If you type in the words “Apple” and “Innovation” into Google you receive over 40 million hits. In 2011, Apple won the “Most Innovative Company” award by FastCompany, BusinessWeek has consistently rated them as number one in innovation for the past 6 years and has had a strong ranking with Forbes and Fortune during the same period. When BusinessWeek surveyed their readers about who would replace Apple as the most innovative company in the next five years, the most common response was “no one.”
According to Fortune 500, Apple outperformed every other company in terms of increase in revenues and profits–except J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Let’s forget for a second their record breaking profits and valuation during an economic downturn, from iPods to iPads Apple has again and again changed the way we relate to media and technology.
To get a first-hand feel of how people perceive Apple’s innovation we checked in at Quora. While the most common comment that was noted was that the culture of Apple that demands excellence, perhaps the most pertinent response was that Apple filters everything through the idea that innovation must add value for it to be true innovation. It is not enough to just add extra RAM or a better screen. Apple seems to understand that a product must be created in such away that it goes above and beyond what the other competitors are doing and then translates it into laymen’s terms. There is an anecdote from FastCompany.com about Steve Jobs about the process of creating iDVD that perhaps most clearly describes how the company has related to product innovation:
“Mike Evangelist was in charge of a team charged with coming up with ideas for a DVD-burning program that Apple planned to release on highend Macs — an app that would later become iDVD.
“We had about three weeks to prepare,” Evangelist says. He and another employee went to work creating beautiful mock-ups depicting the perfect interface for the new program. On the appointed day, Evangelist and the rest of the team gathered in the boardroom. They’d brought page after page of prototype screen shots showing the new program’s various windows and menu options, along with paragraphs of documentation describing how the app would work.
“Then Steve comes in,” Evangelist recalls. “He doesn’t look at any of our work. He picks up a marker and goes over to the whiteboard. He draws a rectangle. ‘Here’s the new application,’ he says. ‘It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click the button that says burn. That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.’ “”We were dumbfounded,” Evangelist says. This wasn’t how product decisions were made at his old company. Indeed, this isn’t how products are planned anywhere else in the industry.”
Scott Anthony, Managing Director of Innosight Ventures, lays out a few lessons in innovation that everyone should take away from Apple’s decade of success, in a post for the Harvard Business Review:
- Don’t just focus on building beautiful products. Build beautiful business models, new ways to create, deliver, and capture value. The iPod and iPhone would not have had nearly as much impact if they hadn’t been matched with iTunes and the AppExchange respectively.
- Think in terms of platforms and pipelines. Competitors that chase Apple’s latest release find themselves behind when six months later Apple introduces its latest and greatest offering.
- Take a portfolio approach. While Apple has been on a phenomenal run, not everything it has introduced has been a home run. For example, Apple TV hasn’t had the “revolutionary” impact that Jobs predicted upon its launch in 2007.
Even though some people have claimed that Apple’s innovation is dependent on other companies laying the groundwork, there is still so much we can learn from the combination of building better products that really meet the customer’s needs.