Lessons from Apple
Apple will continue to thrive as a company after the passing of their great leader Steve Jobs. There is no question Jobs brought unique perspective, vision and systems to Apple but he was also great at finding people who shared that passion and skill for a day like this one when he is no longer able to contribute to the company. Steve Jobs was a father, as husband and then a CEO. His legacy will be grand not because he built a profitable enterprise, but because he improved so many lives in the process.
Steve Jobs was always human
Steve Jobs built a company that ignored the recession and has continued to outpace all competition in most categories they participate in. Apple wins on spreadsheets because they are the most human company I’ve ever dealt with.
In contrast I recently left a company after dealing with them for only two months. Servint is a web hosting company. They provide space on the web for people like me to operate our web sites and host our videos. I left them after just two months because they weren’t human enough. The details of why I left aren’t as important as the lessons we can learn from companies that get it right. Let’s look at the ways companies that get it right operate because they’re very simple. They’re very human.
- Humans do their best – Humans never succeed at doing their best all the time. That’s an impossible standard. People who attempt their best are rarely victim to unhappy customers. People respect and appreciate others who do their best, even if their best falls short.
- Humans are unique – Walgreens is a great place to shop because I always know where to find what I need. They are all exactly the same inside and out. I have no affection for Walgreens though because their employees are also exactly the same. Uniformity is important in function, but not in style. Great companies make unique things. Sometimes those things fail but at least they weren’t knock-offs.
- Humans tell stories – It’s very hard to walk away when someone says, “Let me tell you a story.” We don’t interrupt stories. We teach children (and adults) through stories. Great storytellers are the life of the party. Great companies who tell and live a story thrive. If your company isn’t fighting against a standard or for the customer then they’re only fighting for themselves and that’s not a story customers want to be a part of.
- Humans change over time – Humans improve over time. No one wants to be around people who aren’t improving. We want to be around winners, change agents and innovators. Change isn’t a bad thing when you’re changing for the better. Customers are willing to change if companies tell us why it will make our lives better.
- Humans want relationship – Business is no longer just a math equation. Strong business is an equation combined with an unmeasurable bond to people. Customers want to hear their own name, hear emotion in a person’s voice and receive empathy with their struggle. Humans hate protocol when that protocol gets in the way of being human.
- Humans advocate for each other – Great relationships are win-win scenarios. Companies and customers should both win. No one has to lose when transactions take place. The best money I’ve ever spent was when I bought a MacBook Pro.
- Humans exercise judgement – Systems are necessary but more important than systems is sound judgement based on unique circumstances. No employee should ever be forced to use the words “I’m sorry, it’s just our policy.” Policies are great when they are are backed by sound judgement.
What are your favorite companies and how are they human? What are your least favorite companies and how did they fail at being human?