Today in Apple history: Apple lays out its core company values


Anyone remember the official Apple Values?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Sept23September 23, 1981: Years before Steve Jobs told us to “think different” and Tim Cook argued Apple should be a “force for good” in the world, Apple lays out what it calls its Apple Values.

Despite being written 35 years ago, the values Apple viewed as being crucial to its brand remain relevant today. They demonstrate that Apple always has been a company that’s about more than just selling computers.

Apple’s values, circa 1981

In a memo, Apple management wrote that its Apple Values were defined as “the qualities, customs, standards and principles that the company as a whole regards as desirable. They are the basis for what we do and how we do it. Taken together, they identify Apple as a unique company.”

Below are the Apple Values, reproduced in full:

  • One person, one computer.
  • We are going for it and we will set aggressive goals.
  • We are all on the adventure together.
  • We build products we believe in.
  • We are here to make a positive difference in society, as well as make a profit.
  • Each person is important; each has the opportunity and the obligation to make a difference.
  • We are all in it together, win or lose.
  • We are enthusiastic!
  • We are creative; we set the pace.
  • We want everyone to enjoy the adventure we are on together.
  • We care about what we do.
  • We want to create an environment in which Apple values flourish.

The Apple Values were part of something called the Apple Quality of Life Project, worked on by employees such as William “Trip” Hawkins, who later went on to found Electronic Arts.

If it sounds a bit hippie by design, that’s no coincidence: Mantras like this grew out of counterculture manuals like Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, which Jobs famously mentioned in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. (The Whole Earth Catalog was where Jobs’ “stay hungry, stay foolish” phrase came from.)

However, there was a practical value to the Apple Values, too. By the early 1980s, Apple was no longer a startup populated by a small group of people who all knew one another. It was a rapidly growing business, and already starting to run into the problems of how to maintain quality as it grew.

The Apple Values, therefore, were a way of teaching new employees a bit about the Apple culture they were entering.

Apple’s modern-day values

It’s something Apple continues to this day, as shown by the below quote from Cook, during his first stint as acting CEO at Apple. It makes clear that Apple Values are alive and well in the current era.

“We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We’re constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple, not the complex.

We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.

We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.

And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”

Do you think Apple still lives up to its 1981-era Apple Values? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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  • CoyoteDen

    “One person, one computer” isn’t exactly true for Apple or anyone. Everything follows the 3 screen model now.

  • Lard Vader

    It’s hungry for profits and foolish when it comes to customer needs. It paid for it once and will again. No Jobs to save it afterwards, though.