Tim Cook’s leadership and innovation


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Tim Cook and Apple are very private and we're left to piece together clues on how Apple's culture is changing with Cook as CEO.

Daisuke Wakabayashi for WSJ:

Inside Apple, Mr. Cook is less hands-on when it comes to product development, according to people familiar with the matter. Presented with a list of product ideas, Mr. Jobs quickly dismissed most with an expletive, said people who worked with both men. Mr. Cook tends to encourage staffers with comments like "let's push that forward" or "let's see what we can do with that" in his Southern drawl, a remnant of his Alabama upbringing.

Mr. Jobs's repudiations bruised feelings while making sure the company stayed focused on a few projects. Under Mr. Cook, current and former employees say Apple may be spreading itself too thin, pursuing too many ideas and compromising the "laser focus" that Mr. Jobs used to create the iMac, iPhone and iPad.

"It was Steve's job to say no," one of these people said. "Tim is not as comfortable doing that."

Jobs famously had good instincts and his personality was such he could push people to excel. Some of that was a cult of personality, but also fear of disappointing Steve and getting in the crosshairs of his turret. That's not typically a conducive culture for innovation and risks, but Apple and Jobs made it work. Jobs is credited for a lot of that success using his unique skills, experiences, and personality.

In this situation, a downside was Jobs was the safety net at Apple. Employees could present ideas knowing Jobs would kill it if it wasn't good or force them to go back if it wasn't good enough. It sounds like Cook instead empowers employees to make more of these decisions. It also seems widely accepted that this is a weakness when it's not. Certainly that's going to result to some stumbles as the teams at Apple learn to fly without Jobs as a safety net. I think, however, it has the potential to make Apple even better without Jobs.

Either way, it certainly would be better than if someone other than Jobs tried to be Steve Jobs.