Apple doesn’t build computers, mp3 players, or even phones. They provide something more meaningful: human connections. Instead of merely selling a device, Steve Jobs and company connects us to what we care about: music, people, memories. How they do is easy to see, if you know where to look.
In his Worldwide Developers Conference keynote address, Jobs gave up the magic on a single slide. It wasn’t quoted in any news story or blog I could find. Yet, it succinctly conveys both what Apple does and how you can drive focused excellence in your company.
Hidden in plain view
After parading their latest innovations past the convention of software developers, Jobs summed up what makes Apple Apple. Echoing three words on the slide displayed two-stories high behind him, he said “It just works.” Well, duh.
Amazing things are often hidden in plain view. In this case, “It just works,” is more than a catch phrase or summation of the presentation. It’s a filter for screening out what might not fit the brand. It’s a lens that focuses innovation. It’s a measuring stick. It’s Apple’s North Star.
It works even when it doesn’t
The elegance of this simple phrase is how it both defines what Apple stands for and what they stand against. When MobileMe, a collection of online tools, crashed and burned on launch, Jobs threw himself on the sword. He admitted it didn’t measure up to Apple’s standards—without elaborating on them specifically. Now you know: Mobile me didn’t “just work.”
AppleTV didn’t just work either. Only after Apple replaced the original hard-drive version with a hockey-puck-sized device that streams instead of stores tv shows and movies did AppleTV meet their standard. The original was clunky and hard to use. The new one plugs in and, of course, just works. It works so well, cable operators may be seeing a threat in AppleTV.
What works for you?
Technically-oriented people (aka geeks) may prefer devices with steep learning curves. Cleaving onto cantankerous operating systems, they look down their noses at Apple’s ease of use. No worries. There’s a market for devices that don’t just work, too. As they say, that’s why there are both blue cars and red cars.
Apple’s lineup is sheathed in so much cool, it’s easy to overlook their underlying philosophy. Three simple words shape everything they do: it just works. What simple words shape what you do?