Design and Innovation at Apple

1.  Making your own decisions about what’s good
Ive’s team doesn’t attend a lot of design conferences, even though they win lots of awards.  The two reasons offered for this is that they themselves are the highest standard they know of, and the team focuses on the judgment of team members, rather than external recognition. Ives also admits that they don’t want to let others in on too much on their process, or they might be able to close the gap.

2. Limiting the number of projects
When you take on too much, you don’t do any of it well.  Far better to ask your team to do a few things really well; things that might give you real lift-off compared to your competitive set.

3. Set the standard for success, then work to that
The example used was ‘no visible screws’.  These are constraints that force tremendous innovation in design.

4. Don’t put your innovators in a ghetto, make them part of the core business
Apple’s design team is closely involved with engineering and production.The products not only have to look good, they have to be something that can be manufactured and that works. The design team works directly with suppliers to create new finishes and new methods of using injection moulding. The suppliers get better themselves by virtue of working with Apple.

5. Seek to fail and improve

If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. Here’s how Ives puts it:

“One of the hallmarks of the team I think is this sense of looking to be wrong. It’s the inquisitiveness, the sense of exploration. It’s about being excited to be wrong because then you’ve discovered something new.”

A former Apple designer, Hartmut Esslinger confirms that the innovation process includes failure:

“Apple innovates in big ways and small ways, and if they don’t get it right, they innovate again. It is the only tech company that does this.”