One wrong decision can destroy years of hard work and requires years to recover. Failures to innovate come in two forms: failures of imagination and failures to execute (Govindarajan and Trimble 2010). With certainty, investors want growth, growth, and more growth. To achieve this, Apple strives to infuse creative thinking in its innovations, and it must deliver products and services fast enough or risk losing market share.
Steve Jobs made a point to groom and posture his staff with capable individuals ready and able to step in when needed. Steve Jobs was very demanding; he viewed himself as responsible for making his staff better. He saw himself as pushing people to come up with "…more aggressive visions of how it could be" (Morris 2008, p 5).
With over 25,000 employees at Apple, Steve worked with the top 100: some executives and some individual contributors. He envisioned his role as moving around and motivating people to discuss ideas and explore options. He believed "…when you hired really good people you had to give them a piece of the business and let them run with it" (Morris 2008, p 9). Empowering his staff meant delegating the authority and the responsibility needed to get the job done. Because he expected them to make "…as good, if not better decisions then he would" (p 9), he required them to learn all aspects of the business. On Mondays, he held meetings that discussed the entire business operations. Each week, much of the Agenda remained constant, and they would revisit each item, ensuring everyone was current with all aspects of the business.
With Apple's size, one person could not make all the decisions. By hiring the best and empowering them with the knowledge and tools needed, Steve Jobs made sure he had the best qualified staff for delegation. He equipped his company with people prepared to take over in the event he could no longer function as CEO. Moreover, Apple incorporates strategic management as an effective device to handle internal and external influences. Instead of being profit-driven, Apple's managers focus on efficient technological innovation and product improvement. Apple built its dynamic organization on the concept of specialization. Steve Jobs contends that "specialization is a process of having best-in-class employees in every role, and he has no patience for building managers for the sake of managing" (Lashinsky & Burke 2011, p 125).
Small and flexible teams can quickly adapt to the actions of competitors and consumers. This can be an effective strategy to overcome unpredictable events, but it can also derail the momentum of a well-developed plan in favor of an overly whimsical reaction to changes in the market. These teams are directly accountable for the outcome of their labor. Apple's ability to prevail in a poor economy is directly attributed to the contagious diligence in leadership of former CEO Steve Jobs who has infused and reinforced values such as innovation and excellence by which the company operates (Marikina, Chan & Lee 2010, p 16). Insomuch, Apple's innovative products are continually enhanced through responsive updates. When customers were dissatisfied with the iPod Shuffle, Apple quickly responded to their feedback and returned to its previous model (Lyons 2010, p 22). Hence, this adjustment demonstrates the importance of consumer input as a means for continuous improvement for product enhancements.
Management: Change, Creativity & Innovation
Change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals and organizations from a current state to a future state. Boastfully, Apple has mastered this process, in which so many others failed. Unlike many other companies, Apple has managed to build a loyal customer based, introduced new concepts and new technologies, and have excelled in change adaptation. Part of its strategy hinges on introducing new features slowly. Apple is deliberate in its execution, yet methodical in its approach. Apple follows an established release cycle, thus avoiding the release of any features or functions pre-maturely. Trying to be first to market is not its aim, but it prefers to execute when ready to minimize any unforeseen mistakes or impending issues. For example, when the first iPhone was released, the App Store was not functional because they wanted a fully tested environment before releasing to its customers.
A couple of times a year, updates and changes will occur. Since 2007, the iOS system has not experienced any major upgrades. The iOS has evolved slowly from version 1.0 to the current version 4.0. Therefore, each release includes very subtle and very minute changes.
Interestingly, Apple is not intrigued by venturing into innovative fads. When its competitors were releasing the latest technological trends, such as all-inclusive larger phone screens with various functions, Apple was planning its latest release of features at a slower pace. Subsequently, Apple released 3G when it was ready; however, it still refused to release a larger screen, although this seemed to be a customer trend. For example, its phone camera does not compare to some other phone cameras with 8 megapixel cameras. Besides, Apple does not believe that average users will need 8 megapixels. Hence, Apple focuses on creative innovative solutions and systems for the general target population, not a niche target population. Its belief is to make the design and user experience a priority. As users adopt the system, Apple is slowly introducing the users to a common system that works across all its devices: iPods, iPhones, Apple TV, and Macs. With a simplistic interface as a core value, Apple believes that a well designed operating system and applications should be so intuitive that any user can simply use it.
With change, fear and resistance may emerge. The key is to move beyond fear and resistance, in which leaders should not simply fight resistance to change but seek to incorporate change with the necessary support into its culture. When an organization and individuals truly understand the scope and substance of the change and can identify their role within that change, then people work together to implement that change. Such buy-in creates a shift in mental paradigm. External change (laws, competition, economy, etc...), as well as internal change (processes, procedures, leadership, etc...) is hard for most people because it is based on personal perceptions. Perceptions are realities! Change scares most people because it may require them to step outside their comfort zone. Employees resist change because of feelings of personal violation. Something will be required from them, and the fear of the unknown erodes their safety net or comfort zone. An effective manager will empathize and provide outlets and tools (contingency plans) to deal with this fear. Managers with good leadership skills should establish and ensure clear lines of communication with their employees. If resistance is not dealt with appropriately, it can kill the best of plans! Moving beyond fear and resistance requires effective leadership, which can transform resistors to advocates of change.
To gain a better perspective into its creative innovation through change, one will have to analyze its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and trends within the internal and external environments. Such relevancy to the contemporary business world is evident in Apple's illustrious history. To render the latest and greatest products and services to its customers is the motivating force that fosters creativity and innovation. Apple's innovative determination was driven by the leadership of Steve Jobs. Its culture has embraced and spawned innovative ideas, which has fueled the motivation for its highly regarded employees. Jobs believed in rewarding risks, and he encouraged employees to delve profoundly into critical thinking activities that bred innovative ideas and solutions. In this highly competitive market, Apple must maintain its competitive advantage, if not increase its competitive advantage through its employees who breathe life into making the impossible, quite possible. Chiefly, Apple's future now rests in the diligent hands of the organizational legacy that he leaves behind to achieve even loftier goals than those conceived in his garage.
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