Apple – The Open Innovation Exception
Ben Verleg recently asked about my views on Apple and innovation. The short version is that I am big fan of Apple products and if you can make such great products, you obviously also do well with regards to innovation.
One thing I really like about Apple is that they seem to understand that innovation goes beyond the product itself. Think iTunes, other services, design and marketing. They execute very well on this.
Apple is a very unique company and innovation is in their corporate DNA. This is the highest level of innovation maturity a company can reach and it is a very strong asset that other companies have a hard time competing against.
Such a strong innovation culture is the envy of many companies and they try hard to achieve a similar position. I have no doubt that they can find much inspiration at Apple. However, innovation DNA is hard to define. A company – as well as their internal and external stakeholders – knows it when they have it, but it is hard to define.
Apple employees can share why their company is unique and they can offer great insights that can inspire others. Getting such inspiration is unfortunately just a tiny element of implementing and building a strong innovation culture. There are just so many things that need to fall into place over a longer period of time.
It helps if the executives know what they are doing, if the employees are passionate as well as capable and if customers love your products. Still, you do not have any guarantees as you also have to get the right amount of luck at the right times.
Apple is by no means a good example on open innovation. This prompted Ben Verleg to ask a fair question: What is the value of a theory when one of the most successful companies lives another theory?
There will always be exceptions to the rule. Apple is a unique company and they are definitely an exception that shows you do not have to open up your innovation processes in order to build great products and services. Just remember that Apple is very hard to copy…
We also have to remember that companies should start open innovation efforts by asking why they should do this. What are their specific reasons for doing this? It should not be done just because their competitors are doing it.
I am sure Apple is asking the why question and that they are opening up their process where they believe there are good reasons to do so. This is how all companies should approach open innovation.
There is no doubt that I like Apple. Actually, the only big question mark I have is what Apple will be without Steve Jobs. I have always said that no single person is irreplaceable, but once again, Apple is a unique company.
Let me know what you think on Apple and innovation.
Image Credit: The Economist
Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.
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