Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Apple Success Isn't About Innovation

On September 9th 2014 Apple made several major announcements in a well choreographed event in California. Consumer electronic companies all over the fruited plain were heard to say as one ...

Why didn't we think of that?

So, why is that? Why does Apple make such stunning products that draw us like moths to the back-porch light? There were people camping out at the Apple flagship store a week before the announcement. They had no idea what was going to be for sale, but they knew that whatever it was they had to have it.

A disclaimer ... I am not an Apple fanboy. I have lots of issues with some of their products and the company. I do use some Apple gear however. For example I writing this on a Macbook Pro and I have several iPods. I use Android for my smartphone OS. I have a Pebble smartwatch.

Surprisingly the attraction to the Apple products doesn't just involve the innovation or the technology. For example, I have been using a Pebble smartwatch every day at work for 9 months and I love it. There are a variety of smart watches on the market, including those with color screens and app stores. The iPhone 6 and 6 plus are beautiful phones, but powerful, big and beautiful phones have been on the market for quite a while. Sure, Apple perhaps does the engineering a bit better. There is something else going on here. Something bigger.

To understand the attraction to Apple you need to watch the Simon Sinek youtube video on the golden circle. In this video Simon Sinek codifies why great leaders, companies, governments inspire us to follow them and support them. The basic thrust of the golden circle is that when you start with the why, you communicate a belief system. When you tell people what you believe, and if they believe the same thing, they will follow you anywhere, do anything for you and buy your products. You move from the why to the how, and then finally the what, which is the product, service or good that is produced. Watch the video. Trust me, it is worth it. It might change you.

As an anti-example of this, IBM has an advertising campaign underway for the new line of Surface tablets. These are nice tablets. They suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. Are they tablets, or are they laptops? The IBM message from the advertisement is (quite literally) "Surface. The Tablet that can replace your laptop", or something to that effect. Very uninspiring. Can you tell what they believe from their product? Can you tell why they created it? No. All you know is the what (a tablet). This is the opposite of the golden circle, and it is a flop.

Apple starts with communicating what they believe, then tells you how they demonstrate those beliefs, and finally they talk about products.

Consumers who believe what Apple believes will always buy their products. They will follow them anywhere. So what about the Apple watch? This is a prime example. What Tim Cook told the world on September 9th about Apple watch is summarized like this:

We believe you are ready for a new experience that fits with the way you live and makes your life better. (the why)

The new experience is beautiful, highly engineered, fashion-forward, technology focused and customizable. (the how)

We sell watches now. Wanna buy one? (the what).

This is why they sell lots of products.

There is a key leadership lesson here as well. All leaders have a desire to inspire people to follow them and support them.  Successful leaders start with communicating what they believe, and go from there. Think about it. Have you ever followed anyone who didn't share their beliefs with you?

So if you ever wonder why no-one is inspired by your meticulously crafted 9 point strategic plan with the executive summary, you have the answer. It is because you started with the "what", not the "why." Tell people what you believe and they may follow you. They may even read your plan. If they don't, buy them an Apple watch. At least they will like you better.

1 comment:

Kristy Dalton said...

I appreciate this insight, and thank you for turning me on to Simon Sinek's video!