Is there life for Apple after Steve Jobs?

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When a charism
atic and iconic personality is so tightly associated with the success of a business —in Apple's case, the most valuable company in the world -everyone begins to speculate, "What happens when that heroic figure is gone? Is there life for Apple after Steve? Can it make it without him?"
It's a fair question. Can Apple survive without the genius and uncanny ability to see the world as others don't that Steve Jobs brought to the game? Our utter amazement of and indebtedness to what Steve Jobs created is right up there with the most fanatical of Apple fans, but the answer is yes. Here's why: First, Apple is more than the most successful company traded on the NYSE, it's a cause that has created a movement. And, the people of Apple have an uncompromising dedication to this cause.

No one questions what Steve Jobs brought to Apple and the world. His passion, persuasiveness and unwavering commitment to coherent, elegant design is legendary. Steve believed he could change the world-and he did! Perhaps his greatest contribution however, is that he convinced others that they could change the world too.

Having said that, our suspect is that Apple employees are not only loyal to Steve Jobs the man; they are devoted to the movement and the cause he inspired. No doubt, Apple and Steve Jobs are synonymous. Steve personified everything the company stands for.

But Jobs didn't do it alone. You don't bring a company back from the brink of disaster singlehandedly. Steve surrounded himself with some extraordinary people who shared his passion for changing the world.

For example, one of the most famous 'non-famous' designers in the world is Jonathan Ive, the person who, after Jobs is most responsible for the mind-blowing products created by Apple. In Ive, Jobs found someone who could realize and extend his vision for creating the most meaningful, design-savvy products (iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad) in the world. Some believe that Ive's industrial design eye is even better than Job's.

Then there is Tim Cook, the guy responsible for bringing discipline and elegance to Apple's supply chain over the last 14 years. The world 'Oohs' and 'Ahs' over the incredible design work of Ive and team, but equally important to Apple's success has been the best suppliers with the best products, the best quality and the best delivery. And Cook is the orchestra conductor of that symphony.

Having been handed the baton, our guess is that Apple employees' passion for upholding the legacy they created together with Steve, will be stronger than ever. And not because they feel the pressure from analysts and investors; it's because they have been drawn into a movement and the greatest tribute they can make to the founder of that movement is to ensure that it lives on.

Consider a portion of Cook's email to Apple employees after Jobs stepped down as CEO:


I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as C.E.O. of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I've ever made and it's been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve's optimism for Apple's bright future.

I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple's unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that - it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

Second, Apple has innovated beyond customer expectations. Over and over again, the company has created products that people never asked for but now can't live without. In doing this, Apple has raised customer consciousness and expectations around the world. As the standard-bearer for elegant design Apple has changed the way we all live our lives. While the world rarely knows what it will be, it has come to expect the NEXT BIG THING from Apple.

With Steve gone the people of Apple have too much passion to let the world down. Driven by a sense of cause we think Tim Cook and team will emerge to uphold the legacy of design thinking they helped create.

Third, while Jobs set an unbelievably strong tone for Apple, astonishing the world with 'gotta have' products is a collaborative effort. The leaders, designers and engineers with whom Jobs surrounded himself have had an opportunity to get 'inside Steve's brain' for a long time. With strong leadership comes 'thick' culture. Over time the cultural DNA that has made Apple the envy of the world could get diluted. But in the near term, we seriously doubt that it will be easy to undo the discipline that created the best designs, best quality, best marketing, and best delivery of some of the world's best products.

No one should ever grow complacent and get sucked into the quicksand of incumbency, but after ten plus years of expanding its capacity to innovate, we think Apple has cracked the 'culture code'. As the future unfolds Apple will either continue its dynasty of innovation or slip over the horizon as a once-great company-depending on what the people of Apple believe about themselves.

If they believe this was all Steve's doing then greatness will allude them sooner rather than later. If on the other hand, they believe they were doing this all along, we can expect to see more of that incredibly rare combination of art and technology that changes our lives.

We are reminded of what Jack Welch told one of us years ago. Talking about CEOs, he said, "We get a lot more credit and a lot more blame than we deserve. The institution is infinitely more than one person."

Apparently that is so. GE continues to be one of the most innovative companies in the world in the absence of Jack Welch. With 40 years of consecutive profitability, Southwest Airlines has continued to grow even though the indefatigable and iconic founder, Herb Kelleher stepped down. And the civil rights movement has made great strides since Martin Luther King Jr. left us. And, keep in mind that in the seven years since we first learned of Job's health problems and his extended absences at Apple, the company continued to thrive.

A Lesson from Braveheart

In the Academy Award-winning movie Braveheart, William Wallace struggles to help the Scottish people believe enough in themselves and the cause of freedom to stand against the formidable powers of the their English oppressors. In the end, Wallace dies for the cause, but in the wake of his death the people of Scotland develop the courage to stand together in the fight for freedom. Their commitment and loyalty were not only to Wallace the man, but rather to the cause he helped inspire. Even though the man was heroic, the cause outlived him.
                             Steve Jobs was one-of-a-kind. But a worthy cause is always bigger than the individuals who create it. Only time will tell, but we think Steve's departure will have the same affect on the people of Apple. We hope so...

-courtesy  The Economic Times


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