Innovation: 10 lessons to learn from Apple

America's most valuable technology company has operated by its own rules since its rebirth in 1997. Here are 10 of them.

Apple, now America's most valuable technology company, has come a long way from its brush with death in 1997.

The maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads -- as well as a great line of Mac computers -- is known for its cutting-edge industrial design, intuitive user interfaces, memorable marketing and most of all, engaging products.

The man credited with the company's resurgence is CEO Steve Jobs. What's his secret?

Writing at length in Fast Company, Slate tech writer Farhad Manjoo outlines the 10 lessons we ought to learn from Apple's success.

My summary of each, below:

  1. Go into your cave. Behind a cloak of secrecy, Apple ignores the pundits and rabble-rousers to design products on its own terms, with its own agenda.
  2. It's OK to be king. While centralized power has its pitfalls -- Mussolini, anyone? -- sometimes a single voice is necessary to unify the masses and simplify conflicting and disjointed parties. It also helps unify software and services across several products.
  3. Transcend orthodoxy. The worst kinds of restrictions are those that are self-imposed. The status quo isn't always the best solution, and it's often truly helpful to -- as the old cliche goes -- "think outside the box."
  4. Just say no. Filters exist for a reason. Jobs serves as a one-man quality control team for ideas and products to ensure ideas align with the company's priorities.
  5. Serve your customer. Customer service is expensive, but it pays off in the long run. Instead of playing short strategies, look to the long-term investments that pay bigger dividends: customer happiness.
  6. Everything is marketing. Apple is a look. It's a lifestyle. It's an experience. It's a single button on a mobile device; it's a rounded edge; it's a series of chiclet-style icons. The products, the ads, the details -- they all feed into brand "Apple."
  7. Kill the past. This ain't your daddy's Apple Computer. Manjoo writes: "Apple's willingness to abandon the past makes for better products." That involves cutting off support for older products.
  8. Turn feedback into inspiration. Customers know what problems they need to be solved, but they don't always know how to solve them, because they can't envision the future.
  9. Reinvent. Take existing technologies, products or services and address their problems. Take separate ideas and weave them into one definitive solution.
  10. Play by your own clock. Simply: in a race, it's often better to look forward than to each side.

You can read Manjoo's complete explanation of each lesson, along with how Apple has demonstrated them, at Fast Company.

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