Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple

1 January 2017

The purpose of this assignment is to access the “Apple way” and understand the source of their systematic innovation and the way to sustain it. The major source of innovation is design thinking, which is also discussed based on Apple case. Finally, Steve Jobs is compared to other major industry player, Bill Gates, in order to understand their major difference and compare their success stories. Is there a systematic approach to Innovation at Apple? How would you characterize it? List at least 3 examples from the case. 1. From the start Apple has been extremely systematic in its approach to innovation.

Fine products do not materialize out of thin air; they are a direct result of creative thinking policies and practices. Continuous commitment to improve product design made Apple products more attractive to the consumer. One of Apple’s most important innovation drivers is a policy to put design and interface, “user experience”, above all.

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Rather than creating a language or operating system and then “overlaying” an interface, Apple started with an intuitive and simple interface, and then designed the operating system to accommodate it. In order to do so, programmers and engineers were forced to think as creative designers.

This system forced product design team to be innovative in all areas of development. Apple systematically built retail stores network when common wisdom said that technology companies should abandon retail and move online. As a result, Apple ended up with the best of both worlds: a fashionable space for “hands-on” consumers, including the hip younger generation, and a fully functional online system for the no-nonsense consumer. Apple’s retail outlets have set records for profitability per square foot of retail space, an evident success of “think differently” philosophy.

Perhaps the best example of a systematic approach to innovation is in the ongoing evolution of Apple’s flagship products. The modus operandi is clear: create triumph product and then make small but meaningful improvements every 12 to 18 months. Roll out the new product and sit back while each buyer of the first product rushes to purchase the new version. Sales are generated not only by the product improvements but also by the company’s smart use of generational psychology (“gotta have the latest! ”) and a relentless public relations campaigns culminating in the slick invitation-only rollout featuring Mr.

Jobs himself. This system, while not revolutionary (“marginal improvement system” was discovered by automobile industry 60 years ago), results in steady products improvements coupling each relatively minor enhancement with high revenues nearly as strong as the original product’s ones. Systematic innovation is also demonstrated in “design sense” – Apple’s tendency to design what seems simple and intuitive to the consumer. The introduction of the iPod Mini, which would not have been supported by classic marketing principles, is an excellent example of this.

Apple bet that the public would purchase the sleeker, flashier, more compact version of its iPod even though the small size meant sacrificing the amount of music that could be stored. They based this assumption on the fact that consumers crave first and foremost simplicity and functionality. The Mini was a tremendous success and not only because of its reduced size, but also due to its myriad of colors. “Design sense” allowed Apple to produce a lighter more portable product with enhanced aesthetic qualities, while sacrificing something that turned out not to be crucial to the consumer.

While the answer to the question “Is there a systematic approach to innovation at Apple? ” must clearly be “yes”, ironically Jobs would likely have disagreed with that. Jobs was touting the lack of a system as one of Apple’s greatest strengths. The quote, however, shows that Jobs was aware that systems were in place and functioning, but he calls them “processes” to avoid stifling connotation of the word “system”. As shown in the examples above, however, Apple’s system is anything but stifling. The systems fostered by Jobs from the very beginning have fostered a strong creative spirit leading to a superior product line and outstanding sales.

That made Apple the leading technology company and confirmed Jobs’s place in history as a visionary who brought man and machine together. 2. To what extent does Apple demonstrate Design Thinking? State your point of view and provide 3 examples from the case to support your argument. Apple products utilize all principles of design thinking: creating products to satisfy human needs, experimenting with products, crafting clear vision, and communicating this vision visually. First of all, Apple products were designed to satisfy human needs by combining simplicity, fun and play with practical use of clever machines.

In that way Apple became the pioneer in creating mind-blowing user experiences through its creations: personal computers, iPods, iPads and iPhones. A good example of this is its experimentation and product diversification of the iPod family though the iPod Mini, which is smaller and has unusual colors. Second, Apple continues to experiment, learns from its mistakes, and continually builds on and improves its existing product line. This way it creates a series of products, each only slightly different from its predecessor, but still perceived as indispensible to the “hip” consumer.

This segment remains excited to buy Apple products because they feed on curiosity, targeting buyers who crave something new, useful, and fashionable. Third, Steve Jobs is famous for its enthusiastic speeches and clear communication of his vision. His speeches and Apple commercials create an emotional connection with the audience through persuasive storytelling and mind-blowing visuals, which while not always showing the product, still make customers associate them with well-known creative individuals or outstanding experimenters and innovative products.

The company builds a strong emotional connection with contemporary audiences that like to enjoy life, think differently and try new experiences. 3. Extra credit for 5%: Compare Steve Jobs as an innovation leader to other leaders in industry. On the surface the two greatest IT geniuses of our age have plenty in common. They were both college dropouts who went on to develop world-changing technologies and found multi-billiondollar companies as a result. They were both among the wealthiest individuals of the modern era. They were both innovators and could both been termed “revolutionary” in terms of their affect on society.

They were both in committed relationships with strong families. And they both had a hand in bringing computers out of the punch-card age and into the living room, Jobs by designing a computer and Gates by designing software to run one. There are, however, significant differences between the two men. Jobs was always more flashy, more charismatic, and certainly more of a showman. He was a master at public relations and relished time in front of the cameras, at least when unveiling or demonstrating the products of his company.

Gates was never considered a master at public relations. However, Gates has a better public image than Jobs thanks to his strong belief and deep involvement in philanthropy. He is actively and passionately involved in his Bill and Melinda Foundation and tours the world encouraging wealthy individuals to support worthy causes. He has joined forces with other billionaires like Warren Buffet to drive his point home and is now widely perceived to be more concerned with how to distribute his fortune than how to increase it.

Jobs also had the greater sales and marketing expertise, receiving sole credit for the rags-to-riches story of his company Apple Computers and then for repeating the feat 12 years later. Gates and Jobs were both CEOs of their companies, but the success of Gates’s company Microsoft is often attributed as much to his multi-talented Business Manager Steve Ballmer as to Gates himself. Indeed Ballmer eventually replaced Gates as CEO in a less-than-smooth transition that many believe Gates resented.

Interestingly Jobs was forced out of his CEO role as well (and also forced out of his company, unlike Gates), only to be re-invited to the helm twelve years later and restore Apple to a preeminent position among the world’s technology companies. Microsoft never floundered like Apple did in the late 80s and early 90s so Gates never had the opportunity to return as a white knight and “rescue” his company. Conversely Microsoft has not experienced the exponential growth that Apple saw between Jobs’s return in 1997 and his death in 2011.

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