Everyone is concerned about Steve Jobs’ health, prompting the obvious question about succession plans at Apple. The company seems doomed without him. Who has the vision and drive?
But Apple will be fine without Jobs, although it won’t be the same.
Here’s why, after the jump.
From the outside, Apple doesn’t appear to have a succession plan, despite Jobs’ assurances to the contrary. He recently said there are a number of executives who could step into his shoes.
The likeliest candidate to take over is Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, an operations mastermind who helped turn Apple into the leanest, meanest company in tech. Cook is reportedly also a driven, ambitious hard ass and taskmaster — just like his boss.
Cook is more or less invisible to the public, and everyone is wondering if he has the vision and the charisma to take the helm.
But as I argue in Inside Steve’s Brain, Jobs has turned his personality into distinct business processes at Apple, which work just fine without him overseeing them.
For example, Jobs’ perfectionism has created at Apple a unique product development process based on the rigorous prototyping of new products.
Gizmos like the iPhone do not spring fully formed from Jobs’ imagination. Rather, they are “discovered” through the creation of hundreds of prototypes, which are refined, edited and often remade. Many products are prototyped hundreds of times, and often started over from scratch. It’s one perfectionism as a prototyping process. Jobs has his input, but so do his engineers, designers, and programmers. It’s not reliant on Jobs alone — and it’s possible to imagine the process operating without him.
The best evidence that Apple will be fine is Jobs’ other company, Pixar (now owned by Disney). Both Apple and Pixar are based on the same “generate-and-test” creative process. And both are run by small, tightly-integrated ‘A Teams” that work serially on one product after another, everyone chipping in ideas and fixing problems.
Jobs never managed Pixar the same way he manages Apple — he was pretty much the absentee owner. But Pixar has produced one blockbuster after another, and it’s done so without Jobs overseeing the process.
Nonetheless, Apple without Jobs would not be the same. The most obvious difference is the man’s charisma. The company would not be as cool, and Macworld would not be the same. But Apple will survive.