3 Lessons On Innovation From An Apple Veteran

Ask 100 people to name a company which has excelled at innovation and I’d guess well over half of them would state Apple.  (It’s a pity the recent Steve Jobs movie didn’t spend more time on this and less time on his unedifying behaviour towards his ex-wife and daughter.)

What Ford did to the motor industry in the early 20th century, Apple has done to the communications, entertainment and tech industries on a truly global scale.  So, when an industry veteran of 12 years at Apple reveals the lessons he learned about innovation during his time there, it pays to sit up and listen.

You can read the full article by clicking here, but I summarise the 3 key points made by Kelli Richards as follows:

1. Consensus is not your friend.

The key takeaway here is that nothing slows down work like trying to get support from everyone.  Companies need to give their Team Leaders a high degree of independence in order for innovation to thrive.  Once budget and authority have been given, Team Leaders need to take advantage of both.  Talented artists don’t ask for permission – they just create.

2. Don’t run back and forth seeking Interim feedback.

You don’t need approval to experiment and put innovative ideas into action.  Companies that require interim approval and constant progress reports hamper innovation.  Real breakthroughs can’t happen if you’re constantly stopping to present your work midway through, second-guessing yourself all the time.  That doesn’t mean a completely hands-off approach, of course, but it does require a culture where innovators are trusted to see their own work through.

3. Be Wary of Received Wisdom

If your team is unwilling to question received wisdom, it’s your job to push them to do it.  Kelli says: “Oddly enough, convincing the powers that be at Apple that music and entertainment were key markets was actually a real challenge for me. Then Steve Jobs returned to the company and launched the iPod and iTunes, both of which leveraged the foundation, legacy, and relationships we’d created, often hand over fist, in previous years.”

Richards ends the article by highlighting some of the ways in which you can convince reluctant corporate leaders about the merits of innovation.  This is best captured in this quote: “It’s better for an internal department to innovate than for an external competitor to gain an advantage.”

According to Richards, a book called The Innovator’s Extinction by Dave Ulmer delves further into these issues, so it’s probably worth checking out if you want to get a greater insight into this whole area of innovation.

Conor Foley

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