Review: Jony Ive by Leander Kahney

I don’t usually find books about Apple to be quotable. There are certainly some interesting anecdotes and observations but few appeal to the analytical mind. The popular books on Apple have tended to cover what close watchers have already known and are thus compilations with few revelations.

This is not the case with Leander Kahney’s book on Ive. It certainly is the best compilation of detail on product development at Apple during the Ive years (and some time before.) Moreover, it’s also filled with choice insights into the process of development.

This process-orientation is what makes the book stand out for me personally. There are character observations and personality intrigues but they are not the main focus or ambition for the author. Rather, as befits the book’s subject, there is an exposition of detail about how things are done. It’s not a complete exposition–nor can there be one–but it goes much further than any other Apple book I’ve read.

For this reason I found myself tweeting quite a few quotes from the book. Here are some examples:

“In a company that was born to innovate, the risk is in not innovating. The real risk is to think it is safe to play it safe” – Jony Ive

“Scott Forstall wasn’t allowed to visit. His badge wouldn’t even open the door.”

“Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation” – Steve Jobs

“I have seen buildings where, as far as the eye can see, you see machines carving, mostly aluminum.”

“I do not want any of my guys thinking about cost. They should not care…that is not their job”

“The thing is, you could transplant me and this design group to another place and we wouldn’t work at all”

“they wanted to give PowerPoint presentations, but Jobs quickly banned them. He saw PowerPoints as rambling and nonsensical”

The book mostly follows Ive’s career with chapters covering most significant episodes chronologically, however there are deep dives into the “how” rather than just the “what” happened. There is a hint of causality rather than correlation between events and outcomes.

For example, there is a mesmerizing description of the actual Apple design studio even though it has never been depicted in any public photo or video or diagram. There is a great attention paid to manufacturing and materials, as indeed there should be if talking about Apple design (but not necessarily if talking solely about design in general.)

There is an amazing revelation of the existence of the “ANPP” or the Apple New Product Process. This process directs the “extreme detail [for] every stage of product development”. The presence of such a “giant checklist” implies a degree of process and rigor which is in contrast to the “heroic” effort that prevails in popular folklore about how Apple develops its products.

If there was one disappointment it was that I felt as if half was missing. The half which would tie the dots together and see where they might lead. But that’s perhaps too much to ask for what is essentially a biography of an individual rather than a company.

Nevertheless, for anyone interested in the process of innovation that remains Apple’s principal asset, Jony Ive, The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney is available at the iBookstore.

  • gprovida

    i agree it provided the best insight into the Apple internal innovation and design process. As you point out its only part of the process, since it is Ives-centric and the design processes in SW, OS, content, Cloud, etc., are absent, primarily since they were peripheral to Ive’s job. This is obviously changing with Ive’s evolving role.

    it is rather remarkable that the ANPP and Apple University training has received effectively zero attention from the outside. I suspect these are part of the ‘crown jewels,” but it is hard to imagine so many people exposed to it and so little leaking out.

    The only explanation i can derive is the press, analysts, and public fixation on “great men/women” as the driver in business/history/politics and especially Apple. However, the academic and serious business community should be able to avoid the distraction of “great man” and address the equally or perhaps even more important processes that run such a successful and iconic company. This failure suggests an enormous emotional and intellectual commitment to a [i would argue imaginary] narrative about Apple that probably blinds them and certainly narrows their perspective.

    Don’t confuse me with the data or facts, probably explains why you are so unique in the Apple world, great talent aside.

    • Andrew F

      As much I stand in unity with my fellow Post-Jobs Apple believers, Apple hasn’t yet passed the ultimate test of introducing a new tech revolution following Steve’s death.

      As someone who comes from cinema, you see the acolytes of great filmmakers who try to emulate and approximate the thinking of their heroes and it never quite works, even when the acolytes themselves are immensely talented.

      Apple, to me anyway, is in many ways The Company as Artist — John Gruber once put it brilliantly, saying that Apple was a fractal design in which all of its elements were “Apple-like”, from its software to its hardware, it’s packaging, advertising, and retail stores. In the same sense that a Kubrick performance, no matter the actor, is Kubrickian, his lighting style, his use of zooms, his choice of fonts, his use of dissolves — they all have that singular Kubrick touch.

      The way Apple goes forward and continues to be a great company is to embrace the artistry of those who are there, even if it conflicts with the established style of their departed hero, so in that sense Apple will be a constantly evolving artist-company, and not some stale dinosaur nostalgically clinging to their old triumphs. iOS 7 is an encouraging sign that they’re brave enough to evolve.

      I remain hopeful that they can create a new mainstream breakthrough.

      • Space Gorilla

        Given that Jobs was talking in broad strokes about what is happening today back in the 80s and 90s, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that he left Apple a ‘big picture’ roadmap for at least the next decade or more. Jobs was never thinking just a couple years out. While the specific details and implementation are now post-Jobs, in a big picture sense I don’t think we’ll really see a post-Jobs Apple for another decade at least.

      • Andrew F

        This flies in the face of Steve Jobs’ own advice to Apple. Even if there was a big picture roadmap, iOS 7 shows Apple doesn’t care about it.

        As brilliant as he was, he couldn’t have known every new opportunity that might make current thinking obsolete. For example, he admitted to never thinking maps would be such a big deal on mobile devices. And besides, one of Steve Jobs’ most famous characteristics was his penchant for quickly and often changing his mind.

      • Space Gorilla

        You’re confusing the big picture roadmap with the details of implementation. Of course the details are going to change as you develop new products, as you iterate, as we can see with iOS 7, but those details can easily exist within the big picture framework. The idea of a roadmap doesn’t fly in the face of the advice Jobs gave to Cook/Apple, not at all. I see iOS 7 as clear proof of that actually.

        And we should also not make the mistake of thinking anything at Apple was ‘all Jobs’, it never was, it was a team effort, often with others offering better or different ideas that convinced Jobs to change his mind. But again, in a big picture sense Jobs hasn’t changed his mind in 30 years.

        Apple easily has ten years of work on the implementation side of things, driven by the vision of Jobs. Of course the details will be different, that’s my point, while the implementation is post-Jobs, the vision is not yet post-Jobs and won’t be for at least a decade. A new completely unforeseen opportunity could change that, but that kind of thing doesn’t happen too often.

      • Andrew F

        The DNA is one thing, and you would hope that Apple’s DNA never changes. The principles they’re founded on is the long term vision, but product roadmaps are decided on way too many factors on the ground for a broad vision to be of much use. For example, what use is broad vision when comcast won’t strike up a deal?

        You call them details of implementation — I call them products. One of the things I always loved about Apple is that they’re not trying to sell futurism, they make products that suffer the compromises of reality, and they do an amazing job of making those hard choices. Other companies live in these futuristic fantasy lands of a unified operating system with “no compromises”, driverless vehicles and glucose monitoring contact lenses that may or may not find commercial approval… No. Apple’s long term thinking is left for silicon design, for miniaturization, for metallurgic experiments… Hard engineering problems that have to be solved on a daily basis, not some wooly future of breakthrough products.

        As for Jobs not being a micromanager…. We have enough evidence on the contrary. I’m not saying other people didn’t contribute, or that many of Apple’s breakthroughs had none of his imprint, I’m just saying he approved nearly every user facing element of their products. Now there are different people with different tastes doing the approving.

      • Space Gorilla

        You’re still not getting what I said. I never said ‘product roadmap’, and I never claimed Jobs was not a micromanager. Nor did I say anything about futuristic fantasy lands or breakthrough products. You can go back and watch video of Jobs talking about ‘big picture’ ideas, from the 80s and 90s and you can see those ideas unfolding today.

      • Andrew F

        I know exactly what videos you’re talking about, and I think you’re conflating vision for products. I don’t think Jobs would tie Apple’s hands with some grand vision that may or may not matter 5 years from now. The things that matter — the approaches to problem solving, the love of quality, the risk-taking aggression and many other things besides — are imprinted in the company. I’d argue Apple itself was the broad vision. It’s up to the people there today to execute on the things Apple stands for.

      • Space Gorilla

        You have hit on part of it, that Apple as a process, the ability to do the right thing, the pragmatism, that is the greatest thing Jobs created. Do what works, build the whole widget, abstract the computer, simplify, and so on.

        We can agree to disagree, that’s no problem, but there’s no question for me that Jobs left Apple with a ton of work to do, stuff that will have to wait until specific technology even makes it possible. But of course Jobs hasn’t sketched out products in detail. As he tended to do, it would be “The user should be able to do X, Y, or Z.” Then Jobs et al would work back to the product and the technology to make it happen.

      • Andrew F

        I’m sure of that too, I’m sure he left behind many insights and ideas. When he said that the intersecting of biology would result in the biggest tech revolution of the 21st century (and compared it to the beginning of the digital revolution) I’m certain he was speaking with an understanding of where he wanted Apple to go. We don’t necessarily know if that was his idea, but the coming of the iWatch isn’t a coincidence either way.

        My argument is what does a grand vision matter if the circumstances change in 5 years? Steve Jobs never could have imagined in 2007 how big the iPhone would turn out to be. And I think that fact serves as a reason to reconsider the existence of Apple TV as an actual platform product or as a leg stool. Apple TV was developed for an Apple that made $20 billion a year, not for an Apple that made 171 billion. The Apple TV opportunity is no longer a “significant contribution” in a higher form. It’s very nearly perfect as it is now.

        Also (and I know I’m making quite a leap here), but I really believe that whatever the iWatch is, it’s creation was begat

      • Andrew F

        … By the iPhone. It’s opportunity will have existed because the iPhone existed in such large numbers. Facts like 450m iOS devices change the thinking behind any grand vision. A peripheral device by Apple in this day and age doesn’t have to go Windows to succeed, like the iPod did.

        Wtf is wrong with this Disqus crap on iPad? Buggy as hell. Doesn’t let me go back and edit some of my posts. But anyway.

      • Space Gorilla

        Jobs was well aware of how important the iPhone would be, as a Mac in your pocket. Heck, if I could see it in 2007 Jobs certainly saw it much earlier.

        You have to consider that Jobs viewed these devices as computers and thought about jobs-to-be-done for the end user. Jobs was also aware of the connected Internet of things and how sensors would play a role (iWatch and more).

        The Apple TV is far from perfect, I am certain Jobs had a complete solution in mind, and that will just take time now.

        If I start tallying up all the work Apple has to finish based on only a few items Jobs certainly had mapped out, it’s a decade easily.

        I also think Apple will be fine without Jobs, even if he hadn’t mapped anything out. But there’s no reasonable way to argue that Jobs didn’t do that. It’s quite silly to think Jobs didn’t leave a treasure trove of ideas behind, some more specific than others surely, but still a treasure trove and a lot more than just two or three years worth.

      • Andrew F

        That’s all conjecture. Nobody knew iPhone would end up being bigger than all of Microsoft put together. It’s silly to think Jobs didn’t leave many ideas, it’s silly to think Apple’s products and software don’t exist in a continuum, but it’s also silly to think Apple is following a decade long roadmap planned out by Steve Jobs. “Do what’s right” is enough roadmap. “Broad roadmap/vision” is too broad a term to be anything other than a redundancy.

      • JohnDoey

        I disagree that it was a surprise to everyone for iPhone to be bigger than Microsoft. Many of us saw it from the beginning.

        The mobile market is much, much bigger than the PC market, and has a shorter device turnover. A big reason for Apple to get into mobile in the first place was to get out of the Microsoft-dominated PC market and sell a lot more devices. If Apple had thought they were going to sell iPhones in Motorola RCKR -type numbers, they would not have bothered.

        Plus, Microsoft takes $25 per PC, and iPhone sells for $500 and up.

        Keep in mind that iPhone is “iPod phone” and iPad is “iPod PC.” The iPod was like a taste of a Microsoft/IBM -free world for Apple, who had been under the thumb of one or both of those companies for its entire existence. When you combine that with the pent-up frustration of NeXT — Windows NT, the Windows 95 interface, and Sun Java are all NeXT clones, yet NeXT was always called a failure — then putting what is essentially the NeXT OS onto an iPod is a mass market high numbers play, and a way to settle a grudge.

        In 1999, Bill Gates said, “why is Steve Jobs back at Apple? He must know he can’t win.” I think Jobs definitely thought he could win. He wasn’t going for 3% of the mobile market with iPhone.

        I bought an iPhone during the first week and I definitely expected it to be iPod all over again, but on the scale of the phone market. That easily equates to bigger than Microsoft. I remember looking around on BART in San Francisco and I was the only one using an iPhone and I thought, “pretty soon this will all be iPhones.” And about 12–18 months later it was all iPhones. No surprise at all.

      • Andrew F

        Yeah everybody is a genius in retrospect

      • JohnDoey

        I’m pretty sure Jobs said once that Apple works from a 20 year plan.

        But if you think about it, that is not a very long time. It is only 10 iOS generations (because devices have 2 year working lives) or 6 Mac generations (3 year working lives.) You would have to have at least an idea of where the Mac is going in 6 generations to do things like complain to Intel that they need to get serious about low-power, which is what resulted in Haswell.

      • Andrew F

        No he didn’t. In fact, he said Apple doesn’t really think too much further beyond 3 years.

      • Space Gorilla

        Got a source? I think you might be misinterpreting a quote or something you read. Apple routinely takes more than three years on product development alone. We need only look at the iPad, which Jobs was working on before the iPhone, and the iPad launched in 2010.

        There’s a talk Jobs did in the 80s where you can hear him talk about the iPad in general terms, about Siri, mobile computing, all sorts of stuff. On the iPad, in broad terms, he talked about putting a computer in a book that you can carry around and learn to use in 20 minutes.

        This is how far ahead he was thinking about how he wanted personal computers to work. In 1983 Jobs was talking about walking around with a portable device getting email no matter where you were through a radio link. Jobs could imagine it back then, but couldn’t build it until much, much later.

        Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think Jobs left a specific product development roadmap with every detail and feature outlined, etc, etc. But there’s just no way he didn’t leave his ideas on where computing was headed for the next 20 years, and all sorts of really great ideas.

        There’s just too much evidence where Jobs is talking about stuff ten or more years out, going back to the 80s. Why would he suddenly stop thinking that far ahead in 2010? It doesn’t make sense.

      • Andrew F

        I’m afraid I forgot where I heard his comment, It was almost certainly in a video interview.

        Here’s the thing about what you mentioned: he wasn’t the only person articulating those thoughts. Steve’s genius was in his ability to give products the right recipe. Concepts for Siri and iPad were created in the 80’s and earlier. Look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Kubrick and Clarke created concepts that forethought things like FaceTime, iPad, Siri (homicidal Siri?), laptops… I’m probably missing a few.

      • Space Gorilla

        Sure, lots of people have had lots of ideas, watch any Star Trek episode from waaaay back. But Jobs was thinking in practical terms and mapping out how these things could be accomplished and integrated into real life, he was thinking about the jobs-to-be-done.

        Bill Gates had lots of ideas too, but lacked that extra bit of vision to imagine how real humans could make practical use of various devices.

        Look, you are obviously a Right Fighting Last Worder, so be it. But if you really think Jobs only thought three years ahead and didn’t leave Apple with a much longer roadmap, you are wrong. That is all.

      • Andrew F

        ? We’re having a discussion, if you’re introducing a new point that I disagree with, why wouldn’t I respond?

        You say Jobs was thinking in a practical sense, but he wasn’t. If he was he would have created those products back when he was making grand vision statements about them. You read his biography right? He didn’t start thinking practically about the iPhone until 2005… When Jony Ive introduced its UI to him.

  • WFA67

    It is one thing to have a refined sensibility — and it seems those people are few and far between. But to combine that with the discipline required to express that sensibility? Wow. How lucky we are.

  • Don

    As I told Leander on my podcast with him (, what’s interesting about Apple’s design team from an industrial designer’s perspective comes down to two things:

    1. Ive and his team are supremely talented and hard working. However, there are many talented, hardworking designers out there. Why does Apple’s team produce so many successful products?

    2. This is the crucial bit: When clients ask me how Apple consistently does what they do with design, I say, “Because they decided to.” That’s really all there is to it. It’s not a magic “secret” potion. Apple’s design team has been empowered to lead the company. Many companies will say they are design driven. Apple actually lives it.

    Emulating Apple means hard work and letting the designers run the show. Those are easy presecriptions, but daunting medicine for leaders with business or engineering backgrounds to accept.

    • barryotoole

      You nailed it: “because they decided to”. I would add that they’ve also decided not to cut corners because something may seem expensive at the outset. As SJ said of his designers/engineers, “it’s not their job” to fret over costs.

    • obarthelemy

      I think it’s down to the value system, and that value system is very top-down. If we compare the iOS launch to the Win8 launch, the sorry state of Win8, even though it had several years to evolve, shines the spotlight on MS wanting to get “something touch-y” out the door, even when an iffy UI and severely lacking default apps/utils that make the system essentially unusable. User experience clearly took a back seat to meeting internal goals.

      It’s not about how many features there are (that’s another discussion), it’s about the features that **are** here working and being easy and sexy.

      I’d argue that Apple might be losing their way though. Android has broadly caught up, and iOS 7 has introduced performance and reliability issues that seem out of character. I keep picturing S. Jobs playing around with beta stuff and dressing down engineers when something was not up to scratch; I don’t think J. Yve nor T. Cook do the same ?

      • Andrew F

        I think the manner in which Apple set fire to iOS is a sign that they haven’t at all lost their way. Drastic change is painful for many, and perhaps they could have been quicker to fix bugs (which they say affect a fraction of a percent of users), but it illustrates that Apple isn’t “playing it safe”.

        Quite outside the looks of it, iOS 7 has a lot of very interesting thinking going on in it, and I think they’re going to push software design the way they have hardware design. And just at a consumer level, apps in general now look and feel so much better than they did in previous versions of iOS, and far better than their Android equivalents.

      • JohnDoey

        That is a comforting rationalization for the utter crapulence of iOS 7. But you’re speaking academically, and Apple’s 500 million users are dealing with practical problems. Some rah-rah about Apple not playing it safe doesn’t help people whose $900 tablets are crashing, or who can’t find the apps they use, or who can’t figure out what is a button and what is not, or who had issues with previous iOS versions that got a coat of paint in iOS 7, but no fixes. And there is not really any payback to most users after upgrading and adjusting. Real people don’t give a shit about the multitasking view. They want to be able to do new things that they couldn’t do with iOS 6. You can block numbers and make audio-only FaceTime calls. Big whoop.

      • Andrew F

        If this were true there would be enormous consequences over it. There aren’t because it isn’t. I think in tech world, these notions that take tech geeks by storm — lack of button borders, bugs that are effecting you and your friends 0.4 % of the time — are amplified beyond reasonable debate. Apple has the data for everything. The reset bug is affecting (a fraction of a percent of users). There seems to be some memory management issues, but they’ve been cleared up in iOS 7.1.

    • Andrew F

      I think other companies have about as much chance of emulating Apple as Baz Lurhmann has emulating Stanley Kubrick. There’s never been a good example of an artist owning somebody else’s style. If you’re trying to have the artistry of Apple, you’d best think of it along very different terms and try to hire the best people you possibly can. You can’t just run to a design team, give them complete operational control, and have them repeat simplicity mantras throughout the company.

    • JohnDoey

      Sometimes you see a movie, and it has amazing cinematography, outstanding direction, fantastic actors, excellent production values, a huge budget, tons of great people working on it, and yet the movie sucks. And you realize that the script sucked. The story sucked. They built a glittering diamond house on a foundation of sand. The production got rolling before they had a great story and script, and they made a great, awful movie.

      Pixar is famous for NOT doing that. They are famous for shutting down productions for months at great expense because they realized the script wasn’t happening.

      There may be hundreds of people working on a movie for 2 years, but a great movie will also have 1 writer who worked on the script for 5 years before that. The trick is not to start the production rolling until that script is really ready. Too many times, people want to make a movie so they start the production rolling and don’t have the patience to wait 5 years for the script to be ready.

      Similarly, there are a lot of consumer electronics devices with amazing technology in them. A great SoC, a great this, a great that. Yet they suck. They are huge productions with no story. The iPhone has story. Most consumer electronics devices are pooped out in 6–12 months. iPhone was started in 2002 and didn’t ship until 2007. For most of that time, Apple was writing the story of iPhone. Only near the end of that time did it start to follow the kinds of processes that a Samsung or Nokia device follows.

      So I don’t think it is really about process or even about design or engineering. It’s what you come up with before you start designing and engineering and following processes that is most important. Apple and Pixar both have a small team do a ton of prototyping until they can see that their story is right, and then they kick in the traditional production processes.

      The thing is, people who want to copy Apple don’t want to hear that they have to spend 5 years or more doing it. Same as people who want to make a great movie don’t really like to hear that the movie they idolize took 5 years to write before production even started.

  • steve

    A fine book. I spent a bit of time with Ive more than a decade ago and was astounded by his intensity. Their ability to stay fresh and appreciate the culture they are embedded in is an enormous strength. At some point they will need to re-invent that understanding. I’m guessing they’re up to the task.

    While there are differences, I’m impressed by the similarities they have with Pixar.

  • Bit shocked by the “amazing revelation” claim. ANPP is certainly under reported but also far from news. Lashinsky covered it well in Inside Apple and Apple itself used it as part of the Samsung suit.

    And then of course there is this:

  • Seb

    Apple’s industrial design is stunning, but the press neglects the real reason for Apple’s success: UI and UX design. While the iPod’s success was still somewhat based on the industrial design, the iPhone revolutionized the industry with what happened on the screen: The app grid with the single physical home button.

    Discussing ‘design’ the media and the public still mainly think of industrial design. But most significant innovation is happening on the screen and in the areas where the physical meets the digital.

  • telcodud

    Is the book an iTunes exclusive?

    • LRLee

      It’s available as a hardcopy at Barnes and Noble.

  • Andrew F

    Creative ideas don’t come out on a conveyor belt. Creativity may be Apple’s greatest asset, but I think it’s better expressed in their “Intentions” video — feelings, focus, discipline — than by cycles or processes. So much of creativity derives from instincts honed by years of living and sweating ones craft. People who aren’t creative aren’t going to suddenly be creative because of some process.

    It’s like trying to figure out by what process Francis Ford Coppola had the idea to show De Niro walking out into the street after he shoots the tenant in The Godfather II. Those moments following the killing floors everyone that sees it, yet nobody can explain what it is that’s working on their emotions in that scene. More importantly Coppola himself said he couldn’t explain why he decided to do that — in other words, completely unconscious creativity. There is no process for that, unless having a knack for hiring the best, most creative people can be called a “process”.

    The ANPP is interesting in the sense of how simplistic it is (literally check boxes for every minute stage of development), but it has little to do with creative innovation. Both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have both denied that there is a process for creativity at Apple.

    • Walt French

      I’m not Horace, and haven’t read the book (yet). But there’s a great Jobs quote about how, in his absence, Apple got this “disease” of thinking that running a great company was all about great ideas, whereas what mattered was how you shaped those ideas into great products.

      There’s no shortage of creative ideas floating around… watches, TVs, cars, all with the ability to act as personal digital assistants, chauffeur us around, know what we want to watch when we sit down…

      To my eyes, the genius of the iPhone was exactly in taking the idea of a pocket computer, and doing the hard work to make sure you can read, and operate it, without merely making it a tiny laptop. Yet another patent issued today for detecting the difference between a swipe and a tap that moves a bit as your finger compresses on the touch screen; that’s an example of the many hard work items that were necessary for the magic to coalesce.

      There’s also the daring to attempt something that others, e.g., Microsoft, Palm, Nokia, all gave up before they’d done enough to achieve liftoff.

      The creative spark is magical, but it’s not sufficient. Look at any of Apple’s great products and you’ll see years of foundational work to make them what they were.

      • Andrew F

        Steve Jobs said that? I’m not suggesting you’re making it up, I just don’t ever recall Steve Jobs associating the Apple without him as ever having thought of themselves running a great company. I’ve always heard him talk about how the money people took over.

        While I completely agree with what you say, I’m not sure it contradicts what I said. I’d argue that those examples you gave exactly reflect the kind of creative perspiration I alluded to. Whether it’s an engineer or a storyteller, I think those “aha!” moments are achieved in the same way — hard work, hard thinking, not by some overarching process. Tim Cook laughed off the notion of innovation process in his businessweek interview.

        Maybe I’m all wet here, but I’m just arguing that I don’t think there is some fairy dust inside process. The magic is in the employees.

        As a brief aside… I also take issue with current smartwatches being described as “creative ideas” LOL… They’re all going to tech heaven, where a maniacally laughing Steve Jobs pulverizes them under his Mercedes SL.

      • Walt French

        This is right in line with the claim (Horace’s?) that Apple itself was Jobs’s greatest creation. A machine to knock out great products for real people, just as Pixar is a machine with all the self-awareness to keep them on track in producing great movies.

        This is not an assembly line, but a process nonetheless.

      • Andrew F

        He’s talking about the “process” of taking a great idea and turning it into a great product. I’d argue this has little to do with any super secret “process of innovation” manual Apple hands to its senior management, but simply the culture that Steve Jobs instilled at the company. Here are some quotes to back this up:

        Tim Cook: “Two things. One, I wouldn’t call it a process. Creativity is not a process, right? It’s people who care enough to keep thinking about something until they find the simplest way to do it. They keep thinking about something until they find the best way to do it. It’s caring enough to call the person who works over in this other area, because you think the two of you can do something fantastic that hasn’t been thought of before. It’s providing an environment where that feeds off each other and grows.

        So just to be clear, I wouldn’t call that a process. Creativity and innovation are something you can’t flowchart out. Some things you can, and we do, and we’re very disciplined in those areas. But creativity isn’t one of those. A lot of companies have innovation departments, and this is always a sign that something is wrong when you have a VP of innovation or something. You know, put a for-sale sign on the door. (Laughs.)”

        Steve Jobs:The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient. But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea. And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

        Bob Borchers (iPhone Team Member)For instance, Borchers recounted how the original iPhone almost shipped with a plastic touchscreen but right before its debut, Jobs confronted his team with the concern that while the plastic would protect the underlying LCD, it would scratch when users kept it in their pocket with keys and other items. This prompted his team to improvise on the spot, convincing Corning to resume production of its then-abandoned Gorilla Glass, which turned out to be the superior solution.
        Similarly, Borchers also detailed Apple’s well-known obsession with product packaging, saying that Apple spends “way too much time on” product presentation but its ultimately worth it because it effectively communicates to consumers that the product inside the box is special.

        What does any of that have to do with process? Love isn’t a process, and on the level that it is, one wouldn’t describe it as rational.

      • Andrew F

        Or god forbid, what does any of that have to do with a “machine” as you call it? Yuck.

      • Daniel

        It sounds like you are feeling one part of the elephant of creativity and disagreeing with the others here what it looks like. The idea is that Apple uses a process such as the ANPP to guide creativity in a very disciplined way. These are not checkboxes to determine the final product outcome, but most likely a series of checkboxes that ensure that Apple has iterated those 5000 disparate parts sufficiently to find the solution that is “simple enough, but not simpler”.

        Insufficient discipline leads to innovation departments (5000 parts can be iterated ad infinitum – where does one stop?) Insufficient freedom leads to bullet point lists (other devices that “do email”, or “do music” etc – but no say on whether it would “do” these things intuitively or well). The right amount of discipline leads to the click wheel (a design solution that could not be foreseen before the process started).

      • Andrew F

        The only description of the ANPP we have doesn’t sound like that at all. I think the quotes speak for themselves (uh… naturally).

      • JohnDoey

        Phil Schiller came up with the click wheel, and he is the SVP Marketing. It was not even technically his job to come up with the click wheel, let alone part of some process.

      • Just because something can’t be “flowcharted” or just because one is not aware of how it’s done does not mean it’s not a process. Processes exist without their being discovered or understood.

      • Andrew F

        Sure, but even if they’re not publicly understood doesn’t mean they should be overemphasized.

      • Walt French

        Now that the cat is out of the bag on this process, I’d love to go the next step and understand how it evolved. Sounds like it got quite explicit at some point. The Apple is doomed to mere sorta-greatness meme doesn’t seem to understand that such processes, which were not Jobs’s psychic energy, grew and matured in his last years.

      • Andrew F

        If Apple worships at this alter of processes then it is doomed to much worse than sorta-greatness.

      • Processes are a part of the holy trinity (which I call the 3 P’s): People, Processes and Priorities. It is the role of management to balance these three for the benefit of the fourth: prosperity.
        In my mind, Apple is a “priority heavy” company but to assume that it lacks processes is foolish.

      • Andrew F

        I read that piece on Google and the three P’s and I like how you put it in such simple terms that even I could understand it, and I definitely don’t disagree that Apple lacks processes.

        My disagreement is with the notion that Apple’s most valuable asset is some revelatory process of innovation. I think Steve Jobs’ quote I posted at the top speaks to the truth of it: when magic happens at Apple, it’s a result of virtues within the company’s DNA, the vision of its leaders, the heroic enthusiasm of its employees.

        Apple speaks often of its “values” but something must be said of those values as virtues. Focus, discipline, love of quality, avoiding the obvious solutions… Those are wonderful shared virtues embedded within the company that I think are far more valuable to the health of innovation at Apple than any process.

      • JohnDoey

        Steve Jobs thought in terms of music processes. Which is you put a group of musicians in a room together and they collaborate on a piece of music, refining it and arguing about it until everybody is satisfied they made the best song they could make.

        Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” was created with a specific process where there was no rehearsal, almost no charts, almost no preparation at all, and yet it is one of the greatest music albums of all time. The reason for this is the musicians were absolute monsters — total giants. Starting with Davis himself, but the other players were of his caliber. Most musicians cannot even follow the “Kind of Blue” process, and even among those who can, you’re very unlikely to get anything good out of it. If you were, then there would be a bunch more “Kind of Blue” -type records, because the process was well-documented right from the start.

        So the personnel is much more important than the process.

        A lot of talk about process assumes that everybody is interchangeable. That everybody can be replaced. That is not true. At least not when you are talking about “A players,” which Jobs talked about all the time.

        Later in life, Frank Sinatra’s process was just “be Frank Sinatra.” You might say that Steve Jobs’ most important process was “be Steve Jobs.”

        So I don’t think the secret sauce at Apple was process.

      • suburban_cowboy

        Andrew F wrote “Creativity and innovation
        are something you can’t flowchart out.”

        Those are two separate things and innovation
        can be flowcharted out. At least some professors at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Institute of Design think so:

      • Andrew F

        I’ll take Steve Jobs’ and Tim Cook’s word before some armchair CEO professor whose opinions don’t have to face real world consequences.

      • suburban_cowboy

        Perhaps I should have mentioned that the authors are also practitioners in industrial design as well as adjunct professors.

      • Andrew F

        *rolls eyes*

      • suburban_cowboy

        Here’s a better known example: IDEO has a process.

        The authors of this paper created a process model for how
        IDEO works. They also mentioned that IDEO has a Methodology Handbook for their new employees. Hargadon, Andrew and Sutton, Robert (1997). “Technology
        Brokering and Innovation in a Product Development Firm” Administrative Science Quarterly (42,4), pp 716.749.

        Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, says this on the front flap of
        his book: “The myth of innovation is that brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. The reality is that most innovations come from a process of rigorous examination through which great ideas are identified and developed before being realized as new offerings and capabilities.” Change by Design: How Design Thinking
        Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation (2009).

        Tom Kelly (a co-founder of IDEO with) writes “Because of the eclectic appearance of our office space and the frenetic, sometimes boisterous work and play in process, some people come away from their first visit to our offices with the impression that IDEO is totally chaotic. In fact, we have a
        well-developed and continuously refined methodology.” The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity (2011) page 6.

      • Andrew F

        I don’t think brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. What are you trying to convince me of? There are a lot of interesting studies on the processes of creative and innovative people and companies. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit reading about the subject. My own experience in cinema have yielded some painful lessons too. My experience and learning has to taught me that while there may be processes involved, it’s not what it’s about. Uncreative, conventional-thinking people aren’t going to be made to be creative innovators because they’re exposed to some fancy process.

        Whatever other pontificating we could do on the subject, I direct you first and foremost to the Steve Jobs quote I posted at the top.

        My best example is look at what’s happened to Pixar’s work in the last few years. Pixar’s processes remain as refined and efficient as ever, but with their new creative hires, their work has slipped. Their new directors and writers are not cutting it because they’re not great talents.

      • JohnDoey

        If innovation comes from a process, then it should be possible to write a computer program that comes up with new innovations.

      • JohnDoey

        People are too loose with the word “innovation.” They use it as a synonym for “new feature.”

        Real innovation is when you introduce a product and make all of your competitor’s products obsolete.

        The 4GB storage in the original 2001 iPod was not just a new feature. It made the 128 MB of storage in all the other music players look absurd. Same for the integrate iTunes for Mac software compared to on-device playlist management on other players and the iPod’s high-speed serial port compared to the USB 1 on the other devices.

        You didn’t have to be a designer to see that the iPod was the next evolution and the other players were evolutionary dead-ends.

        And this happened basically overnight.

      • EW Parris

        Thanks for that citation. It’s a really great excerpt and every product developer should keep it handy. I’ve had plenty of what I thought were “great ideas” but it’s only been the ones I continued to hone and polish and prune that became something I’m proud of.

      • Andrew F

        Steve Jobs on process:
        “People get confused; companies get confused. When they start getting bigger, they want to replicate their initial success. And a lot of them think, ‘Well, somehow, there’s some magic in the process of how that success was created.’ So they start to institutionalize process across the company. And before very long, people start to get confused that the process is the content. And that’s ultimately the downfall of IBM. IBM has the best process people in the world. They just forgot about the content. And that happened a little bit at Apple, too. We had a lot of people who were great at management process. They just didn’t have a clue about the content. In my career, I found that the best people are the ones that really understand the content. And they’re a pain in the butt to manage! But you put up with it because they’re so great at the content. And that’s what makes great products. It’s not process, it’s content.”

      • JohnDoey

        An example would be Apple-without-Jobs doing a PDA because a PDA is a great idea, but then releasing a PDA that was not a great product. (Yes, Newton has its appeal and the mobile ARM processor is obviously a great innovation, but hardly any Newton’s were sold and it had some giant flaws.)

        Scully was very proud that he was going to be the father of the PDA, but not as concerned that the PDA they released was a great product.

        If Steve Jobs had been at Apple in the early 90’s and was doing a PDA, it is likely that PDA would have been released much later but be a much better product.

    • I would not consider creativity and innovation as equivalent.

      • steve

        How very true. Both terms tend to be poorly defined, but I think many of us see innovation as the step where a important change takes place – in this case new and important product categories are created. A lot of creativity may be required along the way, but not all of it needs to come from the innovator who is often has the skill of a curator.

      • Andrew F

        You’re right, but neither would I say innovation isn’t heavily reliant on creativity, and I would argue the quality of that creativity is more important to Apple than any process. As Steve Jobs said, process “is not what it’s about”.

        Jobs: “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

        The last sentence:

        People = quality of creativity
        Leadership = vision/direction
        Getting it: instincts, which goes back to people

        He never once mentions process. In Walt’s link he talks of the process of craftsmanship, but I don’t understand how one can understand that to mean that’s where creativity ends and process begins. His own quotes contradict any sort of meaningful process involved.

  • Andrew F

    Steve Jobs on Process:
    “People get confused; companies get confused. When they start getting bigger, they want to replicate their initial success. And a lot of them think, ‘Well, somehow, there’s some magic in the process of how that success was created.’ So they start to institutionalize process across the company. And before very long, people start to get confused that the process is the content. And that’s ultimately the downfall of IBM. IBM has the best process people in the world. They just forgot about the content. And that happened a little bit at Apple, too. We had a lot of people who were great at management process. They just didn’t have a clue about the content. In my career, I found that the best people are the ones that really understand the content. And they’re a pain in the butt to manage! But you put up with it because they’re so great at the content. And that’s what makes great products. It’s not process, it’s content.”

    There you have it.

  • JohnDoey

    It’s really shocking how awful the cover of this book looks. The photo is awful, the design is awful.