So, Apple had their newest big roll out yesterday. (Watch the WWDC keynote here). I am an Apple fan, but really only barely use my Apple devices (I have three; iMac, iPad, iPhone) to their capabilities. But I loaded the Macrumors live blog of the event, glanced at it frequently, and followed along. (And I kept looking for the announcement of the latest iMac, but, alas, it did not arrive. My son assures me it is coming soon).
From the moment that Siri started it off, to the multiple announcements, the faithful seemed more than satisfied with the latest good news. Here are two obvious lessons from yesterday’s event. And, yes, they are obvious. But the fact that they are obvious does not mean that other companies and organizations have figured out how to match Apple.
Lesson #1 – keep improving, keep tweaking, and keep innovating. Make your really great products and services even greater. Again and again. From the devices to the software to the operating systems, what is insanely great about Apple now is better than what was insanely great about Apple a year ago, and we all know that by this time next year it will be even greater and better and cooler and “must have” all over again. They give us great stuff now, and will keep on giving us greater stuff tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
I don’t even understand all of the ways they make it better. But I know it revolves around the entire package, the full constellation of offerings and capabilities – design, speed, (“faster, faster, faster, faster” – this was one of the mantras from yesterday) power, look, resolution, “retina display.” Apple just keeps making every part of Apple, everything that is Apple, and everything that works with Apple, better.
But most of us do not learn this lesson in our work. It took me way too many years to realize that while I talked about and spoke about constant improvement, I practiced very little of it. Here’s an example: for the first 13+ years of the First Friday Book Synopsis, my handouts for my synopses looked exactly the same: a plain, boring-looking, Word document, with no design appeal at all. Not too smart of me! I finally realized it was time (way past time) to make some changes on my handouts. We found a great designer to raise the look of our handouts to a new level. And I think they look terrific. And now, I have to figure out “so what’s next?” to keep getting better. And, all along, I have to ask “how can I do my work better?” It really is never ending.
Lesson #2 – Communicate very well to all of your intended audiences. Call it what you want: learn to market; learn to sell; learn to call attention to; learn to create anticipation. Though the current crop of Apple messengers cannot match the brilliance of Steve Jobs, (who could?!), they have clearly learned some major lessons from the master. And yesterday was a sold-out, live-blogged, extravaganza of a show. With videos and slides and demonstrations and team-presentations and multiple awe-inspiring moments for the faithful, Apple still seems to be at the top of their game.
You can read all you want about the need for better hard skills. And many who write about those hard skills tend to almost look down on the place of those soft skills.
That is a really big mistake!
Apple’s success revolves around these two realities; they make great products, and they sell them even better. Yes, this was part of the brilliance of Steve Jobs. But isn’t it interesting that no other company has come close to matching this aspect of Apple’s approach? Apple gets this – why don’t the rest of us?
Let me put it simply and bluntly – if you do not know how to communicate what you do, what you have to offer, clearly and compellingly, with excitement and great passion, then your great product just may go undiscovered by a whole lot of folks.
Lesson #1 – keep improving, keep tweaking, and keep innovating.
Lesson #2 – Communicate very well to all of your intended audiences.
How are you doing?
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dorie Clark for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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What kind of leaders do we need today?
Steve Jobs — mysterious, charismatic, intriguing — is often cited as one of the recent greats, and there are clearly benefits to his style. A recent study showed that leaders like him — those perceived as having an almost magical aura — are seen as visionary, with employees and customers clamoring to touch the hem of their garments. But that kind of leadership also has its limitations.
Succession is made harder by a towering and mysterious personality (good luck, Tim Cook). And, even more importantly, there’s no formula for becoming charismatic. You could try to model others — emulating Jobs’ cool reserve, exacting standards, and mercurial temper, for instance. But the nuances are subtle; you’re just as likely to come off as aloof or entitled, rather than intriguing. The harder, but more rewarding, path as a leader is to make yourself known — to your employees, your customers, and the public. Here are three reasons the new leadership imperative is all about transparency.
To know you is to love you. Well, love might be strong. But you want your employees to at least like you and understand where you’re coming from — because, as copious research has shown, money isn’t a good motivational tool. Rather, what will make them go above and beyond is their relationship and loyalty to you — and you’ll never get that if you don’t let them know you as a person. (Customers, being human, also like to form relationships with real people, not just faceless organizations.) Lunch meetings and feedback sessions are a great place to start, and if you’re managing across continents or your workforce is simply too large, don’t underestimate the power of video. Your personality and enthusiasm can come through just as clearly on YouTube. (A great example is this 2009 video featuring Best Buy Chief Marketing Officer Barry Judge, in which he explains his philosophy of marketing and how the company should interact with customers.)
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Dorie Clark is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. She is the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press 2013). You can follow her on Twitter at @dorieclark.
Here is an excerpt from an especially insightful article written by Nancy Koehn. It is part of The Washington Post‘s recent On Leadership roundtable exploring Tim Cook’s succession of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, and how to follow in the footsteps of an icon. At the conclusion of the excerpt, I provide links to several other outstanding articles. To read all of Koehn’s complete article, please click here.
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At this week’s iPhone 5 launch, we have our first official glimpse into Tim Cook’s leadership style as he takes the stage as Apple’s CEO. Many wonder how Cook will handle running a business handed over by one of greatest leaders and entrepreneurs of our time, Steve Jobs. Jobs is an icon who forever changed the way we connect. However, he was not the first American business leader to exercise tremendous influence over the way people live and think about what is possible. And this is not the first time such a leader has been replaced.
True, Jobs is on a short list of great American entrepreneurs. Along with Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller and Estée Lauder, Jobs has had an exceptional ability to envision what could be: products and services we couldn’t have imagined that we now can’t live without. These leaders all share an intense passion, a driving persistence, a keen sense of strategy and a relentless focus on the details of executing their respective visions. In the 14 years since he returned to the company he helped found, Jobs has embodied all of these attributes (as Apple’s long streak of product homeruns, its $350 billion market capitalization and its powerful brand attest). Given this context, the elephant in the room at the iPhone 5 launch is this: With Jobs gone, can Tim Cook carry the legacy?
Jobs has said he spent a lot of time selecting and developing his executive team. But Apple is not generally known for nurturing talent and giving its smart people the authority and scope to grow on the job. With Jobs’s dogged focus on “what’s next,” as well as his reputation for holding the reins of power tightly, it is reasonable to ask whether he has had the bandwidth (and inclination) to develop a succession plan that could render him obsolete.
But, history offers up several examples of gifted, charismatic (and controlling) founders successfully passing the baton to their successors. Take Thomas J. Watson, Sr., at IBM. By the time his son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., took over in the 1950s, many of his father’s contributions had been baked into the company culture. Not only did this keep the organization from faltering during transition, it enabled the son to focus on the next stage of important changes as its market and customers evolved. At McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, who did more to create the fast-food company than anyone else, built a team from inside the company that could carry his leadership torch after he was no longer as active in the business.
The most decisive factor in a successful leadership transition—and the reason IBM and McDonald’s stayed strong—is whether the founder or CEO has effectively institutionalized his or her own contributions. Certainly those within Apple well understand Jobs’s values and attributes: his painstaking attention to detail, his boldness of vision and his confidence in understanding what the consumer wants. And as a longtime member of the company’s executive team, Tim Cook (who came to the company in 1998) has seen Jobs’s work ethic, energy and hands-on management style up close.
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Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School and author, most recently, of The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times.
On his last day as CEO, Steve Jobs announced that “Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.” That may be, but with the passing of the torch to former COO Tim Cook, it’s safe to say that an era is over.
In the following gallery, BNET’s Wired In blogger Erik Sherman looks at the iconic leader and the indelible mark he left on Apple — and the world — over the years.
Erik Sherman is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. His work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Fortune, Inc, Newsweek Japan, the Financial Times, Chief Executive, Advertising Age, and CIO Insight. Before going into journalism, he was head of product marketing at a publicly-held technology company and later was an independent business consultant.
Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.
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