The conversation about Steve Jobs’s potential step down was obviously old news inside Apple and will have taken place several times over the last few years. Their evident succession plan (which will be far more extensive than just moving Tim Cook into the CEO role) will have been thoroughly thought out, planned for and agreed.
However the language used in Jobs’s resignation letter suggests two things to me. One, that their could have been alternative plans as he “strongly recommends” that they execute their succession plan and two, that the succession plan hadn’t automatically been set up for him to step into the role of Chairman as again he is asking the board if he can do so.
Who in their right mind wouldn’t want Jobs sat beside them, even if it were only in an advisory role? The leadership, knowledge and talent that exists inside Apple is world-class and the innovations they are working on even now I’m sure will continue to pave the way and blaze the trail they have started.
Let’s not forget that at the moment at least Jobs isn’t going anywhere he’s merely changing roles. His position on the board will be a strategic and advisory one. Tim Cook and the rest of the senior team I’m sure will use Jobs as a guide, as a visionary and in some way still as a leader! If Jobs were to completely leave Apple that would be a different situation but for now at least, I think their future is still bright.
I believe that Apple have got to their position not only through their business and branding strategy (and of course amazing products) but also through superb leadership and innovation and this is unlikely to end with Jobs’ departure. I believe most importantly, organizational culture is the secret to their phenomenal successes.
Remaining innovative is the true secret to beating your competitors. Setting yourself, your products and your brand message apart is not easy, but it is vital to elevate your business above others. Apple is experiencing amazing success with their latest gadgets such as the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 despite operating in the saturated tech market and there is a lot businesses can learn from their example.
In today’s ultra-competitive globalized market place filled with savvy consumers, and agile competitors there is in fact little room for innovation, as we’ve historically known it. Big leaps away from competitors are hard to come by and whatever you make or sell can and will be copied with ease. A perfect example is the plethora of tablets flooding the market post iPad!
So, when I work with organizations and their senior teams on innovation, what we really looking at is culture and how to do things differently. Why? Because competitive advantage is no longer about ‘what you do’ it’s about ‘how you do it’.
Apple demonstrate perfectly that while your competitors can copy products along with everyone else, if you get it right, they won’t be able to do it like you do and they won’t be able to copy your culture – It’s unique! This leads me to firmly believe that Apple doesn’t have anything to worry about in the immediate future, with or without the guidance of Jobs.