A new profile of The Wall Street Journal offers insight into Apple’s evolution under the leadership of CEO Tim Cook. The report highlights the leadership differences between Cook and Steve Jobs, including Cook’s more hands-on approach to engineering and product design.
The profile points out that Cook kept much of his routine the same when he took over as Apple in 2011:
Since taking office in 2011, Cook has followed the advice of his predecessor: don’t ask what I would do. Do what’s right. He continued to wake up before 4 a.m. each morning and review global sales data. He maintained his Friday meeting with the operations and finance staff, which team members called “a date night with Tim” because it spanned hours into the evening. He rarely visited Apple’s design studio, a place Mr. Jobs visited almost daily.
Citing Cook’s colleagues and acquaintances, the report describes the Apple CEO as “a humble workaholic with a singular commitment to Apple.” He is said to keep his calendar away from personal events, painting the picture of a relatively lonely position – something Cook has even said himself in the past.
An anecdote from the WSJ profile explains:
Around Thanksgiving two years ago, guests saw him dining alone at the secluded Amangiri Hotel near Zion National Park. When a guest next bumped into him, he said he had come to the hotel to recharge his batteries after an eventful fall punctuated by the deployment of Apple’s latest iPhone. “They have the best masseuses in the world here,” he said, recalls the guest.
Current and former employees cited in the article say Cook has “created a more relaxed workplace” than the environment created under Steve Jobs. Nevertheless, Cook is “just as demanding and detail-oriented”. The report cites a specific example where Apple “mistakenly shipped 25 computers to South Korea instead of Japan.” Cook was reportedly frustrated with this error and used it as an example of how Apple was “losing [its] commitment to excellence. “
The report also offers an interesting look at Cook’s leadership style and his relationship with his subordinates, citing an anecdote from former Apple executive Joe O’Sullivan:
Mr. Cook’s mastery of detail leads subordinates to enter meetings with apprehension. He leads the interrogation, with a precision that has reshaped the way Apple staff work and think.
“The first question is, ‘Joe, how many units have we produced today?’ “It was 10,000.” What was the return? “98%”. You can answer those questions and then he’ll say, “Okay so 98% explain how the 2% failed? You would think, “F…, I don’t know. It leads to a level of detail for everyone to become like Cook, ”said Joe O’Sullivan, former COO of Apple. He said that Mr. Cook’s first meeting with staff on the day he arrived in 1998 lasted 11 hours.
Middle managers are now reviewing staff before meetings with Mr. Cook to ensure they are well informed. Beginners are advised not to speak. “It’s about protecting your team and protecting it. You are not wasting time, ”said a longtime lieutenant. If he feels that someone is not sufficiently prepared, he loses patience and says, “Then,” flipping through a page of the meeting agenda, this person said, adding: “People are left crying ”.
There is also an interesting contrast between Cook’s participatory approach to Apple’s product development, but his desire to keep up with the competition. According to the report, Apple’s chief hardware officer Dan Riccio was “exploring the idea of a smart speaker around 2015,” and Cook “asked him about the product and asked for more information. .
Ultimately, Riccio curtailed development of Apple’s smart speaker in 2015. Following the success of Amazon’s Echo speakers, however, Cook reportedly emailed Riccio asking “where so was Apple in its speaker efforts ”. This situation, the report explains, is what underscores Cook’s cautious approach to entering new product categories:
Mr. Cook tends to evaluate new product ideas with caution, taking the position in some discussions that he doesn’t want to release a product that could sell poorly and undermine the company’s track record of success, senior engineers say. .
Finally, the report addresses Apple’s recent focus on services, including concerns that things like Apple TV + are not yet seeing the success Cook had predicted.
Mr. Cook is not shaken, said former members of the services team, believing that over time Apple will gain subscribers. “They’re not going to burn out completely,” said one of those people. “With a billion devices around the world, they believe if you have something a little better and it’s on your own phone, people will embrace it.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook’s full profile is well worth a read and can be viewed at The Wall Street Journal.
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