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Businesses The Almighty Buck Apple

How Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator's Dilemma 424

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-it-just-had-one-button dept.
hype7 writes "With yesterday's release of the Steve Jobs biography, a raft of interesting information has come to light — including Jobs' favorite books. There's one book there listed as 'profoundly moving' to Jobs — The Innovator's Dilemma by innovation professor Clayton Christensen. The book explains how in the pursuit of profit, good managers leave their companies open to disruption. There's an interesting article over at the Harvard Business Review that explains how disruption works, and how Jobs managed to solve the dilemma by focusing Apple on products rather than profit."
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How Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator's Dilemma

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  • by jpmorgan (517966) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @07:55PM (#37838986) Homepage

    It's very nice if you can run a company and just worry about your products, but unfortunately most senior management can't. The board and the shareholders hold them to stock price and quarterly earnings, and if they don't make the expectations they're likely to be replaced by the board.

    Steve Jobs was a bit of an unusual case, because the man had a brand unlike almost any other corporate executive in the United States. Think about how he took most of Apple's engineering staff off of MacBook upgrades and OS X development to create the iPhone. It worked, and created Apple its most profitable product line ever. But what other person, at what other large company, has the political capital to sacrifice development of an existing profitable product line for an unknown?

    That's why Apple was so successful under Jobs' tenure: he had the resources of a huge organization, but the political capital amongst employees, the board and the shareholders to make the kinds of decisions that usually only small companies (with small expectations) can manage. It takes technical talent to create great products, but it also takes a management that's willing to let the talent do that. It's unlikely that Apple will be able to continue in the same vein for long, now that Jobs is gone. His successors may be great, but they'll never be Jobs.

  • by AndrewStephens (815287) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @08:19PM (#37839260) Homepage

    What has always surprised me about Jobs is the amount of risk he was willing to take on. People forget what a huge leap it was to ditch everything that came before (including several up-and-coming products) and focus on OSX. The iPhone also represented a huge effort - a radical departure for Apple and radically different from other cell phones, if it hadn't been an immediate success Apple would only be a fraction of what it is today.

    History is littered with the wreckage of companies that decided to change direction, diverting resources from existing customers to look for fresh fields. Apple somehow managed to do it several times to great success.

    Another thing that strikes me about Apple is how old-fashioned the corporate culture seems to be (from the outside). They do business by figuring out what people want, and then selling it directly to the public with a minimum of fuss at a price that both parties can live with. Contrast this with their competitors in the computer and cell phone markets, who sell pretty much the same devices encumbered with "special offers", "free malware detection (for 30 days)", or annoying contracts, none of which customers actually desire. I can't see why other manufacturers haven't gotten the hint yet.

  • Cherry picking Jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @08:48PM (#37839504)

    Here are some things [businessinsider.com] attributed to Jobs by his official biographer that won't be appearing in any Slashdot stories:

    Steve Jobs told President Obama he probably would not be re-elected [because] regulations and unions in the United States were crippling its ability to remain competitive. "You're headed for a one-term presidency," Jobs said to Obama.

    [Jobs said] it was too difficult to build a factory in the U.S., which led the company to build manufacturing plants in countries like China.

    Jobs also said teachers' unions "crippled" the education system in the United States. Among his requests to Obama were an 11-month school schedule, school days that last until 6 p.m. and a merit-based system for employing and firing teachers.

    [Jobs] told Obama that the United States needed to become more business-friendly.

    You may now resume your continuously scheduled iSpin.

  • Re:Prior art. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpiralSpirit (874918) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @08:49PM (#37839516)
    anyone whose played Civ can tell you this one:

    “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”

    Henry Ford

    It seems somewhere between Ford and outsourcing everything we can to india and china, industrialists became looters.
  • PR? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slasho81 (455509) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @09:31PM (#37839810)
    This submission feels like pure PR for a book or two.
  • Re:How long... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:02AM (#37840790)

    >> he was angry about Google being painted as evil

    Why don't you go back and check the front page stories about Google for last seven days? Then compare the number of Steve Jobs/Apple/iphone The Greatest Evaaar stories. This is not about opinions, but about facts. The stories are picked with clear bias against Google (some of them are clear troll/flamebaits), and some of the summaries are just plain stupid and do not belong to slashdot.

    Here is the list for you - I will leave checking the summary to you:

    How Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator's Dilemma
    FTC To Monitor Google's Privacy Practices For 20 Years
    Concerns Over Google Modifying SSL Behavior
    Microsoft Now Collects Royalties From Over Half of All Android Devices
    Android ICS Will Require 16GB RAM To Compile
    A Decade of Apple Oddities
    Google Not Reciprocating On IFrame Usage?
    Siri Envy? Iris Brings Some Voice-Assistant Features to Android
    Meet Siri's Little Brother, Trapit
    Jobs Wanted To Destroy Android
    Android 4.0 Source Code Coming "Soon" ..

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @01:08AM (#37841052) Homepage

    You're all missing the point here. When Jobs returned to Apple, what resulted was a set of more or less "meh" Mac machines, a detour through the PowerPC, and a kludged up version of the Next OS. Apple desktop market share remained in single digits through that period.

    What worked was the iPod. The reason the iPod was successful was deals with music labels. Jobs was good at deal making in Hollywood. As CEO of Pixar, he was a studio head, at the top of the Hollywood food chain. The labels had to listen.

    That's what made the iTunes store go, which is what really drove the product. The hardware was secondary.

  • by mrxak (727974) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @01:41AM (#37841178)

    If it was only marketing, wouldn't everybody be doing it? Or are you just saying that only Apple has an advertising budget?

  • by mrxak (727974) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @02:02AM (#37841242)

    Tim Cook is going to get 10 million shares of AAPL if he sticks around another 10 years, so they pretty much have him locked down. Tim Cook is a practical man, but he's a true believer.

    Jeff Williams is a Tim Cook operations kind of guy, and without a doubt much of Apple's success was because of operations under Tim Cook. Operations will continue moving along quite well for the foreseeable future.

    Jonathan Ive is absolutely a true believer, and Jobs set up Apple to give the man free reign of the company. I don't doubt Jonathan Ive is living his dream job, and he'll stick around as long as they let him and he'll keep the Jobs way going. Realistically, much of Apple's success has been a collaboration between Jobs and Ive, not Jobs alone.

    Scott Forstall is probably also living his dream job, I doubt he'd jump ship either, and he's certainly a true believer as well. He's also got a reputation as being rather Jobs-like in his aggression, so he'll be a watchdog as well for Apple culture.

    I'm sure Eddy Cue, Bob Mansfield, and Phil Schiller will stick around too, and that pretty much rounds out the executive team.

    The Apple board let Steve Jobs pretty much do whatever he wanted during his tenure as CEO when he came back, and he used that power to set up a group of managers and culture under him to carry Apple forward as an innovative company. For all the talk of Jobs being a brutal, nasty boss who bludgeoned people into doing things his way, what that really means is he forced people out that weren't, in his mind, Apple material. The only people left are the true believers.

    The spreadsheet monkeys won't have an easy time worming their way back in.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @02:41AM (#37841350)

    Be it as it may, what it comes down to is that Apple created a product their customer doesn't complain about. And in this time and age, this is already the superior product. Whether you liked it a lot or didn't, Apple made products that "work". They don't crash, they don't lock up, they don't keep their user puzzled how to use them. They made "computer stuff" usable by common folks.

    I can see it in my dad and other computer illiterates. They are usually afraid to "poke" at their other goodies, fearing they might "break" something. Not so with Apple. My dad even started trying to find out what this button does, something he would NEVER have done in any other OS he ever had. Reason? He might have changed a setting and wouldn't have a clue how to undo it.

    That's what sets Apple apart from the rest. Personally, I consider it an abomination, I just can't wrap my mind around their way of doing stuff, but it seems to work just great with people who have no computer background. And that's what endeared it to those people. And what makes a lot of computer specialists hate it. Not so much the "loss of edge", just that they do things in a way that makes us look stupid instead of the computer illiterates.

  • Re: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by taiwanjohn (103839) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @02:16PM (#37846830)

    IIRC, Smith said taxes should be "easy," which doesn't necessarily mean small or large. Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that he would advocate "high" taxes, just that he favored progressive tax rates. In the current (US) political climate, a lot of people are talking about a flat tax, or other regressive schemes, and justify this on the theory of "supply side" economics. You know, we can't "punish the job creators" and all that... Smith would have laughed at such talk.

    Basically, we had a very progressive tax system from WWII through the 70's. And that period was a golden age for the USA, just as Smith would have predicted. Rich people still had their mansions, yachts, and limos (or "opulence" as Smith might have put it), and the government managed to build infrastructure, provide services and offer inexpensive education, all without running up massive debts and deficits. And (except for women and minorities) everyone was pretty happy with the situation. Businesses thrived, workers enjoyed generous pensions and health benefits, and opportunities abounded.

    Since then we've dabbled with various levels of less progressive schemes. (The income tax is progressive, but when you consider sales tax, gas tax, property tax, etc., the total tax burden is still highest on the middle class.) The idea was that "job creators" would have more money, and therefore they would create more jobs. But they didn't always do that. Increasingly they found it easier to "gamble" their extra cash on stocks and securities. So while the government was running up historic deficits, there was an excess of "hot money" in the markets, leading to speculation and bubble formation.

    Oh, and let's not forget deregulation... another exaggeration of Smith's ideas, which gave us the S&L crisis in the 80's and the "Great Recession" of 2008.

    But that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish...

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