Apple and the Art of Product Management

Do you ever wonder how dynamic companies like Apple hit the mark so well when it comes to making consumer products?

It all originates from the ideas of  Howard Moskowitz who revolutionized the food industry by coining the phrase “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.” Howard discovered people didn’t really know what they liked exactly, much less being able to articulate it.

Innovative companies have a special culture when it comes to product management. And Apple is no exception.  There is a special secret sauce that embodies product innovation and still targets the future wants/needs/desires of the masses.

Here is what you need to know to capture that innovation and manage products:

  1. Start with an idea that just feels right.  Make it for yourself.  If you think it would be cool to have, many others will probably feel the same.  Apple considers that the first few hundred customers of any product are Apple employees.
  2. The design team must be small and tightly connected.  Jony Ive, Apples’s Sr VP of Industrial Design has a team of 20 designers and brought us products like the iMac,  PowerMac, iPod and the iPhone.  Their meetings begin with Blue-sky “it would be awesome if…” types of conversations.  The following meetings surround technological limitations and melding of innovation and reality.  Note the two meetings are always separate and innovation is never curbed. It’s only debated in the initial stages.
  3. Own the whole system.  Sure there are plenty of reasons to OEM a certain piece of hardware and software, but Apple pushes the boundaries of innovation by being completely free of 3rd party reliance.  By owning the hardware and software, Apple gave us designs that are elegant and intimately interactive.
  4. Focus on the scissors and not the Swiss Army knife.  Otherwise stated, keep your eye on a select group of products.  Did you know that Apple offers only 30 major products and its net worth is more than $300 billion?  Do one thing and do it well.
  5. Shoot for perfection.  Apple goes above and beyond most in the feat of perfection.  They consider the whole customer experience. Everything from opening a fancy new iPhone box, to a pre-charged phone ready to run at the click of a button, to an OS that is scrutinized pixel by pixel.

Product Management surrounding innovation is key to Apple’s success and allowed them to embody forward thinking. It also nailed the previously unknown desires of the masses.

How do you manage product and inspire innovation?

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.