Steve Jobs: A hard act to follow

by | May 6, 2013

The expression “big shoes to fill” comes to mind when one thinks of Apple CEO Tim Cook. Following the company’s recent disappointing earnings, the controversial Apple Maps project, and no Apple TV or NFC (Near Field Communication), some are questioning Cook’s ability to follow Steve Jobs’s lead.  Jobs had his shortcomings, but Cook certainly has his work cut out for him to do his predecessor’s legacy justice.

Writing for Business Insider, Greg Satell shares some of the reasons why he thinks Apple needs to learn to innovate in a different way.

Tim Cook and Steve Jobs

In an interview with Businessweek, Cook laughed off the need for an innovation department within Apple. He put the onus of research and discovery on to each employee.

Some of the world’s most impressive discoveries have emerged from dedicated innovation units. The top secret Google X think tank has produced Project Glass and autonomous cars. Who knows what the next project will be?

For a couple of devices, such as tablets and mp3 players, Jobs did not altogether dismiss them, even though he may not have immediately warmed to them. He went away and created better versions of these products. The potential he saw in them went on to become massive success stories.

3 factors key to Apple’s success        

  1. Discipline
  2. Talent
  3. Steve Jobs

Now that the third, and possibly most important, factor has gone, Tim Cook and his team at Apple need to look to the future and learn to widen their innovation scope.

New innovation methods

Basic research: IBM’s achievements in quantum computing will pay dividends for many years to come, with one of its biggest projects not reaching its final stages until the year 2020.

Apple spends little to no money on basic research. Navigating completely new worlds, rather than improving existing ones, may be something Apple will need to consider.

Breakthrough innovation: Apple’s tight-knit management team may be bulletproof, but this walled garden may stifle innovation in the long term. Without serious consideration of external contributors, relationships and influences, the same group of people may all end up thinking alike.

Disruptive innovation: Giants such as Google and 3M foster innovation across a broad range of fields, rather than surgery-like precision on a select number of big-ticket items. The latter is the approach that Apple has taken in the past. Will this method be sustainable now that Jobs has gone? And is that a risk Apple is willing to take?

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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