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Apple University revealed as plan to teach executives to think like Steve Jobs

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
A secretive "Apple University" program that the company initiated in 2008 has been clarified to be a way to teach executives to emulate and perpetuate the successful strategies of Steve Jobs.

In October of 2008, AppleInsider reported that Apple had hired Joel Podolny, the dean of Yale University's School of Management. While rumored serve as the new dean of an "Apple University," it wasn't clear what that position would be expected to accomplish.

A letter from Yale president Richard Levin only noted that Podolny would be leaving to "lead educational initiatives at Apple."

A followup report in November 2008 cited a source who stated that the new Apple University was "intended broadly as an HR type function for developing leadership and other required skills and knowledge within the organization."

The program was compared to both internal MBA programs that are common among corporations, and specifically a "Pixar University" program that enabled any employes to avail themselves of training at Jobs' parallel company.

"Obviously Steve Jobs knows about this concept," a former Pixar intern told AppleInsider, "but I wonder if he finally decided to tie together and probably expand a lot of separate parts of employee enrichment at Apple much like they have at Pixar under the University banner with a dean; in Pixar's case, Dean Randy Nelson. Wouldn't be at all shocked if Apple mirrored Pixar's healthy and successful model."

Apple University head Joel Podolny.

A "closely guarded project"

A new report by the LA Times notes that Apple University involves "a team of experts hard at work on a closely guarded project."

Apple does not comment on the program, but the report cited "a former Apple executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve his relationship with the company," as stating, "Steve was looking to his legacy. The idea was to take what is unique about Apple and create a forum that can impart that DNA to future generations of Apple employees.

"No other company has a university charged with probing so deeply into the roots of what makes the company so successful."

Citing people familiar with the project, the report says Jobs personally recruited Podolny and assigned him the task of helping Apple to "internalize the thoughts of its visionary founder to prepare for the day when he's not around anymore."

Avoiding a move HP Way-ward

Jobs' vision for Apple University appears grounded in a respect for the culture created by Bill Hewlett and David Packard, the founders of HP, who Jobs expressed admiration of on multiple occasions. That mindset, called the HP Way, involved "choosing the right things to do" and sharing a common set of elevated values.

Jobs worked for HP as a summer intern after writing Hewlett as a 12 year old eight grader to request parts to build a frequency counter. Hewlett provided the young Jobs with parts and helped him to assemble the device, then offered him a job.

Jobs' subsequent trajectory with Apple Computer brought him into regular, close contact with the HP founders; Jobs himself noted that he felt like he had failed to carry the torch handed him by the generation represented by HP's founders after being ousted by Apple in the mid 1980s.

But Jobs also observed the gradual erosion of the "HP Way" as the company he once admired was taken over by Carly Fiorina, then run into the ground during and after her departure by the HP board of directors, not just in performing poorly but also losing its vision and its values.

HP's failure as a company reached epic proportions this year when the company announced it would spin off its PC division and kill its brand new webOS hardware group to become something else entirely, before flopping back on those decisions by removing its less than a year old chief executive and replacing him with a board member.

Apple University intends to codify and preserve the culture Jobs established at Apple, training its executive team to adopt "tenets that he believes unleash innovation and sustain success at Apple accountability, attention to detail, perfectionism, simplicity, secrecy," the report notes.

"And he oversaw the creation of university-caliber courses that demonstrate how those principles translate into business strategies and operating practices."

Inventing an Apple Way

As AppleInsider reported three years ago, Jobs began modeling the Apple University concept upon Pixar University, "a professional development program that offers courses in fine arts and filmmaking as well as leadership and management to steep employees in the company's culture, history and values as well as its craft."

Jobs began searching for academics to lead the program five years ago, but accelerated his search in 2008 after his second medical leave. Podolny is described as "an accomplished scholar and administrator whose resume includes teaching at two of the nation's top business schools, Stanford and Harvard" and "is an economic sociologist who focuses on leadership and organizational behavior."

Prior to joining Apple, Podolny revamped Yale's School of Management, scrapping its individual courses in accounting and marketing to create multidisciplinary programs. He was expected to become a university president when he abruptly announced plans to leave to join Jobs at Apple.

"While there are many great companies," Podolny wrote students at his departure, "I cannot think of one that has had as tremendous personal meaning for me as Apple."

He recounted creating his first programs on the Apple II and producing his undergrad thesis on a LaserWriter at a glacial seven minutes per page.

Thus, while working to deliver his vision for mobile computing devices and pervasive cloud computing, Jobs also set in motion the means to preserve the very thinking and values that enabled Apple to produce its hit products over the past several years, and to continue to maintain that competency well into the future.
post #2 of 50
I would be hugely impressed if - and certainly do hope - this concept works.

But I am skeptical.
post #3 of 50
Steve Jobs was not always the nicest man, or the most humble, but he achieved great things, was an excellent presenter, slave driver, thinker and visionary. No doubt he wanted to pass that on. It's not easy to shape the way one thinks, especially at an older age. But if you are trained for 3 years to think at every step WWSD? (What would Steve do?) then I think you could certainly maintain a good level of "Apple DNA" after he passed away. I certainly hope so. I have nothing but great admiration for what Steve and Apple have done for personal technology.
post #4 of 50
The dress code is blue jeans, and a black turtleneck.
post #5 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

I would be hugely impressed if - and certainly do hope - this concept works.

But I am skeptical.

I'm skeptical too. Steve learned his ways from the school of hard knocks, and so did a lot of garage tinkerers. The trash coming out of MBA programs is laughable to say the least.

I enjoyed watching Steve Job's 2005 Stanford speech about not attending college due to not knowing what he wanted to do and did not want to bankrupt his parents. He took a calligraphy class that honestly, the "Biff, Tad, & Muffy" MBA-types would have ridiculed him for and most likely label Job's a lazy-hippie.

He did everything that no self-respecting school of higher education would ever recommend he do.

You can't learn what Steve learned from going to school. School teaches you to get a job, maybe learn how to run a company, but not to actually take the risks, the falls, and the reap the rewards of creating a company such as Steve Jobs did.

However, Steve Jobs did know to surround himself with an army of gifted people that knew how to do those things that frankly, Steve did not want to deal with. His ability to attract those people and those people in return believing in his vision and wanting to improve themselves thanks to Steve were key to all of Apple's successes.

I really, really hope that AU has some secret sauce to tap that potential in people. I really, really hope it does. I want to believe that.
post #6 of 50
You can certainly teach showmanship. You can certainly teach people how to emulate the presentation style of others.

But teaching people how to innovate? I'm not sure it's that easy.

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post #7 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

I would be hugely impressed if - and certainly do hope - this concept works.

But I am skeptical.

Yes, there is something about setting the "Jobs way" in stone that seems oxymoronic. Yet, surely he was aware of that pitfall and had planned to avoid it.
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post #8 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by urbansprawl View Post

But if you are trained for 3 years to think at every step WWSD? (What would Steve do?) then I think you could certainly maintain a good level of "Apple DNA" after he passed away. I certainly hope so.

Hopefully that's not the case since that type of thinking will lead to rigid orthodoxy and eventual stagnation. You don't want to impede the next potential innovator/visionary by thumping a Steve Job's Bible.
post #9 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

I'm skeptical too. Steve learned his ways from the school of hard knocks, and so did a lot of garage tinkerers. The trash coming out of MBA programs is laughable to say the least.
...
You can't learn what Steve learned from going to school. School teaches you to get a job, maybe learn how to run a company, but not to actually take the risks, the falls, and the reap the rewards of creating a company such as Steve Jobs did.

Every company should have some form of mentorship. Some companies have formal systems, some less formal. That alone isn't that innovative.

Teaching people when to follow a process versus when to invent a new one is achievable. So are some of the fundamental secrets to how Apple operates in creating suspense and a cult following. Understanding why it is the way it is gives employees a great edge.

The king is dead. Long live the king...
post #10 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

I would be hugely impressed if - and certainly do hope - this concept works.

But I am skeptical.

Has worked for Pixar over the last 20 years.
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #11 of 50
Remember that Pixar has remained quite successful without Jobs' direct presence, but with tenets he's left.

Edit: as the previous poster points out
post #12 of 50
Here's what Apple U hopes to counter:
http://mobile.theonion.com/articles/...s-doing,26268/

I hope it works.
post #13 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

Steve learned his ways from the school of hard knocks, and so did a lot of garage tinkerers. The trash coming out of MBA programs is laughable to say the least.

I agree with the first part of your statement.

But the second part is nonsense. Apart from everything else, if you seriously believed that, Tim Cook, Peter Oppenheimer, and Ron Johnson (although he's leaving, Apple Retail's success is substantially credited to him) are all "MBA trash".

Do you seriously think/believe that?!
post #14 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

Has worked for Pixar over the last 20 years.

What "has worked" at Pixar for 20 years? Pixar University? Can you be more specific? Leaving aside the fact that SJ was Disney/Pixar's largest shareholder (and a board member) and available for counsel until yesterday, can you tell me what they taught at PU that made it work not only at Pixar standalone, but Pixar under Disney?
post #15 of 50
One thing I expect Apple (and Pixar) University to do is teach management how to hire the right people. My first few professional years were spent dying in a stodgy bureaucratic large company. I finally jumped ship to a small company that felt like a family driven to do great things. The CEO hated MBAs and never hired one. He wanted people who were inspired to do great work and gave them the leeway to do so. If you screwed up you took responsibility for it, your mess was swept away quickly and you got back to work. We didn't screw up often.

When the company was eventually acquired by GE, a great many of us jumped ship once again. We are now scattered far and wide and are highly regarded wherever we go because we retain that desire to "dent the universe". If Apple University helps ensure hiring of people with similar DNA, it won't be as hard to get the last few genes into alignment.
post #16 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

But teaching people how to innovate? I'm not sure it's that easy.

While true to an extent, how many patents are there in Apple's IP treasure chest?

Steve's name was on some 300+ patents, but out of how many and what for what: concept, design, technology, code, electronics, I'm just spitballing here, but surely there are some extraordinary talented, highly educated, and extremely insightful people at the Cupertino campus.

Aren't there?...
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Ten years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash.  Today we have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash.

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Ten years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash.  Today we have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash.

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post #17 of 50
Jeez, did this guy ever sleep?
post #18 of 50
Wow! That's pretty cool!
post #19 of 50
The hardest part of innovation isn't having new ideas or grandiose visions but executing on a new idea. Steve Jobs's greatest achievement was surely creating a company that doesn't have the same problems that other companies have when it comes to executing on new ideas (internal political struggles, etc). That's the business legacy he can pass on with Apple University. What the company loses is his cohesive vision and impeccable taste. No doubt things will be different now. I suspect the entire technology industry will move in a different direction than it would with Steve here to steer things. But I think Apple will still be leading the way for a long time to come.
post #20 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

I agree with the first part of your statement.

But the second part is nonsense. Apart from everything else, if you seriously believed that, Tim Cook, Peter Oppenheimer, and Ron Johnson (although he's leaving, Apple Retail's success is substantially credited to him) are all "MBA trash".

Do you seriously think/believe that?!

He meant everybody else OTHER than those guys.
post #21 of 50
It seems, as early as 2008, he knew...
post #22 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by urbansprawl View Post

Steve Jobs was not always the nicest man, or the most humble, but he achieved great things, was an excellent presenter, slave driver, thinker and visionary. No doubt he wanted to pass that on. It's not easy to shape the way one thinks, especially at an older age. But if you are trained for 3 years to think at every step WWSD? (What would Steve do?) then I think you could certainly maintain a good level of "Apple DNA" after he passed away. I certainly hope so. I have nothing but great admiration for what Steve and Apple have done for personal technology.

Nicely worded post. My feelings exactly.

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post #23 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psych_guy View Post

He meant everybody else OTHER than those guys.

You beat me to it.
However, my belief still stands. Steve managed to put together a fantastic team of like-minded individuals that I hope leads Apple to many more years of innovation.

That being said, I got tired of counting the number of MBA grads coming out of our universities that are frankly dumber than dirt.
post #24 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

You beat me to it.
However, my belief still stands. Steve managed to put together a fantastic team of like-minded individuals that I hope leads Apple to many more years of innovation.

That being said, I got tired of counting the number of MBA grads coming out of our universities that are frankly dumber than dirt.

Which university is this?
post #25 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psych_guy View Post

He meant everybody else OTHER than those guys.

I assume you're being sarcastic.

OK, let's add more to the 'MBA trash' group: Warren Buffett, Phil, Knight, Michael Bloomberg.
post #26 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

What "has worked" at Pixar for 20 years? Pixar University? Can you be more specific? Leaving aside the fact that SJ was Disney/Pixar's largest shareholder (and a board member) and available for counsel until yesterday, can you tell me what they taught at PU that made it work not only at Pixar standalone, but Pixar under Disney?

If you read the article s l o w l y it actually tells you, imagine that.
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Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."
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post #27 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Realistic View Post

If you read the article s l o w l y it actually tells you, imagine that.

You mean: "....a professional development program that offers courses in fine arts and filmmaking as well as leadership and management to steep employees in the company's culture, history and values as well as its craft."

R e a l l y ?

Now, read my question again, s l o w l y and see if you can truly understand the question that I asked, including its full context.
post #28 of 50
It's well known that Steve admired Bill Hewlett and David Packard and for very good reasons. These gentlemen were excellent engineers who were also excellent managers who applied high standards and vision to every aspect of the company.

I still believe that it was a mistake for HP to cleave their scientific instrument group off to become Agilent, for the company lost excellent DNA. (Or at least, Agilent should have been given the HP name.) Hewlett Packard could have owned personal computing, they had the engineering skills, the manufacturing base and experience in compact computing systems. Really, in the 1970's, HP was untouchable in technical computing and systems. It is unbelievably sad that HP appears lost in no man's land. Steve would have learned the lessons that HP's demise taught and would have been determined for Apple to avoid a similar fate. Seems that he has done his best to apply another of those lessons, let's hope that the AU is a resounding success.
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post #29 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

You mean: "....a professional development program that offers courses in fine arts and filmmaking as well as leadership and management to steep employees in the company's culture, history and values as well as its craft."

R e a l l y ?

Now, read my question again, s l o w l y and see if you can truly understand the question that I asked, including its full context.

What a piece of work you are. Articles usually are general in nature on many of the things mentioned. if everything was covered in detail like you suggest then the article would never end. Why would Pixar/Disney or Apple even want to let the specifics become public?
Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."
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Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."
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post #30 of 50
This is what Steve Jobs said in his interview to wired magazine in 1996 about Creativity -

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that's too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have."

Apple university won't be able to provide people with diverse experiences. It won't be able to give them more "dots" to connect. Unfortunately Steve was right. You only get diverse experiences by living a full life. By making mistakes. I'm afraid Apple University will create exactly what Steve complained about - Linear solutions.
post #31 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

I'm skeptical too. Steve learned his ways from the school of hard knocks, and so did a lot of garage tinkerers. The trash coming out of MBA programs is laughable to say the least.

I enjoyed watching Steve Job's 2005 Stanford speech about not attending college due to not knowing what he wanted to do and did not want to bankrupt his parents. He took a calligraphy class that honestly, the "Biff, Tad, & Muffy" MBA-types would have ridiculed him for and most likely label Job's a lazy-hippie.

He did everything that no self-respecting school of higher education would ever recommend he do.

You can't learn what Steve learned from going to school. School teaches you to get a job, maybe learn how to run a company, but not to actually take the risks, the falls, and the reap the rewards of creating a company such as Steve Jobs did.

However, Steve Jobs did know to surround himself with an army of gifted people that knew how to do those things that frankly, Steve did not want to deal with. His ability to attract those people and those people in return believing in his vision and wanting to improve themselves thanks to Steve were key to all of Apple's successes.

I really, really hope that AU has some secret sauce to tap that potential in people. I really, really hope it does. I want to believe that.

You ain't laying. But in the end, and I hate to say it, Apple is going to end up like all the sh** companies that had that "WOW" factor then ended being nothing but a "BEAT WAL STREET EXPECTATIONS AT ALL COST" companies. And it is that but they still have the "WOW".
You think them bull**** HP printers or calculators have any more "WOW" in them? There ain't even that much ink in those "Need to sell a kidney" ink cartridges.
post #32 of 50
He is Harry Seldon.
post #33 of 50
I think I saw this as an 8-audio cassette home learning program a couple years back.
post #34 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

You mean: "....a professional development program that offers courses in fine arts and filmmaking as well as leadership and management to steep employees in the company's culture, history and values as well as its craft."

R e a l l y ?

Now, read my question again, s l o w l y and see if you can truly understand the question that I asked, including its full context.

When you get a 'bee in your bonnet' you do go on far too much. Majority of the MBA graduates at present time, will not be great, since not just theory of business you need to understand, but also have that drive, focus and ruthlessness to push your ideas/products forward. It is something that is not taught vary a book and I do agree with one of your points, It will be difficult to replicate 'Jobs Way' via this University.

Warren Buffet and all the others you mentioned have that uniqueness/drive/focus about them and MBA program just added to their nature skills.
post #35 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Achim View Post

A university? How corny! Then 'they' have understood exactly NOTHING of Steve's legacy!

A university in his name is an affront to the man whose motto was "THINK DIFFERENT".

If you think that Steve Jobs was not an integrally involved in the development of Apple University, well…

Apple University was formerly initiated in October 2008

Apple Launches Internal University
http://www.pcworld.com/article/15397...niversity.html

Yale MBA dean to found Apple University http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10073097-37.html

And if anyone thinks that Jobs held distain for higher or hired education, think again. He surrounded himself with such. But also like brilliant minds, he didn't believe that it just started or stop in a 'school' building. If anything, he just extended the campus grounds to life.
post #36 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

HP's failure as a company reached epic proportions this year when the company announced it would spin off its PC division and kill its brand new webOS hardware group to become something else entirely, before flopping back on those decisions by removing its less than a year old chief executive and replacing him with a board member.

"and replacing him with a board member"

A bit disrespectful shall we say.
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #37 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Realistic View Post

What a piece of work you are. Articles usually are general in nature on many of the things mentioned. if everything was covered in detail like you suggest then the article would never end. Why would Pixar/Disney or Apple even want to let the specifics become public?

You're conflating things, since you had no answer to a question I asked of you (not the article).

You're the one that made the bland, confident assertion that "it's worked at Pixar for the past 20 years".

My question was, how do you know? Because the article made some non-specific claims to that effect?

I was asking a serious question as to whether you knew, and you started to get bent out of shape about it (as though I was attacking you, which I was not).
post #38 of 50
i like it, i agree with those who say genius isn't repeated to masses, but what this process helps to do is identify a gem (another genius in the making) which is what apple will need in 10-20 years time, the path for now it mapped..... the rest is covered, but the extra special genius quality is the key driving factor, if you will X-Factor!
post #39 of 50
Is LSD included with the tuition or do they have to buy it at the campus bookstore? Do they have field trips to Asia to visit Zen Buddhists? Like it or not, these are things that Steve jobs credited with helping him "think different."

On a somewhat more serious note, are they really teaching people to think like Steve Jobs, or to imitate Steve Jobs? Teaching people to think like Steve Jobs must include critical thinking of Steve Jobs, and finding the flaws and shortcomings in his approach to make the next one better. Is that really going to happen?
post #40 of 50
Many people have tried to codify what it takes to be a successful CEO but a lot of it is judgment calls, and you can't teach that. Jobs didn't invent much of what Apple is about; his role was a bit like someone watching a sculptor chipping away the rock that doesn't look like the desired statue, and yelling stop when it looks right. Or start again, if it goes way wrong. I don't agree with a fair number of things Apple has done but they are closer to right than much of the competition. Putting design at centre is one important aspect of culture that I hope will live on, but a company can keep going on momentum long after what made it successful at the start has gone. Look at HP, for example.

Philip Machanick creator of Opinionations and Green Grahamstown
Department of Computer Science, Rhodes University, South Africa

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Philip Machanick creator of Opinionations and Green Grahamstown
Department of Computer Science, Rhodes University, South Africa

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