Speaking of graduation, my wife Lori graduates with her Speech Language Therapy programme (her final credential on top of her 2 Master’s degrees in Voice Performance and Voice Pathology) to become a fully fledged Vocal Pathologist. For her graduation gift she was quite explicit in her wishes…an Apple iPad. That pretty much makes a full house for the Lynn family becoming wholesale Apple users. Not only is it our new machine of choice, but it’s even the direction of my company Piero which not only has a Mac front end, but also just introduced an iPad module that the broadcasters are loving. How did we get to such an Apple-centric world in the Lynn circle after my 15 years of kool-aid drinking at Microsoft?? Well, one reason is…failure.
No, not my failure. Not even Microsoft’s failure. But Apple’s. As Erik Sherman recently explored in his BNET piece “Apple’s Success Secret: It Makes Mistakes All the Time”.
“[I]f you pay attention to the clues that people from Apple, including CEO Steve Jobs and senior vice president of industrial design Jonathan Ive, have dropped over the year, it’s clear that people at Apple make mistakes. They do so all the time, and it is those mistakes that make it possible for the company to come up with the products that it does. Where Apple differs from other companies is in how it makes mistakes. Apple believes in making a lot of mistakes internally. Where Apple differs from other companies is that its standard for what constitutes a mistake is stratospheric and it doesn’t tolerate mistakes in public. By no means are new Apple products right the first time out. The company will return to the drawing board to keep changing and polishing an idea until it does what it needs to do. Any engineering or design process at any company works that way. Where Apple parts ways with the mainstream lies first in its general standards of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.”
What stands out in this analysis is the sophistication of Apple’s embrace of failure. Embracing failure is not just screwing up randomly. It is knowing when failure is powerful and useful, and when it is not. My friend Andy Pickup quipped this weekend on Facebook, “ ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ Er, yes. It could also make you that fatally-crippled wildebeest that’s just super-easy to kill next time.” The point harkens back to a piece I did about ‘In the Zone’ about knowing when to ‘play beyond yourself’ (embracing failure) and when to ‘play within your limits.’ Apple pushes the boundaries with an embrace of failure behind the scenes so that the customer’s experience has as little failure as possible.