Corporate Culture

Steve’s DNA will always be the base for Apple. It’s the case now. I want it to be the case in 50 years, whoever’s the CEO. I want it to be the case in 100 years, whoever’s CEO. Because that is what this company is about. His ethos should drive that—the attention to detail, the care, the ­simplicity, the focus on the user and the user experience, the focus on building the best, the focus that good isn’t good enough, that it has to be great, or in his words, “insanely great,” that we should own the proprietary technology that we work with because that’s the only way you can control your future and control your quality and user experience. And you should have the courage to walk away and be honest with yourself when you do something wrong, that you shouldn’t be so married to your position and your pride that you can’t say, “I’m changing directions.” These kind of things, these guardrails, should be the basis for Apple a century from now. It’s like the Constitution, which is the guide for the United States. It should not change. We should revere it.

In an interview with Bloomberg’s Megan Murphy, Tim Cook describes the DNA, the Constituion of Apple. There are some things to note here.

  1. There is no mention at all that relates to WHAT Apple will do or create. There is no mention of computers, silicon, software, artificial intelligence, art, luxury or anything to do with the final product, other than a focus on customer experience and building the best.
  2. It is all about the HOW. The attention to detail and the aspiration to be “insanely great”. Controlling core parts to make sure that Apple can do this.

One day, smartphones will cease to be as important as they are today. In fact, it’s even probable that computers, software and even artificial intelligence will become commodities within the current century. Companies that are predicated on indexing all of the world’s information or AI or robots, may find themselves clinging on to a commoditised utility.

Apple’s DNA transcend this. Apple has a value system that is future proof in the span of centuries. Even if Apple decides one day to exit the smartphone market, the DNA can live on and Apple will likely continue to prosper (although maybe at a smaller scale).

There are not too many companies that last even for a few decades. The average life expectancy of an S&P 500 company is now a mere 15 years. Probabilisticly, only a few of the tech bemoths of today will make it to 2040. When the babies born today enter the workforce, out of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Samsung, they will most likely only encounter a couple.

When we look at the dominant companies of today, we should keep in mind that we are looking at what IBM, Sun Microsystems, HP, Xerox, Sears, Nokia looked like in their respective heydays. The formulae for companies that continue to prosper for decades and even centuries is still not well understood by the business academia, but I think that it is noteable that Apple’s DNA is future proof.

  • obarthelemy

    How can anybody believe that this is anything but PR, and not treat it as such ?

    • Many large companies puts out messages about what their missions are or what things they value. They are not all the same. Therefore, even if they are all PR, a comparison of these messages will still give you a reasonable idea of what they prioritise to the extent that it finds itself into the PR.

      Many companies put product related messages out. Some talk about aspirational goals. Some speak more to values that don’t relate to products or goals.

      • obarthelemy

        I’d even say all the big corps do PR, not just “many” or most”.

        Where I disagree is that you think PR is revealing of internal thinking and processes, while I think it’s advertising, crafted to reflect the customers’ desires/values, independently of the company’s real internal values and processes.

        Analyzing a company’s culture via its PR is like analyzing a society via its politicians’ manifestos, or a product via its white paper, a book by its cover. There is something to get from that, but a lot of stuff is one or two layers below, not publicized, maybe not even perceived internally.

        For example, Apple rarely PRs about financials. Yet ex-Applers say financials are a key filter for projects. There’s never a pip about lock-in, yet I’d argue lock-in is a key consideration (either that, or Apple is the only company in the world unable to do a cross-platform messaging app).