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Apple University hires another prominent academic to teach Steve Jobs' thinking

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Steve Jobs' vision for an "Apple University" to equip the company's employees to serve as future business leaders has quietly made a new hire: Morten T. Hansen of the University of California, Berkeley's School of Information.

Morten T. Hansen Apple University
Morten T. Hansen joins Apple University | Source: UC Berkeley


A collaborative educator focused on business information



Before serving as a Professor in Entrepreneurship at the French INSEAD business school and at UCB, the Norwegian-born Morten had been a professor at Harvard Business School and has acted as a senior management consultant for Boston Consulting Group.

In his UCB bio, he described himself as "a management scholar who happens to have a strong interest in information," and cited collaboration as an often overlooked management skill. "We know a lot about managing in a hierarchy," he said, "but we know much less about how to manage across many parts."

Staffing the secret Apple University



Hansen "negotiated an arrangement" with Apple to allow him to continue teaching one course per semester at Berkeley, which helped close the deal; he began working at Apple on January 28, according a report by Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune, citing an interview in the Norwegian paper Verdens Gang.

Joel Podolny, the former dean of Yale University's School of Management who was recited by Jobs himself in 2008 to serve as a new dean of Jobs Apple University program.

Podolny, in turn, was said to have first attempted to woo Hansen to Apple back in 2009. At that time, Jobs was too sick to meet with Hansen, but Podolny arranged for Hansen to personally discuss the project with Apple's current chief executive Tim Cook and its chief design executive Jony Ive.

Due to an ongoing book project, Hansen initially turned down a full time position at Apple. In the meantime, Podolny recruited Harvard University's Richard Tedlow, and work on the top secret Apple University has continued with little public information about the program. Late last fall, talks with Hansen resumed and he agreed to come on board.

Feeding Apple's elite core



In an interview, Hansen was careful to avoid any specifics about what he does at Apple, but did share the observation, "believe me, there are many talented people there. It's not like it was just Steve Jobs who ran the company."

Hansen is said to be working with an elite group that he described as "the best there is" at Apple. He noted that Apple is primarily an engineering company, but that an engineering background doesn't provide the best preparation for managing a multibillion dollar enterprise, necessitating Apple University program.

He estimated that Apple has around 800 employees in or being groomed for executive and leadership roles. Apple currently directly employs 80,000 employees worldwide; over 50,000 of these are within the US. About half of the company's headcount, more than 40,000, work in its retail stores.

Apple University and its top secret mission to teach Jobs' genius



In 2011, AppleInsider profiled Apple University as "a plan to teach executives to think like Steve Jobs," drawing comparisons with the Pixar University program formed at Jobs' other company to provide continuing eduction for its employees.

Many large companies promote employee enrichment programs or maintain internal MBA programs. However, Jobs' Apple University project gained particular interest both because of the level of secrecy around it and the high profile talent it attracted.

A report by the LA Times 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."

Jobs was said to have 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."
post #2 of 20
Jobs knew his stuff so well he operated on instinct and he shaped perceptions to his will. How could anyone possibly give a class on instinct? Seems rather ridiculous to me.

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post #3 of 20
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post
How could anyone possibly give a class on instinct?

 

Sort of the same way as muscle memory, maybe?

post #4 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Jobs knew his stuff so well he operated on instinct and he shaped perceptions to his will. How could anyone possibly give a class on instinct? Seems rather ridiculous to me.

Maybe Jobs was just a little bit aware of what he was doing, and not so much a wild animal selling devices the way birds fly south in the winter. 

post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

Maybe Jobs was just a little bit aware of what he was doing, and not so much a wild animal selling devices the way birds fly south in the winter. 

 

I view it more like instructors selling golf lessons to non-golfers with flashy, empty promises of improving their game so that "(they) too can become as good as Tiger Woods"!

 

Analyzing events of the past may not to be the best guide to handle new events that appear similar only on the surface.


Edited by SpamSandwich - 2/13/13 at 1:59pm

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post #6 of 20
I never got the impression that Jobs always made brilliant decisions. For example, I think his choice of biographer was a dud. But he had excellent technical taste, worried a lot about how to make his employees successful, made sensible decisions (even when they were unpopular) and changed his mind quickly when he was wrong. This combination of characteristics is very rare in CEO's, which I think accounts for Apple's success. But these attributes are eminently institutionalizable.
post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by NormM View Post

I never got the impression that Jobs always made brilliant decisions. For example, I think his choice of biographer was a dud. But he had excellent technical taste, worried a lot about how to make his employees successful, made sensible decisions (even when they were unpopular) and changed his mind quickly when he was wrong. This combination of characteristics is very rare in CEO's, which I think accounts for Apple's success. But these attributes are eminently institutionalizable.

 

I disagree with your last sentence. If it was so easy, it would be done by companies everywhere already. From personal experience, I've learned that the people in a company tend to emulate or act in reaction to the personality and philosophy of the founder. If the founder is no longer around, people pay lip service to the "corporate culture" and instead act in a way that will ingratiate them with their superiors or get them promotions faster. Politics is always a factor, but in Apple's case, the man (Jobs) was the company. What Apple is now is Jobs' company as interpreted by Tim Cook and Apple's board of directors. By this, I don't mean to imply that Apple is on a coal cart to hell now that Jobs is gone. I think Apple has a future before them that will now be different and it is up to the management now to not treat their company as an endless money machine, because it won't matter how much money they make if no one respects or wants their products.

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post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Before serving as a Professor in Entrepreneurship at the French INSTEAD business school .......

Instead, it is INSEAD. http://www.insead.edu/home/ 

post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Jobs knew his stuff so well he operated on instinct and he shaped perceptions to his will. How could anyone possibly give a class on instinct? Seems rather ridiculous to me.

 

How could anyone teach problem solving? It's not like there are a fixed set of steps to follow to solve any problem. Yet, problem solving is taught in any number of fields, not necessarily in the classroom. Anything can be taught.

 

It's not exactly like Jobs was some sort of psychic savant (shaped perceptions to his will? really?), and by the time he got around to Apple 2.0, he probably had a pretty good understanding of what he was doing and why he was doing it.

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

... Analyzing events of the past may not to be the best guide to handle new events that appear similar only on the surface.

 

I doubt very much that that's what "Apple University" is all about.

post #11 of 20
If I knew the secret to SJ's genius I wouldn't teach others, I'd start a new company. 1smile.gif
From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
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From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
Long on AAPL so biased
Google Motto "You're not the customer. You're the product."
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post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Sort of the same way as muscle memory, maybe?

Kinda like having Barry Bonds give a home run class.
So Mr. Bonds how does one hit a home run? "Swing bat hard, hit ball, class over"
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"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
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post #13 of 20
I would like to be a guest speaker at Apple University, so I could force them to confront how mediocre (or worse) they've become in non-iOs and MacBook Air areas. Some examples of shameful failure: The Mac Pro. Professional apps. IWork, etc.

5 years ago, Apple's efforts could be described as a very strong A game or, or in some cases, at least a solid B game. Nowadays Apple still has its customarily strong A game (iPhone/iPad/Air), but its B game efforts have become more like a D game.

There's no longer any pride in doing a great job, regardless of the product category. And that does not bode well for the future...
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by NormM View Post

I never got the impression that Jobs always made brilliant decisions. For example, I think his choice of biographer was a dud. But he had excellent technical taste, worried a lot about how to make his employees successful, made sensible decisions (even when they were unpopular) and changed his mind quickly when he was wrong. This combination of characteristics is very rare in CEO's, which I think accounts for Apple's success. But these attributes are eminently institutionalizable.

You mean like normal people with non inflated egos think like?
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Jobs knew his stuff so well he operated on instinct and he shaped perceptions to his will. How could anyone possibly give a class on instinct? Seems rather ridiculous to me.

 

He wasn't always as good as he became later in life. If you watch videos of his early presentations, it's clear how much he learned and refined his approach over the years. 

post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by k2director View Post

I would like to be a guest speaker at Apple University, so I could force them to confront how mediocre (or worse) they've become in non-iOs and MacBook Air areas. Some examples of shameful failure: The Mac Pro. Professional apps. IWork, etc.

5 years ago, Apple's efforts could be described as a very strong A game or, or in some cases, at least a solid B game. Nowadays Apple still has its customarily strong A game (iPhone/iPad/Air), but its B game efforts have become more like a D game.

There's no longer any pride in doing a great job, regardless of the product category. And that does not bode well for the future...

Apple definitely has software issues - the interface and quality of OSX and its apps have gone downhill (starting well before Jobs left - the new iMovie, QuickTime X, etc.). Part of it's philosophical - they seem to think everybody should do things a certain way, so they've taken a lot of the choices and flexibility out. It's ironic that they talk so much about creativity, and yet they restrict their customers from using their own creativity. It also seems like they don't hire graphic designers anymore, so they're losing the elegance of design they once had, and have gone to cute graphical tricks instead. Hopefully Ive will change direction, and make OSX the best computer OS it can be (for both work and play), not an offshoot of iOS.

post #17 of 20
Meh. The next genius to lead Apple will not think like Steve Jobs, just as Jobs did not think like those before him. That's part of what made him so brilliant.
post #18 of 20
Originally Posted by jakeb View Post
He wasn't always as good as he became later in life. If you watch videos of his early presentations, it's clear how much he learned and refined his approach over the years. 

 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 85

                              Pre-firing Steve.                                                             Return to Apple Steve.

post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I disagree with your last sentence. If it was so easy, it would be done by companies everywhere already. From personal experience, I've learned that the people in a company tend to emulate or act in reaction to the personality and philosophy of the founder. If the founder is no longer around, people pay lip service to the "corporate culture" and instead act in a way that will ingratiate them with their superiors or get them promotions faster. Politics is always a factor, but in Apple's case, the man (Jobs) was the company. What Apple is now is Jobs' company as interpreted by Tim Cook and Apple's board of directors. By this, I don't mean to imply that Apple is on a coal cart to hell now that Jobs is gone. I think Apple has a future before them that will now be different and it is up to the management now to not treat their company as an endless money machine, because it won't matter how much money they make if no one respects or wants their products.

Politics will always be involved in business. Whether the core values of older Apple can be instilled in the leaders of tomorrow's Apple would depend on how much the current leadership believes in them. You can lead by example, to an extent, by practicing what you preach, but your principles have to be sound. There is no substitute for experience no matter which business school you attended to get your MBA, so getting exposed to both the culture and work experience in the Apple University can be a good thing if executed properly.
post #20 of 20
A quote from his bio seems appropriate to post (sorry NormM)

When the data about dropped calls were assembled from AT&T, Jobs realized there was a problem, even if it was more minor than people were making it seem. So he flew back from Hawaii. But before he left, he made some phone calls. It was time to gather a couple of trusted old hands, wise men who had been with him during the original Macintosh days thirty years earlier.
His first call was to Regis McKenna, the public relations guru. “I’m coming back from Hawaii to deal with this antenna thing, and I need to bounce some stuff off of you,” Jobs told him. They agreed to meet at the Cupertino boardroom at 1:30 the next afternoon. The second call was to the adman Lee Clow. He had tried to retire from the Apple account, but Jobs liked having him around. His colleague James Vincent was summoned as well.
Jobs also decided to bring his son Reed, then a high school senior, back with him from Hawaii. “I’m going to be in meetings 24/7 for probably two days and I want you to be in every single one because you’ll learn more in those two days than you would in two years at business school,” he told him. “You’re going to be in the room with the best people in the world making really tough decisions and get to see how the sausage is made.” Jobs got a little misty-eyed when he recalled the experience. “I would go through that all again just for that opportunity to have him see me at work,” he said. “He got to see what his dad does.”
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