Collaboration at Apple

The late Steve Jobs seemed to fit the classic stereotype of the creative genius. A college dropout who invented the first personal computer in his garage. The man who stood up to IBM’s boring corporate PC (with the famous 1984 Superbowl commercial). The man who was kicked out of Apple, which promptly started to fail, and then who returned to again lead the company to success.

Jobs deserves a lot of credit for being an effective corporate leader. But he’s not a lone genius. Like all lone genius stories, this one is a myth. Back in 2009, I blogged about the important role played by the design team at Apple, led by Jonathan Ives. And earlier this month, in an interview in the London Evening Standard, Ives confirmed the central role of collaboration at Apple:

The way we work at Apple is that the complexity of these products really makes it critical to work collaboratively, with different areas of expertise. I think that’s one of the things about my job I enjoy the most. I work with silicon designers, electronic and mechanical engineers, and I think you would struggle to determine who does what when we get together. We’re located together, we share the same goal, have exactly the same preoccupation with making great products.

One of the other things that enables this is that we’ve been doing this together for many years – there is a collective confidence when you are facing a seemingly insurmoutable challenge, and there were multiple times on the iPhone or ipad where we have to think ‘will this work’ we simply didn’t have points of reference.

3 thoughts on “Collaboration at Apple

  1. I found one of the most interesting parts of the biography of Steve Jobs was the description of how Ives was granted the most operational authority at Apple, second to Steve Jobs himself. Additionally, the mention of how each department would work together, simultaneously to develop product, coined “deep collaboration”, as opposed to typical companies where a product is envisioned, passed off to design, then handed off amongst different engineering departments, marketing, etc.
    Some good parallel discussions along these lines:

    Harvard Business Review “Creativity Lessons from Charles Dickens and Steve Jobs”

    1. That’s also my understanding of Apple’s design process. It was originally called “concurrent design” and IDEO (down the street from Apple) was founded based on those principles: the idea that “design” isn’t something that comes at the end to make the box look pretty. Now it’s what we call “design thinking.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s