Monday, 9 April 2012

Review: Inside Apple

Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired--and Secretive--Company Really WorksInside Apple is an account of the Steve Jobs era of corporate culture at Apple (although it does speculate on what the future might be like under Tim Cook's tenure).

It's fascinating because it seems the author got very little actual access to Apple and instead relies on ex-employees (often reluctant to talk - even when they have good experiences to relate), leaks and what others have surmised over the years.  Somehow he still manages to weave a compelling tale although it's hard to be sure just how true it is.

The first rule of working for Apple; is that you do not talk about Apple. Secrecy seems to be part of the company's DNA.  The other picture that emerges is that it was very much Steve's vision which drove it - he manages and micromanages every thing from product design to ad placement. There's an interesting discussion on this leadership style - which seems to be something like productive narcissism.  He plays favourites - both projects and people; he's by turns hectoring or praising. He's visionary yet lacks empathy.  Tim Cook by contrast is the consumate obsessive leader - a highly inner directed self starter and conscientious.  It seems they made a fantastic partnership - each able to complement each others strengths and weaknesses.

Apple it turns out, also want everything from you in return for only a decent rather than lavish salary.  There are tales of execs being sent to China at the drop of a hat and some being so burnt out they aren't able to move on something else when they leave Apple (although there are exceptions). That is the price of  producing insanely great products or putting a dink in the universe.

I also enjoyed the account of how Apple is fighting corporate senescence by trying to run itself like a start up.  Unlike cities, the author contends - companies appear to have a definite lifecycle mirroring our own of S curve of growth, plateau and decay.

There are lots of useful ideas in this book and I recommend it.