There’s been a lot of chatter lately speculating the bloom is off the rose at Apple, and Samsung is the next big thing.
Samsung is a lot of things – a copy cat, a me too company, a follow the leader organization. But it is not innovative. That, despite being among the top 20 R&D spenders on the planet for the past decade. And guess who is not among the top 20 spenders? You got it… Apple.
However, in fairness, Apple is identified as the most innovative company (#1) on the planet in a survey conducted by Booz & Company. Apple is the king of innovation. Everything it does – everything it has done for the past four decades – is innovative. New, different, unique, clever, imaginative, ingenious, original.
And Samsung (aka, Same-sung) is what is known in the industry as a “fast follower”. It is exactly what you think it is. And by the way, that’s fine by me. Copy away. But please don’t pretend that because you spent $9 billion on R&D last year, you must therefore be recognized as innovative. Unless, of course, you think clinking two phones together to share song playlists is clever. But then please remember playlists didn’t exist until Apple created them.
Apple – not just Steve Jobs – has proven itself to be the most consistent and successful “innovation” company of the past two centuries. Until someone else proves they can wear the crown better, I prefer to keep them on a pedestal.
Every day in Cleveland brings another day of hope and promise for a new and revived city.
But hope only gets you so far. It is really high time for someone – anyone – to step up with a solution.
We continue to amble around as a city with one idea after the next, kind of like throwing darts at a board.
Let’s open a medical mart and become a center for medical innovation… let’s place wind turbines along the lakeshore and become a center for energy innovation… let’s build a casino and become a center for entertainment…
Let’s get real. Cleveland needs a vision – something that goes beyond an idea and has the potential for long-term growth. This vision then needs a plan that documents what we are doing and who is doing it and includes budgets and timelines and means of measurement and accountability. And then we need to be patient as that plan is implemented and takes hold and grows.
Steve Jobs, who in addition to creating several truly cool products, created a pretty awesome business (actually, he built several of those too), once said: “Building a company is a marathon. To do anything of magnitude takes at least five years, more likely seven or eight. Rightfully or wrongfully, that’s how I think.”
I agree. But as another wise man once said, “The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.”
So, let’s set our sights on the year 2017, but let’s get started today. I am officially volunteering to help in any way I am needed. Now, who’s got a vision?
Steve Jobs has been gone now for just over six months. That seems like plenty of time to turn on Apple and destroy what is arguably the most successful and respected American company today.
Steve Jobs once said that he liked living at the intersection of the humanities and technology. He loved to read… Shakespeare, Plato, Dylan Thomas. He loved music… The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Joan Baez. And his love for technology is well-documented.
And Steve Jobs was not above stealing. He loved a good idea and coveted a great one. And he publicly acknowledged his unashamed and unapologetic willingness to steal them. And Steve Jobs was not above introducing ridiculously high-priced technologies that consumers willingly purchased… because they were worth the price.
But stealing money from consumers by fixing prices on books? That does not sound like an idea Steve Jobs or anyone else at Apple would endorse.
Plus there is this: In a world so full of injustice, this is the battle the Department of Justice has decided to take on? Really? I guess in a way I am glad that Steve Jobs isn’t here to see this… unfortunately the rest of us are.
I feel kind of bad for Apple CEO Tim Cook, but he is not helping himself by dressing like Steve Jobs, acting like Steve Jobs and trying to promote the company like Steve Jobs.
Apple is a great, great company with a great, great tradition. It will survive. But Tim Cook et al need to take a step back and let the company evolve or transition to its next (no pun intended) logical position.
There is no need to hold a major news conference to tell us you have a new iPad that is just like the old iPad, but slightly better in some regards…. and a much higher (and I could argue unaffordable) price level.
Just stay in the lab and keep cooking (no pun intended) up innovations. And when you have the new iScreen that can stretch from the size of an iPhone to the size of a desktop iMac, hold a news conference. When you launch the new iWall fully integrated TV system that allows us to use a full wall for Intenet, TV and movies, by all means, throw a party.
Until then, just keep working and don’t worry about some competitor sneaking up on you. Apple is so far ahead of the marketplace, you can afford a few months to just simmer and mourn the loss of Steve Jobs and think about the future of Apple and buy yourself a more colorful wardrobe… and maybe some new glasses. There is no rush.
Although, if you can figure out a way for me to keep my AT&T service plan while delivering better coverage, that would be great. But hey, I can wait.
Not so long ago, much like Apple and Steve Jobs, Starbucks and Howard Schultz were being dismissed as down and out.
And therein lies the beauty of rear view mirrors. Only now – looking back – can we see the true genius of both.
Some believe that Starbucks re-established itself by getting back to what it did best. And sure enough, it cut back on selling books and movies and extraneous equipment, and refocused on selling really great coffee in really great environments. But that is not the secret. Much like Tony Hsieh realized that Zappos was not a great shoe retailer, but rather a great service company that happened to sell shoes, Howard Schultz realized (or perhaps always knew) that Starbucks is also a great service company that happens to sell coffee.
At some point – around 2006 or 2007 – success started to spoil Rock Hunter. Fortunately, Howard Schultz realized that and quickly began making changes in order to return to the original culture he so successfully created. So instead of focusing on growth and expansion, it refocused on loyalty and enhancement. In other words, instead of worrying about getting more customers, it concentrated on understanding and servicing the ones it already had.
And the company returned to its roots and its core – innovating and investing in new ideas… like exceptionally high quality instant coffee and light roast coffee. And it got back to community initiatives, like “Jobs for the USA” wristbands that raise money to fund local start-up businesses. And it is looking forward with new retail services and new retail store ideas.
Last week my son (the scientist) schooled me on the subject of inertia. He reminded me of Newton’s Law that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. One need look no further than Howard Schultz or Steve Jobs to see that even the most successful business leaders never cease innovating. As my old boss Ellen McConneell often told me, “there is always one more thing to be done.”
Say what you want about Walmart, they know their customers and they know how to service them with excellence. As Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, authors of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business explain, Walmart customers want lots of product variety and really low prices. These are the things that are most important to them. Conversely, Walmart does not waste much energy on the things their customers want the least, including personal service and quality lighting and a comfortable, inviting environment.
On the flipside, Frei and Morriss point out how amazingly successful the airline industry as a whole has been at completely missing the boat (pun intended) on the delivery of quality customer service. They are like the USPS of air travel, with one simple directive: Just deliver the package! But they can’t do it. They arrive late, they depart late, they lose luggage, and they treat you like a family burden. In fact, according to Frei and Morriss, only two airlines seem to get it – Southwest and Virgin – and coincidentally they are the only two profitable airlines in the industry.
So, ask yourself right now, what is most important to your customers? And what is least important to them? And how are you delivering on both ends? It may seem counterintuitive or paradoxical, but it is essential to excel at delivering what your customers want most and to fail at delivering what they want least.
And it all begins by knowing who your customers are and what is most important (and least important) to them. Which also means you need to conduct research, and you must be open to the possibility of completely changing your mindset and quite possibly your entire approach to customer service… and maybe even your business model.
But in the words of Steve Jobs, to be successful, you must be willing to think different and if necessary, cannibalize your own business with better products and services – the ones your customers want the most.
Bacteria rules the world | REM’s final album is just old music… poop | unemployment benefits claims drop… deceptacons | Tiger Woods has the shakes | my brother lost his arm | my other brother lost his mind | bananas rock | I really need a vacation | The X Factor sucks… what kind of name is L.A. | snowflakes | Homer Simpson is still funny | Brian Greene’s string theory… boing, boing | Kurt Vonnegut is dead… and so it goes | I miss Michael Jackson | I miss Steve Jobs | beach glass is so smooth | Alcatraz | Irish music | Guinness | sandals | Hatteras Hammock | baseball | Cook Forest | inflatable cars | I love my iMac and my iPhone | I love my life | who was the first guy to open a peanut shell and say: “maybe I should eat these things?” | Twitter and Facebook are both so 15 seconds ago | I think I’ll buy a puppy… a Jack Russell Terrier… but I won’t call him Jack or Russell | Spartacus | Oooo, the sun is shining
You are universally recognized as one of the great visionaries of your age. Big, lofty, creative ideas flow through your brain like oxygen through your lungs. You see things most can’t fathom upon explanation… Then you create them. And still, most can barely comprehend the beauty and elegance of your achievements. Not just one or two inconceivable creations, but dozens… Maybe hundreds… Maybe more. You possess the admiration of generations and exist in a class all your own. Unique. Special.
You are Steve Jobs. You have seen virtually everything. And anything you haven’t seen you simply imagined and invented. And yet…
As your life in the world came to its inevitable conclusion, you uttered six amazingly simple words: Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.
What did you see?
Satchel Paige, the over-aged, overachiever is famously credited for once saying this about his passion for playing baseball: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
Steve Jobs had a similar idea. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
On the surface they may sound like different ideas, but they are the same. I believe Stephen King summed it up best in Shawshank Redemption. “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
But Jobs, as he so often did in his life, took it further. His advice about work and life was to find what you are passionate about and do it… and trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. Certainly a young Steve Jobs could have been crushed under the
pressure of dropping out of college in his first year, just as a 30-year-old Jobs could have been devastated over being fired by the billion dollar company he created, just as an older and wiser Jobs could have accepted fate and given up upon learning he had cancer.
Instead, Jobs looked around to find his passion, pursued it and participated in it – taking a leap of faith as it were. And trusting that the dots would somehow connect in the future.
Of passion he said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
Satchel Paige played baseball for as long as the game would allow him. Often times he made only enough money for room and board on the “colored” side of town. But by the early 1940s, Paige’s estimated annual earnings were $40,000, which was four times the pay of the average player on the major league New York Yankees and nearly matched the pay of their top star, Joe DiMaggio. And although time took its toll, Paige, at the age of 61 (in 1967) appeared with the Globetrotters in Chicago and accepted the opportunity to play with the Indianapolis Clowns for only a $1,000 a month. Passion.
As for Steve Jobs, I think he summed it up best: “I was worth over a million dollars when I was twenty-three and over ten million dollars when I was twenty-four, and over a hundred million dollars when I was twenty-five,” he said “and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.” Passion.