Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple Essay
Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple
Apple has been a leader in innovation for years and has been able to achieve so by striving hard to deliver insanely great products with simplicity and sophistication. The constant need for innovation, development of unique product development strategies and their prompt execution, the presence of the visionary, Steve Jobs and their bold attitude at business experimentation formed the basis of principles at Apple.
During mid-1970s, computers were mere automation devices and were not perceived to be used for personal work. Apple reasoned the impact personal computing will have on individuals once they were able to see how beneficial the personal computers could be. It was essential these machines were highly user friendly. Apple achieved this by incorporating simplicity in the product design internally: by attending to the minutest detail in the product, evaluating whether a part or feature is really required, adopting new technologies, and externally: exploring different materials and approaches, enhancing customer experience by creating highly interactive products.
To be able to provide with a smooth and flowing customer experience, it was necessary to consider the smallest detail while designing the product. The philosophy was to achieve sophistication through simplicity by working out the intent for the product, its concept development, the process of making it and the user experience of working with it. The sleek design and appearance of Apple products, easy-to-adopt solutions, and inside-out simplicity in their design and usage, consistency and resemblance across products has a huge impact on the user experience.
The innovation and existence of the creative core of technology at Apple has continued through years despite the disorientation it faced by the lack of focus, increased competition and changing leaderships during 1985-1997. Post 1997, Apple managed to get its act together under the able leadership of Steve Jobs by focusing on fewer projects, changing distribution system, embarking direct sales via online website and adopting sophisticated marketing for its “insanely great products”. Tim Cook, the then Chief Operating Officer at Apple was responsible for cleaning up the operations of manufacturing, distribution and supply that were taken up during 1985-1997. A core approach to development was taken up: working intimately with manufacturers to find different materials and better processes, and being completely in sync with the customers, their needs and priorities.
The basis of Apple was their consistency across its products which were accomplished by adopting a one platform strategy. All the products had the OSX operating system, which was undertaken with a vision to accommodate their development and production. This benefitted Apple (as a company): to develop and design components that were highly efficient and reliable by investing time and resources, its suppliers: allowed reuse and sharing assemblies and sub-assemblies at lower costs, its employees: added to their knowledge base and experience and most importantly, its customers: enabled easier adoption to its products due to familiarity and resemblance across products and lesser maintenance requirements due to stable, reliable designs.
Apple has been keen on integrating customer experience in the design and development process. They followed an iterative customer involvement process in which they carried out extensive testing to improve user experience with the software and understanding the user expectations when they were trying to accomplish a task. Products were designed so the end user is able to employ them as tools to create and achieve their needs easily and effectively.
Steve Jobs has played a pivotal, influential role in the driving Apple to the heights it has reached as a company and the reputation its products have built in the market. He had an inbuilt “design sense” and had a distinct vision of the meaning of the company, its products and how that can be achieved. It was his philosophy of simplicity that was adopted by the company of achieving beautiful, elegant solutions by digging deep into the key, underlying principle of the problem.
Jobs demanded products with ultimate sophistication, high quality, and superior capabilities yet, simple UIs. It was his persuasion to have Apple computers for personal computing, when the rest of the industry was busy creating enterprise solutions. His drive for excellence, and total involvement in every stage of product development and its presentation to the customer, have been the principal elements responsible for the innovation at Apple and the way the company is shaped up.
Apple manages to create hype about its products and makes grand presentation to launch them in the market. The launched product is immediately available in the retails and on-line stores for customers to review and purchase. Apple values its secrecy and guards it fiercely. This creates additional hype around the product as they have been known for delivering innovative and appealing products. The constant innovation at Apple ensured they had improved versions of previously launched products, which were then marketed to promote users to have a portfolio of a single product.
Apple took a bold step by moving to retail and having commercial stores for Apple products in a hope to attract non-Apple customers and retain the Apple fan base by providing elegant store designs and easy accessibility to their products. The intent was to generate foot traffic by luring shoppers and thereby increase curiosity and popularity. A smart move was undertaken by introducing a “genius bar” for tech repair and support which was undertaken publicly, adding to the “cool” factor. Apple was able to create a buzz around its products by launching retail stores at prime location in upscale malls.
Because Apple claims to build products that are for everyone, they should be priced so that they are affordable to everyone. With increase in the competition that Apple products are facing, they should make efforts to lower the cost without compromising the quality.
Now that Apple has established itself as a brand and made a statement about its products, the new stores could be opened at other relatively cheaper yet, decent locations instead of high end malls or at expensive real estates.
They could have an online virtual genius bar (video) that could help customers, especially those who aren’t good at communicating in English, with the problems they had with devices.