Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fast Company Magazine - Apple, Method Products & mGive

Some interesting pieces from the latest issue of Fast Company Magazine.

Most prominent was the cover story "Invincible Apple: 10 Lessons From the Coolest Company Anywhere" by Farhad Manjoo. Lots of interesting things in list format from the company Manjoo notes as being now the largest technology company in the world...

1. "Go into your cave" - about the idea of having a focus on providing value as you perceive it... and not getting bogged down in what other's say should be provided.

2. "It's ok to be king" - To the first point, Apple is a company in which CEO Steve Jobs both sets and steers the course. Highly, highly centralized decisions... which is fine as long as it's working.

3. "Transcend orthodoxy" - Apple is oft criticized for being a "closed system" company (primarily in relation to things like their oversight of what gets into the App Store), but the counterpoint from Jobs is both that they're not closed off... just preserving the user experience they seek to provide. Sorta like point 2, this also closely relates to point 1 above.

4. "Just say no" - see point 1.

5. "Serve your customer. No, really" - Not just providing the aforementioned user experience (which is typically thought of in interaction with the product), but also the customer experience (like, what do you do when you need help/support). Example provided by Manjoo (that I can completely back up from first hand experience) is the value provided via the free Apple Store Genius Bar support help.

6. "Everything is marketing" - Crazy focused attention to deal from Apple around anything touching the consumer. Examples of these range from product consistencies in the ubiquitous white earbuds and Mac startup sound to marketing coordination around product launches.

7. "Kill the past" - Innovate and always move forward. The phrase "kill your little darlings" comes to mind for me here.

8. "Turn feedback into inspiration" - Like other items on this list, related to point 1 in that the company creates products and features on it's own terms and timetables according to what Apple thinks will inspire the masses. That said, this point is about taking consumer requests and using them as jumping off points for said product introductions on Apple terms.

9. "Don't invent, reinvent" - Closely related to the "innovate" idea from point 7, but rather an idea around taking ideas that may already exist (i.e. portable music players & cell phone PDAs) and completely changing the product category through a radical focus on user experience.

10. "Play by your own clock" - Again... point 1 above. Innovate and action from Apple based on what the company (specifically, Steve Jobs) views as the right product introductions at the right time. An enormously key point made by Manjoo here is around the status of Jobs as CEO. The stock and company have done well enough under his stewardship (especially now during his second CEO go-round) that he (and Apple as a whole by extension) have the latitude to act based on what he feels best... basically a free pass from the never-ending cost-cutting pressures that many public company CEOs seem to be reacting to.

Lots and lots of stuff writtten here about a fascinating company. Me thinks if one were to identify the "big rock" point from Manjoo, it would be that Apple both can and does operate in the manner it sees best to provide a great user experience to the customer... and have Apple as a company prosper as a result.


Some other interesting (and shorter) mentions from this issue...

Fast Company writeup of one of three winners of the International Design Excellent Awards Best in Show prize... Method Products ultra-concentrated laundry detergent in pump application dispenser.

Brief piece "How mGive Is Making Donations Mobile" about the mobile giving application from 32 year old James Eberhard's company Mobile Accord... description of the company and mGive program here.