The obituaries and tributes are fulsome and quite rightly so. Steve Jobs was an extraordinary man who built Apple into an extraordinary company. In the best tradition of declaring interests, let me say that I am also an Apple loyalist, an iPhile. I love the products, so my views may be slightly biased when I say that the Apple of the last 10 years is one of the most successful business stories ever.
So how did they do it and what can we learn? Many better commentators than me have described why Apple is an innovation powerhouse. They have tried to analyze what has made them successful and tried to formulate the recipe for success.
The message whether explicit or implicit, is that doing what Apple does is a path to glory. But here’s why this is the wrong thing for others to do. Only Apple is Apple, and only Apple can do what they do.
The key is in Steve Jobs’ remarkable address to the Stanford graduation class of 2005 when he said – “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
I think this applies just as much to companies as individuals. Yes, try to learn from them by understanding what is relevant and can work for you; but don’t try to repeat exactly what they do. The key thing to learn from Apple is to build your own path to the future and follow it with passion and determination. To paraphrase another American icon, do it your way.
Kevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions, and also has experience in life sciences.