Adam Lashinsky: Secrets at Apple's Core [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

June 15, 2012
Stanford eCorner
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Adam Lashinsky: Secrets at Apple's Core [Entire Talk]

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This video explores the inner workings of Apple and how it does business differently from other companies. It discusses various aspects such as the company's focus on products, its culture of secrecy, its attention to detail, and its simplified supply chain. The video also touches on the leadership style of Steve Jobs and the importance of design in Apple's success.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the reason for the world's limited knowledge about how Apple conducts its business?

The reason for the world's limited knowledge about Apple's internal operations is that Apple doesn't want people to know. The company is primarily focused on promoting its products and brand image rather than revealing its internal workings.

Q: How does Apple differ from other businesses and business schools in terms of its approach to business?

Apple does business differently from other businesses and business schools. The company's unique approach challenges the traditional methods taught in business schools. Apple's success and value as the most admired company in the world raise the question of whether business schools should pay more attention to Apple's methods.

Q: Is it necessary to copy Apple's approach or behave like Steve Jobs to be a successful entrepreneur?

While some argue that to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be like Steve Jobs, it's not necessary or advisable to copy Apple's approach or imitate Jobs' behavior. However, understanding Apple's methods can be helpful in managing a career or a company, and picking and choosing applicable aspects can contribute to success.

Q: What was the state of Apple when Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997?

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company was in a dire state. It was financially distressed and on the verge of bankruptcy. Jobs had to make significant changes, including firing middle managers, simplifying product lines, and fixing the dysfunctional manufacturing system.

Q: How did Tim Cook contribute to the transformation of Apple's supply chain?

Tim Cook, who was hired by Steve Jobs as a supply chain executive, played a crucial role in transforming Apple's supply chain. He closed Apple's factories and warehouses and emulated Dell's successful model of using contract manufacturers in China. This decision led to improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness in Apple's supply chain.

Q: Why is secrecy important to Apple?

Secrecy is incredibly important to Apple. While all companies keep secrets, Apple takes it to the extreme. The company has a culture of fear and emphasizes the importance of keeping secrets from both external sources and Apple employees. They believe that maintaining secrecy is crucial to prevent competitors from knowing their plans and to surprise and delight customers with new products.

Q: How does Apple's obsession with details contribute to its success?

Apple is known for its obsession with details and its attention to even the smallest components of its products. This obsession stems from their belief that sweating the details leads to excellence and a superior user experience. Apple's focus on design and user satisfaction drives them to pay close attention to every aspect of their products, resulting in products that are visually appealing and highly functional.

Q: Does Apple conduct customer research before designing its products?

Unlike many other consumer companies, Apple does not conduct outward-facing customer research. Steve Jobs famously believed that customers don't know what they want until they see it. Instead of asking customers what they want, Apple focuses on understanding how customers use their products once they have them. This approach allows Apple to surprise customers and manage their inventory effectively.

Q: How does Apple ensure accountability and responsibility within the company?

Apple has created a culture of accountability and responsibility through the concept of the directly responsible individual (DRI). Each action item in meetings is assigned to a single person, who is directly responsible for ensuring its completion. This culture fosters a sense of ownership and ensures that tasks are not lost or forgotten.

Q: How does Apple simplify its supply chain?

Apple simplifies its supply chain by getting rid of unnecessary components and processes. They focus on working with contract manufacturers in China and outsourcing manufacturing and warehousing, which allows them to streamline operations and reduce complexity. Apple's focus on simplicity and efficiency benefits their supply chain management.


Apple's success can be attributed to its unique approach to business, which differs from traditional business practices. The company prioritizes product development and promotion while maintaining a culture of secrecy and attention to detail. Apple's simplified supply chain and accountability measures contribute to its success. Understanding Apple's methods can provide valuable insights for entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to learn from its achievements.

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