How to make Britain’s AI dreams reality




  • Apple also is a brutal and unforgiving place, where accountability is strictly enforced, decisions are swift, and communication is articulated clearly from the top. (View Highlight)
  • The creative process at Apple is one of constantly preparing someone—be it one’s boss, one’s boss’s boss, or oneself—for a presentation to Jobs. He’s a corporate dictator who makes every critical decision—and oodles of seemingly noncritical calls too, from the design of the shuttle buses that ferry employees to and from San Francisco to what food will be served in the cafeteria. (View Highlight)
  • One such lesson could be called the “Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President,” and it’s a sermon Jobs delivers every time an executive reaches the VP level. Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. “When you’re the janitor,” Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, “reasons matter.” He continues: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.” That “Rubicon,” he has said, “is crossed when you become a VP.” (View Highlight)
  • The accountability mindset extends down the ranks. At Apple there is never any confusion as to who is responsible for what. Internal Applespeak even has a name for it, the “DRI,” or directly responsible individual. Often the DRI’s name will appear on an agenda for a meeting, so everybody knows who is responsible. “Any effective meeting at Apple will have an action list,” says a former employee. “Next to each action item will be the DRI.” A common phrase heard around Apple when someone is trying to learn the right contact on a project: “Who’s the DRI on that?” (View Highlight)
  • Simplicity also is key to Apple’s organizational structure. The org chart (see next page) is deceptively straightforward, with none of the dotted-line or matrixed responsibilities popular elsewhere in the corporate world. There aren’t any committees at Apple, the concept of general management is frowned on, and only one person, the chief financial officer, has a “P&L,” or responsibility for costs and expenses that lead to profits or losses. It’s a radical example of Apple’s different course: Most companies view the P&L as the ultimate proof of a manager’s accountability; Apple turns that dictum on its head by labeling P&L a distraction only the finance chief needs to consider. The result is a command-and-control structure where ideas are shared at the top—if not below. Jobs often contrasts Apple’s approach with its competitors’. Sony, he has said, had too many divisions to create the iPod. Apple instead has functions. “It’s not synergy that makes it work” is how one observer paraphrases Jobs’ explanation of Apple’s approach. “It’s that we’re a unified team.” (View Highlight)
  • “Constant course correction” is how one former executive refers to the approach. “If the executive team decides to change direction, it’s instantaneous,” this ex-Apple honcho says. “Everybody thinks it’s a grand strategy. It’s not.” As an example, Apple’s management has been known to change its pricing 48 hours before a product launch. When it misses a seemingly obvious idea—such as not anticipating the need for an App Store to satisfy the third-party developers who wanted to create programs for the iPhone—it shifts gears quickly to grab the opportunity. (View Highlight)
  • One of Apple’s greatest strengths is its ability to focus on just a few things at a time, an entrepreneurial trait difficult to imagine at a corporation with a market value of $320 billion. Saying no at Apple is as important as saying yes. “Over and over Steve talks about the power of picking the things you don’t do,” says one recently departed executive. Obvious? Perhaps. Yet few companies Apple’s size—and very few of any size—are able to focus so well and for so long. (View Highlight)
  • “You can ask anyone in the company what Steve wants and you’ll get an answer, even if 90% of them have never met Steve.” (View Highlight)
  • Yet Apple also consciously tries to behave like a startup, most notably by putting small teams on crucial projects. To wit: Just two engineers wrote the code for converting Apple’s Safari browser for the iPad, a massive undertaking. In a 2010 interview at a technology conference, Jobs verbalized Apple’s do-more-with-less mentality. “Apple is a company that doesn’t have the most resources,” he said, referring to Apple’s response to a technical debate raging at the time. “And the way we’ve succeeded is by choosing which horses to ride very carefully.” On the face of it, the statement is absurd. Times certainly once were tough at Apple, breeding an underdog culture. Today, with $66 billion in the bank, nothing could be further from the truth, yet Apple continues to behave like a scrappy upstart. “We’ve always fought for resources,” says a former executive. “Steve and Tim in general want to be sure you need what you’re asking for.” (View Highlight)
  • Apple insiders say the notion of scarce resources has less to do with money than it does with finding enough people to perform critical tasks. Once Applemoves, though, it spends whatever it takes. (View Highlight)
  • Specialization is the norm at Apple, and as a result, Apple employees aren’t exposed to functions outside their area of expertise. Jennifer Bailey, the executive who runs Apple’s online store, for example, has no authority over the photographs on the site. (View Highlight)
  • Jobs sees such specialization as a process of having best-in-class employees in every role, and he has no patience for building managers for the sake of managing. “Steve would say the general manager structure is bullshit,” says Mike Janes, the former Apple executive. “It creates fiefdoms.” Instead, rising stars are invited to attend executive team meetings as guests to expose them to the decision-making process. It is the polar opposite of the General Electric-like notion of creating well-rounded executives. (View Highlight)
  • Such rigidity—coupled with the threat of being called on the carpet by Jobs—would seem to make Apple an impossibly difficult workplace, yet recruiters say turnover at Apple is exceedingly low. “It is a happy place in that it has true believers,” says a headhunter who has worked extensively with Apple to hire engineers. “People join and stay because they believe in the mission of the company, even if they aren’t personally happy.” (View Highlight)
  • “Apple’s attitude is, ‘You have the privilege of working for the company that’s making the fucking coolest products in the world,’ ” says one former product management executive. ” ‘Shut up and do your job, and you might get to stay.’ ” (View Highlight)
  • It turns out that Podolny has been busy working on a project that speaks directly to the delicate topic of life at Apple after Jobs. At Jobs’ instruction, Podolny hired a team of business professors, including the renowned Harvard veteran and Andy Grove biographer Richard Tedlow. This band of eggheads is writing a series of internal case studies about significant decisions in Apple’s recent history. It’s exactly the sort of thing the major business schools do, except Apple’s case studies are for an Apple-only audience. Top executives, including Tim Cook and Ron Johnson, teach the cases, which have covered subjects including the decision to consolidate iPhone manufacturing around a single factory in China and the establishment of Apple’s stores. The goal is to expose the next layer of management to the executive team’s thought process. (View Highlight)
  • All this raises the question of whether Jobs has adequately prepared Apple for the day he isn’t around anymore. It’s an impossible question to answer. According to one person who knows Jobs, he acknowledges his dictatorial powers but insists he’s not the only one who can wield them. “Single-cell organisms aren’t interesting,” he told this person. “Apple is a complex, multicellular organism.” (View Highlight)
  • Jobs himself believes he has set Apple on a course to survive in his absence. He has created a culture that, while not particularly jolly, has internalized his ways. Jobs even is ensuring that his teachings are being collected, curated, and preserved so that future generations of Apple’s leaders can consult and interpret them. (View Highlight)