Anyone who knows even a little bit about Apple, regardless of whether or not you own any of its products, can tell the company really cares about design.
Apple’s former CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs was largely responsible for this, and he tried to make sure all of his employees had a refined eye when it came to product design too.
Jobs carried the same mindset into NeXT, another computer company he led in the late ’80s and early ’90s when he briefly left Apple.
Ken Rosen, a managing partner at consulting agency Performance Works, which worked with Jobs at Apple and at NeXT, shared one way Jobs was able to get the NeXT team thinking about design from different angles.
The challenge was simple: each person would bring a product he or she respected into their team meeting.
“It could be anything, [even] a paperclip,” Ken Rosen, who worked in marketing at NeXT, tells Business Insider. “People brought in very different products, from electronics to a paper notebook to a jump rope.”
Jobs wasn’t interested in criticising or judging the employee based on what product he or she brought in. Rather, the assignment was about broadening the way the team thought about product design.
Essentially, it was the grown-up version of show-and-tell.
“It was a sharing exercise, not an evaluation of the person or product,” Rosen says. “But if he was dismissive of something, the person could tell. Steve didn’t bother hiding his reactions — and no one would have wanted him to.”
Jobs was particularly fond of the way Sony designed its products in that era. So if someone brought in a Sony product, it would “probably make him smile,” Rosen says. But the point wasn’t really to impress Jobs — everyone was focused on doing their job well.
“[Jobs] just really wanted to develop an organisation where people knew what good products were,” he says. “He wanted to develop a vocabulary and a kind of nuanced sense of judgement about what a good product really was.”