Lessons Learned From Apple
I was forwarded this story: How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong
Interesting story… There are really two stories in there, one which talks about Jobs' management style, and the other that talks about the idea of how much you keep secret and how much you share as you go.
On a management side, I agree that, ultimately, any project needs to have a boss, a 'decider', a deus ex machina, or some person with ultimate power to say, 'Okay, you've all had your say, and we're going to do it this way.' Design by committee shows, and decisions by committee are always diluted and rarely let the true visionary shine. But you don't have to be an asshole to do that, and anyone who thinks he has all the answers is usually wrong.
What makes Jobs different is that he seems to actually have the answers, and his vision works. But what's going to happen to Apple after Jobs moves on is what I think I see happening to Microsoft now that Bill has settled down with Melinda and started doing charity work. The vision will be lost, and the R&D infrastructure won't survive without a visionary tyrant.
But the other story about Apple is the secrecy outside the company, and I feel that's their marketing genius. They've built an elitist culture that makes people want to get in and keeping secrets is a great way to create buzz (my example of the Ginger cum Segway hype). As long as you're turning out a great product to fulfill the promise, then, great. But then then Segway hasn't exactly lived up to its original hype…
Secrecy also let's you hide your failures. Microsoft might have done better if they hadn't touted Vista so loudly, then missed release after release, only to give us the bloated beast they did finally bring to market. I have to wonder how many of those kinds of projects have been smothered in the crib at Apple, saving face and making Jobs look more infallible than he probably is.
So, the lessons to learn from this?
If you have a visionary, let him lead and live with his eccentricities. Marketing is always hype, and secrecy is a tool for that hype. Anything can backfire, but arrogance backfires bigger if you fail.
Or, at least that's what I believe… I don't exactly make the richest people list in Forbes…