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Case of Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple

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Case of Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple


             Since being founded in 1976, Apple is considered a most valuable public traded company in the world. Today, Apple has more than 200 retail stores all around the world. Apple had fundamentally changed the way of people’s life through its great contributions on the computer, music, mobile telephone, and retail industries over the past three decades. Apple always strives hard to delivery insanely great products to its customer. The case of Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple highlights on how Apple achieved such success and what its approach is to design thinking and innovation. After a thorough analysis of history of Apple’s development, the authors, Stefan Thomke and Barbara Feinberg, identity a following of secret ingredients that contribute to Apple’s success: the design thinking, the innovation, product development strategy and execution, the CEO as chief innovator, and the bold business experimentation. Based on the Apple case, this paper will focus on the unique Apple way by discussing the questions of how Apple has used design thinking to achieve success, why has Apple been good at innovation to develop unique product and business strategy, what the CEO as chief innovator means at Apple, and what examples of apple’s bold experimentations are.  


Using Design Thinking to Achieve Success

                As one of the most famous brands in the world, Apple can greatly attribute its success to design thinking. According to the article, Driving Corporate Innovation: Design thinking vs. Customer, Design thinking is defined as a solution-oriented method used by designers to solve complex problem and find desirable solutions for clients. In the mid-1970, when Apple entered the industry, computers were only used for the government organization and large corporations. In the initial stage of design, Steve Jobs and the original developers of Apple started thinking about something differently from the competitors did or the market trend. They came up with a notion of personal computers as a tool for individual work. Based on the novel ideas, Jobs and Apple’s developers attempted to design a computer for individual user with dramatically reducing complexity so that customers would have to fall in love with its products. They made it success by lunching Apple 1 personal computers.

               In process of design, Apple highly focuses on what people would need and want and the way people interacted with their computers. User experience as one of most important innovation drivers is a standard to put design and interface. Rather than starting to build an operating system, Apple firstly put integrative customer’s experiences into the designs process, and then goes to figure out a way of implementation technically to accommodate its design. Not only should the developers apply a lot of creativity and ingenuity in the design side, but also the engineers and programmers were forced use same kind of creativity and innovation in order to turn design into reality.

                Apple greatly takes care of smallest detail with no compromise on functionality that makes their product unique from their competitors. Worrying about every little detail has prompted developers to regard the concept of simplicity as Apple’s ultimate sophistication. Designers make best efforts to create a user-friendly interface with sophisticated features. In addition, the simplicity of design sense requires Apple to figure out what people can be lived without and what can be developed elsewhere. For instance, many years ago, Apple abandoned the slot for inserting diskettes from Mac Computers. The item omitted by Apple was regarded as the must-have feature in the computer markets in that time. Despite of being criticized by reviewers, Apple’s action is followed by some outside companies and finally the external devices were developed quickly to adapt Apple’s change. The introduction of IPod Mini is another classic example of a tremendous success Apple achieved by using design thinking. Even though the amount of songs that could be played in IPod Mimi has actually reduced, it is still widely popular among people because it became more smaller that people can carry it much more easier and came in colors by making it in aluminum which is different from the original materials and approaches.  

              The other most important things to be considered is Apple’s sleek of product like the iPods, the iPhones, the iPad, and the Mac computers are mostly describe by media tempting to attribute its popularity to an ability of taping into popular and fashionable trends. However, that is not enough. In fact, apple goes beyond fashionable trend and gets the essence of customer experience into its design, so Apple products have an inside out design, which is a result of painstaking attention to detail. Many Apple’s competitors believe that it is all about the fashionable so that they only focus on the surface appearance. Almost any of the products Apple released in the past decades not only has the inimitable appearance but the coolest functionality, even included the G4 Cube failure in the marketplace. Steve jobs describe the G4 as the coolest computer he has ever made. It has elegant cube exhibited outside, but the expensive expenditure on appearance had eventfully result in failure in market. Therefore, there was no trade off between the simplicity of use, the beautiful, sooth, and consistent interface, and the powerful functionality.

           After an overview of the way that how to Apple adopted the Design thinking, we should get an understanding of that design thinking is not only creating something completely new but putting yourself in customers position and creating products that are able to fully satisfy people’s needs and want. While living with a unique vision and philosophy, Apple’s design and development process is definitely different as compared to its competitor. Apple will go its own way to provide special products for its customers and set own industry standards and norms. The systematic approach to design thinking and innovation at apple is difficult to be mimic by Apple’s competitors.

Innovation, Product Development Strategy and Execution

              After a successful IPO, Apple’s market share shortly fell because IBM entered the PC market. Contract to IBM with no simplicity and any futures of Apple, Apple were essentially developed form scratch and had unique hardware with proprietary OS. In 1985, Apple’s board axed Steve Job. During 1985-1997 Job missed, Apple suffered a series of difficulties and experienced a constant change in strategy due to change in regime. Faced with a fierce competition from IBM-cloned devices, Apple was not able to decide which products to develop and produce. A debate is revolved around whether to license Mac OS and enter unknown segments like the Business Market, which was dominated by Window and Intel. With the introduction of too many products, complexity and confusion increased for Apple and its customers. And worst of all, the production in process and approaches of resembling other company were seen, Apple lost the ability to deliver great products for its customers.



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