Part 5: What Does Innovation Inside Of Apple Look Like To Someone Outside Of Apple?

on June 2, 2016
Reading Time: 7 minutes

ARTICLE OUTLINE

This is part 5 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

What

What Does Innovation Inside Of Apple Look Like To Someone Outside Of Apple?

 

Critics say:

  • Apple cant’t innovate without Steve Jobs.
  • Apple used to be revolutionary, but now they’re merely evolutionary.
  • Apple hasn’t been innovating for years.
  • Apple isn’t innovating now.
  • Apple isn’t taking any risks.
  • Apple cannot replicate the success of the iPhone.
  • Apple isn’t built to compete in the brave new world of tech.

AXIOMATIC

The above criticisms all have one thing in common. They are axiomatic. Apple can no longer innovate because Apple can no longer innovate. It’s self-evident. It’s unquestionable. It requires no proof.

And it’s a darn good thing that it requires no proof. Because there isn’t any.

I’m still sometimes startled how tech writers can take a thing from untested assertion to unquestioned ‘fact’ without any intermediate steps. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

The strongest argument — and the only argument — that the critics can advance is that Apple hasn’t introduced anything innovative since the iPhone. (Let’s just ignore the ten-ton elephant that is the iPad and the 900 pound gorilla that is the Apple Watch.)

But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because we cannot catch sight of Apple innovating does not mean that Apple is not innovating out of sight.

They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea. ~ Francis Bacon

MISTAKING MISTAKES FOR INNOVATION

Companies like Samsung and Amazon are praised because they openly make product mistakes. Heck, Samsung throws so much spaghetti against the wall, they’re in danger of knocking the wall down. And Amazon? They positively flaunt their mistakes:

Amazon has some huge flops in the product pipeline and we can’t wait to show you them. ~ Jeff Bezos

I’m all for companies experimenting, failing, and learning from their mistakes.

Failure is success if we learn from it. ~ Malcolm Forbes

However, I get a bit queasy when I watch companies like Samsung and Amazon experiment on their customers, and then make their most trusting customers foot the bill for their mistakes.

Creating a culture that embraces failure is admirable…

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough. ~ Elon Musk

…inflicting your failures upon your customers is not.

There is no link between learning from your mistakes and making others pay for your mistakes. The former can be done without the latter.

What distinguishes Apple from most other companies is that Apple, like Pixar, doesn’t release its mistakes. (At least not very often.) Both companies keep their experiments, their trials, and their failures in-house, behind closed doors, and away from the prying eyes of the public.

Pixar is praised for doing this. Apple is condemned.

SHARKS AND SUBMARINES

Apple doesn’t talk about future products so the critics assume there are no future products to talk about. Apple says nothing, so the critics assume there is nothing to be said.

Why? Why would anyone assume such a thing?

It’s no secret that Apple is secretive.

Yeah. We don’t talk about the future of the company. (W)e’re fairly secretive. We don’t talk about products that are in the roadmap. ~ Tim Cook

So if Apple is secretive — and everyone knows it — then why are we surprised that we don’t know what Apple is working on? The surprise would be if we DID know what Apple was working on.

Just because Apple isn’t showing its hand, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. ~ paraphrasing Lee Carter (@d_leecarter) via Will Lea (@wlea1) ((The most interesting thing about all this Apple is doomed rhetoric is that ppl believe since Apple is not showing hand, they don’t have one. ~ Lee Carter (@d_leecarter) 5/22/16))

Apple hold’s their cards close to the vest ((The original idiom was “Close to the vest buttons.)). Just because they haven’t revealed their cards, doesn’t mean they don’t have cards to reveal.

Saying Apple isn’t innovating just because you don’t see it, and Apple doesn’t talk about it, is like saying Soviet Russia didn’t have any submarines just because you didn’t see them and the Soviets didn’t publish their whereabouts in Pravda.

Saying Apple isn’t innovating just because you don’t see it, is like saying sharks don’t exist until they break the surface of the water. (And then, their existence is suddenly all too real.)

PIAGET’S PUNDITS

What is up with the critics loudly and proudly proclaiming that ‘that which cannot be seen, cannot exist.’ Why would any intelligent person assert such an infantile notion, more less have the effrontery to label it as “analysis”?

I don’t mean to sound bitter, cold or cruel, but I am, so that’s how it comes out. ~ Bill Hicks’ words; my sentiments

Piaget postulated that during the early stages, infants are only aware of what is immediately in front of them. They focus on what they see, what they are doing, and physical interactions with their immediate environment.

Between ages 7 and 9 months, infants begin to realize that an object exists even if it can no longer be seen. This important milestone is known as object permanence.

Am I suggesting that Apple’s critics haven’t yet developed object permanence? That they only have the cognitive capacity of a 9 month old baby? Well…I dunno about that…

…but it would explain an awful lot.

Some drink from the fountain of knowledge Some just gargle.

OF COURSE…

OF COURSE, Apple is working on the next big thing.

OF COURSE Apple is taking moon shots.

OF COURSE Apple is experimenting.

OF COURSE Apple is making big bets and taking risks.

OF COURSE Apple is failing and learning, and failing and learning again.

NO GUARANTEES

Apple is no stranger to innovation. Their company was founded on it, floundered on it, and and then rode it to greatness. Apple knows full well, that the biggest risk of all is to take no risks.

I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next. ~ Steve Jobs

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations. ~ Steve Jobs

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

Does that sound like a company that’s afraid to take risks?

Of course WORKING on the next big thing does not mean that you’re actually going to CREATE the next big thing. NO ONE IS GUARANTEED THAT. But you’d have to be a fool — or an Apple critic — to think Apple is just sitting around, twiddling their collective thumbs and waiting for somebody else’s next big thing to roll over them.

Criticism can be instructive, in that it gives some information about the critic’s intelligence. ~ Vladimir Nabokov

SHEAR NONSENSE

A scientist and his wife are out for a drive in the country. The wife says, “Oh, look! Those sheep have been shorn.”

“Yes,” says the scientist. “On this side.”

This joke, unlike most jokes, comes with a very fine explanation from the very fine, “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar.” ((iBooks. https://itun.es/us/CWj9A.l)) The explanation is a little long, but since it speaks so directly to flawed logic employed by Apple’s critics, I include it in its entirety:

“At first blush we might think that the scientist is taking the more cautious, more scientific view, in that he refuses to go beyond the evidence of his senses. But we would be wrong. It is actually the wife who has formulated what most scientists would consider the more scientific hypothesis. The “experience” of empiricists is not restricted to direct sensory experience. Scientists use their prior experiences to calculate probabilities and to infer more general statements. What the wife is in effect saying is, “What I see are sheep that are shorn, at least on this side. From prior experience I know that farmers do not generally shear sheep only on one side and that, even if this farmer did, the probability of the sheep arranging themselves on the hillside so that only their shorn sides face the road is infinitesimal. Therefore, I feel confident saying, ‘Those sheep have been completely shorn.’”

Let me repeat that last bit:

What I see are sheep that are shorn, at least on this side. From prior experience I know that farmers do not generally shear sheep only on one side and that, even if this farmer did, the probability of the sheep arranging themselves on the hillside so that only their shorn sides face the road is infinitesimal.

What I see is Apple being secretive. From prior experience I know that Apple does not suddenly stop innovating after achieving success, and the probability of every single C-level executive at Apple suddenly “forgetting” that innovation is an important part of what Apple does, and who Apple is, is infinitesimal.

APPLE IS…

Apple is like a duck on the water. Just because you can’t see a duck’s feet doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just because you can’t see Apple working on the next big thing doesn’t mean they aren’t. The duck and Apple look like they’re just calmly drifting along, but out of our sight they’re both paddling like mad.

Apple is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above the water. ((The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water. ~ Sigmund Freud)) And just as the unseen part of the iceberg sank the Titanic, it is the unseen part of Apple that sinks its Titanic competitors.

MADNESS

What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them. ~ Voltaire

If you honestly think that Apple suddenly decided to stop its internal efforts at innovation, then you are a few Rice Krispies shy of a bowl.

Without wisdom, knowledge is more stupid than ignorance.

Just because you can not see Apple innovating, does not mean that Apple is not innovating.

ARTICLE OUTLINE

Tomorrow, part 6 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?