Steve Jobs thought that most people live in a small box. “They think they can’t influence or change things a lot.” Jobs urged his staff to reject that philosophy as untrue.
Disruptive innovation is seen by many companies as a threat to them – but not by Apple who are happy to embrace disruptive technologies.
An interview with Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in FastCompany magazine shows that things are not as simple – and this offers lessons for all companies looking at new technology.
The key points are that Apple doesn’t go for every new technology. First they need to understand and have faith in the primary technology behind an innovation. They then consider two questions:
What can Apple add to this – and will it be embraced by society or be seen as something positive. These are interesting questions as a new technology will only be disruptive when people view it as adding to their overall well-being (even if initially people don’t fully understand the innovation – as was the case with first iPad where pundits said “so what” and “why do I need this”). Apple then looks to see if they can be the leader in technology – to own it. If they can’t they leave it to others.
This explains why often Apple isn’t first with something new. For example, they’ve just launched the Apple Watch. It’s too soon to say if this will be a success (although initial signs suggest it will be). Again critics have complained about it. It’s also not the first wearable on the market.
Essentially what’s being said is that to launch a truly disruptive product you need to answer four questions?
1) What is the new technology – and do we understand it?
2) Can we play in this market?
3) Will this innovation / technology / product or service contribute to society i.e. enable people to do things more easily or better than they could before or do things they couldn’t do at all before?
4) Can we be a primary player in this market?
If the answer to any of these 4 questions is no, Apple won’t enter the market. These are great questions that any company should consider before entering a new market. (The third question is perhaps the most interesting in respect of Apple – as what did the iPad offer people that other then existing devices couldn’t do. In retrospect, the answer is obvious but that’s hindsight. Spotting that the iPad, launched in 2010, gave you much more than the iPhone or the Amazon Kindle that predated it by 3 years, and that a laptop wasn’t as transportable, or easy to use was the genius of the device.