Creative Selection - An Inside Look at Some Key Moments at Apple

I’ve wondered what it’s like to work at Apple. I’ve read books and articles about Steve Jobs and the turbulence the company experienced. Ken Kocienda co-wrote the Safari browser and developed the first iPhone keyboard. His book, Creative Selection, is the first book that provides a view of the day to day environment at Apple. It’s full of wisdom. These are my learnings from the book.

There are few brainstorming sessions at Apple because ideas are difficult to debate. Debating something physical is much easier. When faced with a challenge, each person on a team creates their own solution to a problem and then presents that solution. The best ideas surface and improve through direct feedback and iteration. Ken calls this concept Creative Selection.

A product’s definition of greatness. “Steve thought speed was the long term key to better browsing, so making a high performance browser became our top priority, our definition for greatness.” One of the release criteria for each build became a test called the Page Load Test. The PLT measured Safari’s time in loading pages from across the internet. Each time an engineer committed code, the team would accept it only if was PLT neutral or better.

Each product should have a simple definition of greatness. For example, the best email client reduces the amount of time spent processing the same amount of mail.

Market features customers value. When Ken is assigned to the iSync team, he asks a friend in marketing to help him develop a marketing strategy. His friend replies, “Ken, we don’t market sync. We don’t really consider it … well … a customer facing technology.” Which technologies do you market today that your customers don’t value? This goes back to starting with the why, why the technology matters

Execute a single play very well, all the way to the Super Bowl. Great execution of simple things can win a market because great execution is a real challenge. Vince Lombardi took the Packers from last place in the NFL to the Superbowl in one season by focusing the team on a single play, the PowerSweep. The team executed that play over and over again. Though the competition knew it was coming, they couldn’t defend it well, so great was the execution. I think this idea is becoming more applicable in software/SaaS where technology differentiation is less pronounced and execution is a stronger differentiator.

Creative Selection is a great read, and provided me a new lens into the world of the single greatest consumer electronics company of our generation. There are insights here which can apply to many different industries.

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