07 October 2014

The New Culture at Apple - Circa Tim Cook

In 2011 I penned the blog posting below to Tim Cook as he took on the awesome task of following in the footsteps of Steve Jobs.  Based upon the current article in Business Week - Tim Cook Interview: The iPhone 6, the Apple Watch, and Remaking a Company's Culture - our wishes seem to have been fulfilled.  Tim is his own person.  While he respects the legacy he inherited and promotes the great traditions of Apple, he moves the company in a form that is true to his character and beliefs. Some of his actions are contrary to what Steve would have done.  Some are not.  But the performance proof is in the pudding.  My original blog post is below.

Reprinted from September 2011

An Open Letter to Tim Cook

Dear Tim,

Congratulations on your recent promotion to CEO at Apple.  Obviously, we are all concerned about what this implies about Steve's health.  However, as his hand picked successor we have all the confidence in the world in the potential of your tenure.

Last week we saw the press you generated from your initial interviews.  In those, we heard you say that "Apple would not change" under your leadership.  While that may be what your loyal Apple employees, shareholders and the press wanted to hear, it raises many concerns.

It's very difficult to be the successor of an "imperial CEO."  Just ask some of the high profile successors to Bill Gates, Phil Knight, Larry Page and a host of others.  As the returning CEO at Apple, Steve certainly generated superhuman results, commanded a cult-like following, changed the course of consumer behavior, and in doing so resurrected your company from the ashes into one of today's most valuable companies. I'm sure this is a legacy you would like to perpetuate.  But if I were going to give you any advice as you take on your new role, it is BE YOURSELF!  Don't try to live in someone else's shoes.  Be authentic.  Even if it means changing the way things are done at Apple.

Steve Jobs is a once in a century phenomenon.  Perhaps history will record him in the same league as Einstein, Ford, Ben Franklin, or Edison.  You are not Steve Jobs.  So don't try to be.  Tim, you have much to bring to Apple.  You have been the behind the scenes architect of some of the most important parts of Apple's success.  But I fear that if you try to perpetuate Jobs-ian cult-like status you will fall flat on your face.

Being yourself will require changes that Steve would not have made.  Make them.  Be sure they are thoughtful and take into account the expected reaction from the loyal Appleonians.  Start with "Why".  Make sure the employee ranks, customers, and even the press understand your deep feelings for the changes and then proceed.

Don't expect immediate gratification.  In fact expect the opposite.  Human nature abhors change.  Most of your constituents will likely oppose your changes.  Be patient.  If you are as smart as you appear, the changes you make will be for the good.  Keep the faith; don't back down.

Apple is an important American icon, especially in this fragile economy.  Finding ways to cause Apple to grow and prosper is more important than ever.  Steve hand picked you for this job.  He probably was right.  Don't let us down.

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