Apple University, a rarely talked about program, was founded by the late, great Steve Jobs in 2008 for purpose of indoctrinating the Apple business culture to its employees
Apple University, a rarely talked about program, was founded by the late, great Steve Jobs in 2008 for purpose of indoctrinating the Apple business culture to its employees.
Apple’s employees are discouraged from talking about this internal program, or about the company in general. It therefore comes as no surprise that not much information is available about the new obscure University.
Recently 3 Apple employees have agreed to speak about it to the NY Times under the condition of anonymity.
The article describes the program as meticulously designed, just like Apple products. The program, developed by Joel Podolny, former dean of Yale School of Management, administers courses that are meticulously planned with polished presentations. It is backed by a team of faculty that teach at Harvard, Yale, MIT, University of California, Berkley and more. Some of the courses include:
“Communicating at Apple” taught by a Pixar alumnus Randy Neslon, where the class is imbued with Apple’s minimalistic philosophy. As an example of the unique educational experiences presented to students consider what they do with Picasso’s 11 lithographs of a bull, showing how the artist deconstructed a bull’s image to its purified abstract form, presenting the image in simple clean lines. The exercise was there to show how Apple’s products should undergo the same process, until they are distilled to their pure and minimalistic design.
Another course is dedicated to teaching about Apple’s business decisions over the years. One of the employees described the business case of the decision to make iPod and iTunes compatible with Microsoft Windows. It may seem as no-brainer decision today, because this decision led to a significant expansion of Apple’s audience, though at the time, Steve Jobs liked his things kept at home in a closed loop. He didn’t play well with others. Eventually though, he succumbed.
In another case study, an employee described how the class was shown a comparison between the 78 button remote of Google TV to the 3 button remote for Apple TV. They go through the case study asking why engineers decided on a 3 button product. They learn how to simplify technology to its best natural form and given functionality until they learn how to deliver their message in the most concise way.
Instructors also advocate a “sharing of the minds” way of working, where the total sum of brainpower of a team helps bring creativity to its full potential, eventually to be manifested in its products.
Limitations of close minded greatness
“Sharing of the minds” however, does not include the rest of the world. Once again, Apple keeps its best talent to itself, and rightly so. But, the most fascinating part is that when Apple stepped out of its comfort zone and shared its platforms with the rest of the world, it only expanded, taking large chunks of ownership of other ecosystems. Consider the evolution of how it began with closed development of apps for IOS and then began sharing its iTunes on a windows platform. It is then interesting to speculate that if Apple were to expand its University to knowledge products that can be shared with the rest of the world, maybe it would grow its knowledge even further.
Microsoft for example, advocates developer courses for non-Microsoft employees, certifying developers around the world to work on its platform. Not surprisingly, Microsoft remains the dominatrix in the PC world.
“The Best Things” course at Apple University, named after Job’s famous quotes advocates employees to surround themselves with the best people in industry so that they can be inspired with the best the world has to offer. But maybe, just maybe, some of the best “things” are not always located in Cupertino.
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