The Unique Organizational Culture of Apple

To a significant extend, an organization’s culture determines the success or failure of its business.  Within less than 40 years, Apple has become the biggest company on earth, far ahead of traditional corporations like IBM and Exxon.  As the world’s most valuable company and brand, Apple has a market capitalization above $700 billion and over $160 billion in the bank.  Apple’s financial strength and market dominance can be largely attributed to its internal culture and its unique approach to people, business, and the society.  Apple’s cultural approach has become the gold standard for the technology industry, and its success can by learned by other private and public sectors as well.

Apple used to be Apple Computers, Inc, but it does not want to describe itself as a computer or technology company.  By changing its name to the generic Apple, it aims to combine the roles of innovator, integrator and service provider with the focus of consumer interest and public affairs.  Actually, there is no secret hidden; enough has been published to reveal Apple’s value proposition and cultural uniqueness which have been thought to cultivate its continuous success:

Passion

Steve Jobs said that Apple is about connecting the humanities to the sciences, creativity to technology, and the arts to engineering. these connections reflect the company and its people’s passion for creativity.  Apply acquires employees from the creative class who are critical thinkers and collaborative problem-solvers.  Workers at Apple are not just seating there to work or to make a living; they are to build, create, and innovate, and they enjoy what they do with great passion.  Great success is the result of great passion.  Watching Apple’s success, every organizational leader should ask, what is our organization passionate about?

Creativity

Within many corporations and public agencies, conformity and compliance are expected and reinforced among the workforce; creativity is neither encouraged nor appreciated. Organizational leaders put a straight jacket on the organization’s ability to connect with nothing but financial outcome which is often failed to achieve. It is critical for organizational leaders to begin review and update mission statements, and change replacement strategies accordingly.  Organizations should recruit not only techies but also artists — those who are adept at blending plumbing (functionality) with poetry (beauty).

Leadership

Apple is a leader, not a follower.  although Apple didn’t invent the portable music device, smartphone or tablet computer, Applet does lead the industrial sector to a new level by innovation and has completely changed the landscape of the market. Rather than playing a quick and dirty cut-and-paste approach, Apple radically redefined the status quo for ideas and concepts on each of the product and service.  On the controversy, in many organizations, the so-called best practices are often emblematic of status-quo thinking. Therefore, progressive leaders should recognize that best practices are typically about today, while “next practices” are about tomorrow.

Innovation

At Apple, innovation goes beyond the corporate strategy; it has become a mindset that is factored into everything the company does. Every employee is facilitated with the innovation efforts in daily jobs.  While all organizations advocate innovation, the actual implementation is often fraught with challenges. One common organizational culture, especially in public sectors, is risk aversion, that is the innovation killer. Mistakes are bad, but what’s worse is a culture that doesn’t tolerate them.

Service beyond Expectations

Apple has done the best job to surprise consumers and the public. Instead of satisfying the customers, it delights them once and more.  Of course, that costs money, a lot of money.  But the problem is, too many business leaders know all about costs or budgets but little about value. All too often, organizations and managers fail to remember that they are not the audience for the program or service they are delivering, so their lack of empathy for the actual consumers affects the design of the service or program. This is certainly a problem of lack of passion, and that is what Apple has done well.  As people desire more personal and caring treatment, Apple provides a fantastic end-to-end user experience.

Vision for Customer Needs

A core of Apple culture is to focus on what customers really need. Steve Jobs often reiterated a famous quote of Henry Ford’s: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Like Ford, Apple always has stayed out ahead of its customers, producing products that they didn’t know they would want. Peter Drucker, the influential management consultant and author, once said that the best opportunities are “visible, but not seen.” The idea of working to identify unseen opportunities may seem a little crazy to people steeped in the culture of the traditional workplace. But as Jobs so memorably put it, people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.