Tim Cook gave one of his most revealing quotes to date about how he’s running Apple in an interview at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.
Cook got his MBA at Duke 25 years ago. He was on campus for a reunion and did a one hour interview with Fuqua’s Dean.
Duke posted a clip from the interview to YouTube. In it, Cook answers a question about what he looks for when trying to get employees who collaborate.
Cook has done a lot of interviews since being CEO. Much of the time it with the business press, or Wall Street analysts. As a result, Cook is normally pretty guarded in his answers.
In this short answer, though, Cook is somehow more revealing than normal. Maybe we’re reading into it too much, but we think it explains his entire philosophy about running Apple and how he’s completely different than Steve Jobs.
A lot of people have asked him to compare himself to Jobs. For the most part he’s resisted. In this instance, he accidentally tells us.
Here’s the question and answer, with our comments following:
What qualities do you look for in terms of what you think will produce effective collaboration?And what’s your role as CEO in fostering that kind of collaboration?
You look for people that are not political. People that are not bureaucrats. People that can privately celebrate the achievement, but not care if their name that is in the one in the lights. There are greater reasons to do things.
You look for wicked smart people. You look for people who appreciate different points of view. People who care enough that they have an idea at 11 at night and they want to call and talk to you about it. Because they’re so excited about it, they want to push the idea further. And that they believe that somebody can help them push the idea another step instead of them doing everything themselves.
I’ve never met anyone in my life, maybe they exist, that could do something so incredible by themselves in companies with global footprints. In our world, in Apple’s world, the reason Apple is special is we focus on hardware, software, and services. And the magic happens where those three come together.
And so, it’s unlikely that somebody that’s focused on one of those in and of itself can come up with magic and so you want people collaborating in such a way so you can produce these things that can’t be produced otherwise. And you want people to believe in that.
This might sound like typical CEO-speak. It’s not, not from Cook, anyway.
As CEO, Cook made his biggest move last Fall when he fired Scott Forstall, the executive who ran iOS, the software that powers iPhones. Forstall built iOS with Steve Jobs. He was considered a mini-Jobs.
It’s huge risk to fire the guy largely responsible for the most influential mobile software on the planet. But Cook did it because he wants collaboration. Forstall was reportedly a political creature who didn’t work well the the other executives.
The other part of this quote that stands out in our mind is that Apple under Steve Jobs was seen as a company defined by one man — Jobs. Under Cook, it looks like it’s going to defined by many people all working together.
Watch Cook deliver his answer here:
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