Fast Company has an exclusive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook that is filled with quote-worthy insights.
Cook, an Auburn University graduate from Mobile, Alabama, has always come across to me as a genuinely good guy. Very smart and driven and hard-working, of course, but a regular, unassuming nice person who just happens to run the most impressive and wealthiest and coolest company in the world. As a fellow southerner and a delighted Apple customer, I especially enjoy hearing Cook’s southern drawl as the voice of a company that’s changing the world like few others ever have.
Cook earned his reputation at the company for his brilliant corralling of logistics and resources to build a staggeringly robust sytem for manufacturing all those iPods and iPhones and Macs. Steve Jobs was the product visionary and shaper of a uniquely innovative company culture, but it was Cook who was resonsible for making sure those dreams could be made and shipped.
Cook will never match Jobs as a cultural icon. But that doesn’t seem to be his aim.
Here’s Cook on lessons learned from Jobs:
Steve felt that most people live in a small box. They think they can’t influence or change things a lot. I think he would probably call that a limited life. And more than anybody I’ve ever met, Steve never accepted that.
He got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world.
That was the huge arc of his life, the common thread. That’s what drove him to have big ideas. Through his actions, way more than any preaching, he embedded this nonacceptance of the status quo into the company.
That is great leadership. Clearly, Cook and those who worked with Jobs were infected by his approach, his “nonacceptance of the status quo”, his razor sharp focus on transformational ideas and products, and a relentless commitment to constant improvement.
And, with Apple, as with all great organizations, it keeps coming back to culture.
Here’s Cook’s response when asked about conveying the Apple culture within the company:
I don’t think of it as systematizing, but there are a number of things that we do, starting with employee orientation. Actually, it starts before that, in interviews. You’re trying to pick people that fit into the culture of the company. You want a very diverse group with very diverse life experiences looking at every problem. But you also want people to buy into the philosophy, not just buy in, but to deeply believe in it.
Then there’s employee orientation, which we do throughout the company all over the world. And then there’s Apple U., which takes things that happened in the past and dissects them in a way that helps people understand how decisions were made, why they were made, how successes occurred, and how failures occurred. All of these things help.
Ultimately, though, it’s on the company leaders to set the tone. Not only the CEO, but the leaders across the company. If you select them so carefully that they then hire the right people, it’s a nice self-fulfilling prophecy.
Apple recently has allowed the media more access to it’s top people than I can ever recall. The interview with Cook is thorough and interesting throughout and well worth reading whether you care about technology or not.