.

Apple knew exactly who it was.

   Dell need to figure out who it was.

Steve Jobs was an active participant.

   Michael Dell would look in when the project was complete.

Apple’s brand team required only the CEO’s approval.

   Dell’s brand team required each division’s approval.

Apple took a month to conceive and create a campaign.

   Dell required a month just to talk about strategies.

Apple ended up with the Think Different campaign.

   Dell ended up with a stack of presentation boards stored neatly in a dark closet.

Simplicity – represented in the above example by Apple’s actions – is a fundamental requirement when you’re trying to achieve lofty goals. As Dell discovered, a fractured, leaderless group without an urgent mandate is Simplicity-proof.

Will you walk the straight path of Simplicity or choose the dark, winding road of Complexity?

Small is the Ultimate Efficiency

When process is king, ideas will never be. It takes only Common Sense to recognize that the more layers you add to a process, the more watered down the final work will become.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made him appreciate the power of Simplicity. Segall recently released a book about these lessons – Insanely Simple. More than just another repetition of Apple lore, it chronicles an outsider’s long relationship with Apple and Steve Jobs that will provide leaders in any organization with the powerful tools of Simplicity.

Simplicity’s Best Friend: Small Groups of Smart People

While working with Apple, Segall often experienced the strict enforcement of one of Simplicity’s most important rules: Start with small groups of smart people – and keep them small. Every time the body count in a meeting or working on a project goes higher, you’re simply inviting Complexity to take a seat at the table.

This small-group principle is a key to Apple’s ongoing success and key to any organization that wants to nurture quality thinking. The idea is pretty basic: Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. Segall distilled years of observing and practicing this idea down into two “Laws of Small.”

The quality of work resulting from a project is inversely proportional to the number of people involved in the project.

The quality of work resulting from a project increases in direct proportion to the degree of involvement by the ultimate decision maker.

To even speak of putting process before creativity did not happen in an environment like Apple’s. A better idea is a better idea – no matter where it fell in the process. The high value placed on ideas is one of the things that Steve Jobs burned into the Apple culture and it will likely continue to guide the company into the future.

How would small groups of smart people work in your organization?

Blunt is Simplicity. Meandering is Complexity.

Clarity propels an organization. Not occasional clarity but pervasive, twenty-four-hour, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners clarity.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall is a former ad agency creative director who worked for Apple during Steve Jobs’ return to the helm of the iconic tech company. He also worked for many of the largest tech companies around: IBM, Dell, and Intel among others. He’s seen both sides of the fence, so to speak, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success is an amazing book detailing Apple’s return to brilliance under Steve Jobs. It’s loaded with personal stories and practical applications that your organization will find both fascinating and useful.

Like the necessity of being brutally honest in your communications.

According to Segall, Steve Jobs told you what was on his mind and he couldn’t care less how you might feel about it. Despite a general perception that Jobs was the nasty tyrant who demanded allegiance, barked commands, and instilled fear in those around him, this was an incomplete portrait. He could also be funny, warm, and even charming.

There is a huge difference between being brutally honest and simply being brutal.

Simplicity at Apple is the name of the game, and it requires that you be honest and never hold back. If you demand the same from those you work with, everyone will know where they stand.

One hundred percent of your group’s time will be focused on forward progress – and there will be no need to decode what people are really saying.

Learn the Powerful Lessons of Simplicity

Simplicity isn’t just a design principle at Apple – it’s a value that permeates every level of the organization.

-Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity.

The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. Led by Steve Jobs’ uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

Insanely Simple gives you a true insider’s perspective on Apple’s obsession with Simplicity. Here are just a few of the topics covered:

  • Think Small – swearing allegiance to the concept of “small groups of smart people” raises both morale and productivity
  • Think Minimal – distilling choices to a minimum brings clarity to a company and its customers – as Jobs proved when he replaced over twenty product models with a lineup of four
  • Think Motion – keeping project teams in constant motion focuses creative thinking on well-defined goals and minimizes distractions
  • Think Iconic – using a simple, profound image to symbolize the benefits of a product or idea creates a deeper impression in the minds of customers

Segall introduces the book with the concept of The Simple Stick – a core value within Apple. Sometimes it’s held up as inspiration; other times it’s wielded like a club. In all cases, it’s a reminder of what sets Apple apart from other technology companies and what makes Apple stand out in a complicated world: a deep, almost religious belief in the power of Simplicity.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, you know about and fight the battle of Simplicity every day. It may seem like a losing battle, but you need to know that the results are worth the effort.

The simpler way isn’t always the easiest. Often it requires more time, more money, and more energy. It may require you to step on a few toes along the way. But more often than not, Simplicity leads to better results.

Simplicity needs a champion – someone who’s willing to stand up for its principles and strong enough to resist the overtures of Simplicity’s evil twin, Complexity.

Simplicity needs a leader who is willing to guide the process with both head and heart…

…someone like you?

To read more about Insanely Simple, go to the top of the page and click on the orange title of tomorrow’s post.

A Family Divided

Technology-wise, that is.

As a result of gifts and upgrades, my wife is now enjoying her iPad while my daughter Amy is happily using her iPhone 4s. My son and I are still in the land of the great unwashed, using PC laptops and standard smart phones. We guys think it is a girl conspiracy so that they can use Face Time to see and talk to one another more often. That’s fine with me, as long as I get an occasional word (and picture) in.

We soon found out that the iTechnology the girls owned had a very practical use.

This morning the girls colored their hair, and my daughter used the iPad to first find, and then save, a haircut she liked. They then proceeded to a salon and showed the stylist the image, which he promptly re-created for my daughter.

That’s a win.

A: “We’re Here to Help You Grow”

Q: Why Apple has been able to create one of the most innovative environments – in any industry – ever.

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Principle #6: Create Insanely Great Experiences

People don’t want to just buy personal computers anymore. They want to know what they can do with them, and we’re going to show people exactly that. – Steve Jobs.

Apple entered the retail business out of necessity. Up till 2000, it was dependent on giant electronics retailers that simple pushed products – Apple or otherwise. Apple realized it would continue to lose market share if it didn’t do something.

Steve Jobs’ decision was to enter retail: “We have to think different about this. We have to innovate.”

Along with Jobs, Ron Johnson, Apple’s Senior VP of Retail Operations, realized that innovation could not take place without a clear, compelling vision. That vision?  Enriching lives.

That simple vision drove the Apple team to create a store unlike anything else in retailing. They innovated around the retail experience by changing people’s expectations of what a retail experience could be.

  • Design uncluttered stores
  • Locate the stores where people live their lives
  • Allow customers to test-drive products
  • Offer a concierge experience
  • Make it easy to buy
  • Offer one-to-one training

Where most retailers are moving product, Apple is establishing a lifelong relationship.

Innovation is seeing what exists in another industry and applying what you learn to improve the customer experience.

What are the lessons here for ChurchWorld?