4 Myths about Apple Design and What One Means for You

4 Myths about Apple design bring up at least one very interesting top management dilemma about talent, structure, and strategy.

Fast Company Design and author Mark Wilson recently shared an article that focused on one former Apple employee’s views on myths about what makes Apple go when it comes to design.

I’ll put the link HERE.

The four myths explored are:

#1 Apple has the best designers

#2 Apple’s design team is infinite

#3 Apple crafts every detail with intention

#4 Steve Jobs’s Passion frightened everyone

The whole is worthwhile…I wanted to focus on only one part of the commentary.

The first one.

Here’s the operative passage from that particular myth:

“I think the biggest misconception is this belief that the reason Apple products turn out to be designed better, and have a better user experience, or are sexier, or whatever . . . is that they have the best design team in the world, or the best process in the world…[but] It’s actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design. Everybody there is thinking about UX [User Experience] and design, not just the designers. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better . . . much more than any individual designer or design team.”

and this:

“It has often been said that good design needs to start at the top—that the CEO needs to care about design as much as the designers themselves. People often observe that Steve Jobs brought this structure to Apple. But the reason that structure works isn’t because of a top-down mandate. It’s an all around mandate. Everyone cares.”

I added that emphasis at the end…

Here’s my shorthand explanation of this explication:  Everybody thinks that Apple has the best design talent but what Apple actually has is a distinctive design environment.

This gets to talent, people, organization structure, mission, and purpose.

Sports teams from the New England Patriots to the Milan Indians have shown that system, buy-in, and dedication can overcome talent gaps.

But, too often overcoming talent gaps is pithy-fied in such nonsense as “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

That may be true in one off contests or one-on-one basketball, but hard work is only a fraction of the story when it comes to true, structural catalysis of excellence.

Corporate leaders need to think about far more than talent.  Talent is a resource that has a quickly diminishing return when it is placed in the wrong environment.  And, counter to that, the right environment can provide exceptional leverage to middling talent.

This one person’s view of Apple (I emphasize, one person’s view) reinforces this notion.

So What? 

As an organization leader at the frontline or as a senior executive in the C-suite, are you thinking about the structural limitations your work environment places on your talent?  Are you trying to overcome them by simply trading out people or “upgrading” your talent?

A race car with a fantastic engine can only go so far as its suspension, aerodynamics, tires, and pit crew allow.

Aligning mission, structure, and talent is what it appears Apple has done well.

1 reply
  1. Pop
    Pop says:

    AT&T could have used your philosophy in various areas of business, particularly approaching divestiture (01-01-1984) and after. Likely too late now. Then again, maybe not.


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