Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple

6 Pages   |   1,295 Words

Case Summary

Apple is the best case study for Change Management because it has made it evident that as long as the core is consistent, the world of the business around it can keep changing to stay successful. It is popularly believed that the reason behind Apple’s success was Steve Jobs. That statement or the notion behind is not untrue. But it is also true that Jobs held fast to the core principles of the brand.
With the commitments intact, the brand went on to experiment with the business strategies and fundamentally changed the hardware and software world of technology. From the time of its birth in 1976, by 2012 Apple was able to be the foremost innovator in design. Steve Jobs return to the company was the significant point in the brand’s history when the innovation became at its best and consequently resulted in having “the highest revenues per square foot in the retail sector”.
 

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Often defying “conventional business logic”, Apple worked its way consistently towards designing with the sensibility that Jobs proposed in his designs. These designs and models of the Apple brand have come to be defined as “beyond fashion” and “zeitgeist” meaning “a sense of what is popular, fashionable, and trendy at the moment”. Apple has come this far by not thinking about what is fashionable in design; hence, innovating to create from that point forward. The end product is a “result of painstaking attention to detail”. The fact that the “beautiful, smooth, and consistent interface did not sacrifice features” is the secret behind Apple’s success.

Compare and contrast the innovation and design models discussed in CMR and HBR articles, with regard to the difficulty of managing  innovation and linking innovation to experimentation (design thinking) as defined at Apple (use of a framework is appropriate).

Design of any product is a result of a brand’s innovation. As such, history has seen that most products focus on the design to the extent that they make it complex to the eye as well as to the experience (Bunduchi, 2011). For manufacturers of computers, mobile phones and other such innovative technology; the sense of producing a unique yet useful design of the hardware as well as the software becomes a challenge. This is because they think wrongly that complexity is the answer to the innovation which would produce an effective product for their brand (Nonala, 1991).
However, when it comes to Apple the case is entirely different. Apple has one theme, which resonates in its slogans, themes and company’s motto. ‘Think Different’- with that in mind, Apple became the “leading designer” of innovation and design (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013). Throughout the company’s difficult and successful period, which marked the return of Steve Jobs, the “core commitment to product design and development” was kept alive (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013). This policy led the brand to think smarter by being simpler. This simplicity in the designs of Apple products is backed by a consistency.
For the Apple team, the method to operate was the “Apple Way” (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013). The innovation was the fruit of principles rooted in commitment to creating novel designs, having a clear vision of business strategy and courage to conduct business experiments, all backed by the “chief innovator”, the CEO (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013).

 

Why has Apple been so successful? What are the perceived drivers of their success, and provide a rationale for selecting them as your framework?

Sometime around the year 2000, Apple’s share price was struggling near $5. 12 years later; however, the company’s share price reached $600 for the first time. This was the sign that the brand was finally treading a rather steep uphill. The business kept recovering from the recession to a point where the market capitalization was about US$ 550 billion and the annual sales surpassed $100 billion. At such a moment, Apple was three times the worth of General Electric, and about 25 times more than Sony Corporation (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013).
From being bankrupt to being the “most valuable publicly traded company” (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013), Apple has come a long way. Surprisingly enough, despite and in spite of all these changes and a sweeping success rate, the integral part of the company remained the same. Everything about the business changed; its strategies, their consequent implementation, the nature of business experiments, etc. The only central and integral part that remained intact was the company’s principle (Baden-Fuller, 2013).
This principle around which the entire brand has evolved and keeps evolving is, “a set of principles with a deep commitment to great products and services at its core: design thinking, clear development strategy and execution, its CEO as chief innovator, and the rational courage to conduct bold business experiments” (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013).
For instance, Apple II, which came out in 1978 is quite similar in design to the iPhone which came thirty years later (West, 2010). These two different products set three decades apart are a clear evidence of the consistency of the principle behind the brand’s innovation.

 

What is the role of the CEO in charge of an enterprise dedicated to innovation? Does Steve Jobs fit within this definition—why or why, not, with a rationale as to your selection?

Years have witnessed that Apple did the exact opposite of what the rest of the competitors were doing. While other company’s tried to fit in as much applications and hardware in devices, Apple removed the slot for diskettes from Mac computers. Being way ahead in innovation, competitors followed suite years later.
Similarly, Jobs also put his theory with the IPod at its best; “that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013). The fact that till today no one has been able to duplicate the technology of the IPod and the subsequent versions of Nano and Shuffle, talk tall tales of innovation and business strategy which was put to effective use by the CEO (Wonglimpiyarat, 2012).
When Jobs thought about creating something new or changing what was at hand, he had only two things in mind. One was the gauge of simplicity. The second was the factor of love (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013). Although the intention here is not to be dramatic, but this holds true that Jobs and his team of designers thought of “the smallest detail” and scrutinized it further to see if   it was possible to “discover what can be lived without” (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013). For that reason, the “level of complexity needed to be reduced dramatically” (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013).
Jobs believed that the “potential customers would have to fall in love with computers if they were to master the machine's apparent complexity and spend a lot of money to do so; people would have to see how this tool would benefit them and want that benefit for themselves” (Montgomerie & Roscoe, 2013).

References

Baden-Fuller, H. (2013). Business Models and Technological Innovation. Long Range Planning , 46 (6), 419–426.
Bunduchi, W. S. (2011). Mapping the Benefits and Costs Associated with Process Innovation: The Case of RFID Adoption. Technovation , 31 (9), 505–521.
Montgomerie, J., & Roscoe, S. (2013). Owning the Consumer—Getting to the Core of the Apple Business Model. Accounting Forum , 37 (4), 290–299.
Nonala, K. (1991). Towards a New Theory of Innovation Management: A Case Study Comparing Canon, Inc. and Apple Computer, Inc. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management , 8 (1), 67–83.
West, M. (2010). Browsing as the Killer App: Explaining the Rapid Success of Apple's iPhone. Telecommunications Policy , 34 (5-6), 270–286.
Wonglimpiyarat. (2012). Technology Strategies and Standard Competition — Comparative Innovation Cases of Apple and Microsoft. The Journal of High Technology Management Research , 23 (2), 90–102.

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