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

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Cupertino sums up
Cupertino sums up "Apple Values" in an exuberant document.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Sep 23 Today in Apple history: Cupertino lays out its core Apple Values September 23, 1981: Years before Steve Jobs would tell us to “think different” and Tim Cook would say Apple should act as a “force for good,” Cupertino lays out what it calls its “Apple Values.”

Despite being written almost 40 years ago, the values Apple viewed as crucial to its brand remain relevant today. They demonstrate that Apple always has been a company that’s about more than just selling computers.

In a memo, management defined Apple Values 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.”

Apple Values, circa 1981

Below you can read 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.

Apple Quality of Life Project

The Apple Values stemmed from something called the Apple Quality of Life Project. Employees such as William “Trip” Hawkins, who later founded Electronic Arts, worked on the project.

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 side 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. The rapidly growing company began facing the problem of how to maintain quality as it expanded.

Apple Values taught new employees a bit about Apple culture as they joined the team.

Apple’s modern-day values

Apple continues to operate this way, 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 ’80s-era Apple Values? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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