Inside Apple: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: December 9th, 2012 by bobmorris

Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired Company Really Works
Adam Lashinsky
BusinessPlus (2012)

Why and how a “productive narcissist” created a “giant jumble of contradictions and paradoxes”

If for whatever reasons you have not as yet — and will not — read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, this would be an excellent source for information about the internal operations of a company he founded and headed for much of its history thus far, one that now continues without him. Credit Adam Lashinsky with providing a rigorous, comprehensive, balanced, and insightful examination of an organization and a culture unlike any other.

Here is Dallas, there is a farmers market near downtown at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I now offer a representative selection of brief passages that caught my eye.

According to Michael Maccoby, Steve Jobs was a “productive narcissist,” as were all the other greats of business history…“visionary risk takers with a burning desire to ‘change the world.’”

Lashinsky adds, “Corporate narcissists are charismatic leaders willing to do whatever it takes to win and who couldn’t give a fig about being liked. Steve Jobs was the textbook example of a productive narcissist.” (Both excerpts from Page 18)

Lashinsky on working at Apple when Jobs was its CEO: “To succeed in a company where there is obsessive focus on detail and paranoid guarding of secrets, and where employees are asked to work in a state of permanent start-up, you must be willing to mesh your talents with those of the corporation. You have to forgo your desire to be acknowledged by the outside world and instead derive satisfaction from being a cell in an organism that is changing the world.” (Pages 91-92)

“In contrast to the way Apple runs roughshod over its partners and competitors is the subtle way it charms, then entraps its customers – even though they, too, must abide by strict rules in exchange for interacting with Apple. Retail discounts for Apple products don’t exist.” (Page 149)

“The biggest pitfall in trying to be like Apple, however, is that Apple’s culture is thirty-five years in the making and bears the stamp of one extraordinary entrepreneur who turned into a shrewd chief executive of a sixty-thousand-person corporation. It won’t be a snap for any company to create its own version of the Apple culture. As well, Apple will find out how strong its culture really is – and how much of its success was attributable to Steve Jobs.” (Page 188)

“Companies, like people, aren’t perfect. Apple in the last fourteen years of Jobs’s life was far better than most, but it wasn’t perfect. Jobs was just particularly good at getting us to focus on the good and ignore the bad.” (Page 207)

With uncommon skill, Adam Lashinsky enables his reader to explore dimensions and to understand factors that may be unfamiliar to at least some people who are – or have been – among Apple’s workforce at its headquarters in Cupertino. For me, the appeal of this book has little (if anything) to do with “insider” revelations. Rather, again, one’s man’s opinion, the great value of the material is derived from lessons to be learned from Apple and Steve Jobs in terms of what should be done – and what should not be done – when attempting to build and then sustain an “insanely great” organization. On numerous occasions, Jobs cited that ultimate goal as a process, as a journey, rather than as a destination. To his credit, Apple has probably come about as close as any organization has to reaching it.

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