Steve Jobs and Apple are Not Good Benchmarks

Steve Jobs and Apple are Not Good BenchmarksThe obituaries and tributes are fulsome and quite rightly so.  Steve Jobs was an extraordinary man who built Apple into an extraordinary company.  In the best tradition of declaring interests, let me say that I am also an Apple loyalist, an iPhile.  I love the products, so my views may be slightly biased when I say that the Apple of the last 10 years is one of the most successful business stories ever.

So how did they do it and what can we learn?  Many better commentators than me have described why Apple is an innovation powerhouse.  They have tried to analyze what has made them successful and tried to formulate the recipe for success.

The message whether explicit or implicit, is that doing what Apple does is a path to glory.  But here’s why this is the wrong thing for others to do.  Only Apple is Apple, and only Apple can do what they do.

The key is in Steve Jobs’ remarkable address to the Stanford graduation class of 2005 when he said – “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

I think this applies just as much to companies as individuals.  Yes, try to learn from them by understanding what is relevant and can work for you; but don’t try to repeat exactly what they do.  The key thing to learn from Apple is to build your own path to the future and follow it with passion and determination.  To paraphrase another American icon, do it your way.

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Kevin McFarthingKevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions, and also has experience in life sciences.

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Kevin McFarthing




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No Comments

  1. Symeon Onipede on October 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Hello Mr. McFarthing,
    Interesting article indeed and I do agree wholeheartedly with the content.
    However, I think the most important principle in this drama of our lives as expressed in our work, talent and other activities we engage in, is that the story is only beautiful and worthy of emulating when upon reflection, we can all say it is,and has indeed been a success story.
    I do have four inventions I am in the process of introducing to the global market with letters patent granted for all inventions within six months of the first patent following multiple bout of inspiration like a bolt out of the blue.
    I am going about this task in my own inimitable way, and stubbornly sticking to my guns as you would expect from someone who dared to be different and invent things while many would rather choose the tried and tested safe route of a 9 to 5.
    It is only if I succeed that every man and his dog will regard me a trailblazer whose story should be read and taught at school. until then….

    Kind regards,
    Symeon Onipede
    BO 2 BO limited

  2. Philip Walker on October 18, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Is it about governing by an innovation principle? Establishing a culture of innovation that’s a license for employees to go away and try to make things better. Each successful innovation then reinforces the principle.

  3. Kevin McFarthing on October 19, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Philip – if a company is serious about innovation, they need to put people, resources and systems in place to enable it. If they do the right things, including encouraging the right behaviour, launch successful products, then eventually there will be a culture of innovation. It’s best that way round rather than planning to build the culture. And the point of the post above is it should be your culture, your way of doing things, even if it is inspired by others.

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