Time magazine released its ‘Time 100‘ list of interesting people for 2013, and it’s packed with tech luminaries. One of those singled out is Apple head of Human Interface Jony Ive. Ive’s blurb is written by musician and activist Bono, who has had a long relationship with Apple in concert with various endeavors like a U2-branded iPod.
As someone who was brought into the Apple fold by Steve Jobs, Bono has likely had more of a chance than most people to see the way that Ive and his team of designers work. That’s why I think that the statement is interesting to read. I’ve highlighted the most interesting line (to me) below:
Jony Ive is himself classic Apple. Brushed steel, polished glass hardware, complicated software honed to simplicity. His genius is not just his ability to see what others cannot but also how he applies it. To watch him with his workmates in the holy of holies, Apple’s design lab, or on a night out is to observe a very rare esprit de corps. They love their boss, and he loves them. What the competitors don’t seem to understand is you cannot get people this smart to work this hard just for money. Jony is Obi-Wan. His team are Jedi whose nobility depends on the pursuit of greatness over profit, believing the latter will always follow the former, stubbornly passing up near-term good opportunities to pursue great ones in the distance. Jony’s values happen to add value — emotional and financial. It takes a unique alchemy of form and function for millions of people to feel so passionately about the robot in their pocket.
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That line is more accurate than most will ever know, and it’s one of the things that people misunderstand about Apple as a company on a large scale, as well as at a small scale. Yes, Apple is getting to the point in its evolution where the acquisition and retention of talent is going to become a very big concern. But the people that do work there now are there for more than the pay.
There’s a host of reasons that a talented someone working at Apple might stick around, and I don’t work there so I can’t state with any direct authority what all of them are. But Apple’s insistence on building small to medium-size teams that shoulder real responsibility and make real decisions that actually end up shipping is nearly unparalleled in modern companies, and almost completely unique when it comes to “big” hardware.
People work at Apple because they’re passionate about doing the absolute best work they’re capable of and they know that those goals are aligned with the company’s at large. I cannot state enough how rare that actually is. When Bono (yes, Bono) says that you can’t get people this smart to work this hard for money alone, he’s actually describing one of the core reasons that Apple is so successful and one of the biggest things that other companies overlook when trying to duplicate the model.
One of the most successful companies at playing on that model, ironically, has been Facebook, which ships relentlessly. And though there has been some talk about ex-Apple folks being hired by Facebook in the press, that’s even more true than most publications have let on. The irony in the situation might actually be that some of those hard-working and creative people have become a bit nonplussed by the bounds that Apple’s overarching vision have imposed on them, are looking for an environment that lets them push even more.
And that could very well include projects like a brand new iOS experience for Facebook, or bigger picture stuff like Facebook Home.
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