Apple’s Parenting Habits Breed Incompetent Kids

There is nothing more frustrating than having some pretty good brains in a room beating around an interesting idea and then stopping a hair short of the truth and leaving it hanging in either conspiracy theory or coincidence.

It was so frustrating this morning that I found myself yelling at my radio as the podcast played ( good thing 26 was quiet and nearly empty this morning). I was listening to the most recent “Cranky Geeks” episode, and they were discussing Rob Enderle’s article ( Rob was on the show, btw) about how it seemed an odd almost conspiracy that ex-Apple employees were causing the ruin of many Apple competitors. He calls it Apple’s Fifth Column with a bit of tongue in cheek. He does end the column with the observation that this is most likely not true, but just a case of companies needing someone in charge to keep them from doing stupid things. In the show discussion, Rik Myslewski points out that this is generally the CEO.Although Adam Curry is pushing for conspiracy theories ( of course— and I say that lovingly, I enjoy NoAgenda, btw) The discussion ends in chuckles and they move on before they get to the important analysis.

The truth is, in most really large companies, smart, proficient CEOs surround themselves with executives and charge those executives to fill top management positions with people who are good at making decisions. In most large companies, there are too many ( and perhaps too disparate or too complex) decisions that need to be made for a single person to have control of all of them. You need bright, independently thinking, creative, insightful execs who are good at business- even if it is a tech company- to stay at the front of the pack once you hit a certain size.

Apple does not do this. Steve surrounds himself with technically great people who will do what he tells them too without too much argument, and does not care if they understand why. It always feels ( from the outside) like he runs the company like a helicopter parent. The people following his directions are smart and from the outside appear brilliant, get hired by other companies hungry for Apple brilliance- and they fail– often spectacularly, as Rob points out in his article- as they try to repeat some of the things they saw Steve doing, but never really understood.

A good company, like a good parent, helps its employees “grow-up” to the best of their capabilities. This sometimes means giving people the chance to make mistakes, the chance to fail and putting more energy into it than if you had just done it yourself– much like teaching your kid how to do laundry. Companies who just do the laundry for their employees because it is easier and safer that way end up with employees like those college kids who ruin entire wardrobes their first week at college because they have no clue what they are doing.

John? Next time– push discussions like this all the way to their natural end— the conclusions are much more interesting than conspiracy or Occam’s Razor.

2 thoughts on “Apple’s Parenting Habits Breed Incompetent Kids

  1. It's far more gratifying to prove intent, because you get to wave a finger of guilty at having "caught" someone.Yet, as you point out, it is quite often the Unintended Consequences of other behaviors that lead to the results we see.Steve is a complete control freak, and it shows. (and your post, if it received a wider audience, would lead to a massive Apple sell-off, as people realized that Steve is not doing what he needs to do to develop the people who will have to run the company when he has gone all Obi-Wan on us.)

  2. thanks. feel free to pass on the word about the blog 😉 I fully expect Apple to fall apart and be back to chaos within 6 months of the ObiWan action. It is difficult to have a vision, move it forward and create things like Steve has. It is even harder to have a vision, propagate it to others and grow people into being able to carry it on even if you are not there.

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