How Apple is Organized for Innovation (HBR Article)

Long but interesting article discussing how the organization Jobs created 1997, and continues to today, has grown revenue 37x in 23 years.

Harvard Business Review – behind a paywall but non-subscribers can see two articles for free, including this one.


I thought that was a very interesting article. While it’s mostly focused on the leadership aspects, I did think it sheds some interesting light on the role of cross-group collaboration within Apple.

Why is this important? A lot of folks say something along the lines of, “Apple has all the money, why can’t they just hire a bunch of people to do [insert desired feature here]” (I’m looking at you @MacSparky). The collaborative nature of the work shows why it’s not that easy. The article notes:

Apple has hundreds of specialist teams across the company, dozens of which may be needed for even one key component of a new product offering. For example, the dual-lens camera with portrait mode required the collaboration of no fewer than 40 specialist teams: silicon design, camera software, reliability engineering, motion sensor hardware, video engineering, core motion, and camera sensor design, to name just a few.

Apple can’t just throw money at a problem by hiring a bunch of new people to work on it, because when you’re producing integrated hardware, software, and services, no feature is an island. Their collaborative approach also requires coordination and time from every other group that features touches.

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I agree with this, in part. In particular, it’s difficult to produce innovatation by merely throwing money around. But there are many long-standing software issues (I’m thinking about stuff we’ve been complaining about for some time) that, IMHO, could be addressed.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like to see more attention focused on stability and consistency. I don’t necessarily think that means sacrificing innovation.

I agree with @ChrisUpchurch generally. But there is still plenty of low hanging software fruit that isn’t nearly so complex. (updating Apple Mail for instance).

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