Fortune senior editor at large Lashinsky wonders if the success of Apple can be replicated, or even continued, in the wake of the death of Steve Jobs.
The author writes clearly and efficiently but is repetitive in his analysis of this secretive cultural giant. “For years it was an article of faith in Silicon Valley that Apple should not be emulated,” he writes. Yet his narrative picks apart Jobs’ entrepreneurial philosophy and the company’s remarkable post-1997 trajectory—when it first revolutionized personal computing, then introduced the iPod and iPhone—in attempting to discuss such a strategy. One problem, as Lashinsky writes, is the company’s cultivated lack of transparency. The author seems to rely on secondary sources, and comments from current and former Apple employees are often unattributed. The basic narrative of Apple’s resurgence is well known: After Jobs left his own company due to corporate squabbling, it declined rapidly in the Internet era. Yet Jobs’ return in 1997 ushered in a season of risky corporate paring-down, followed by a string of success, starting with the iconic iMac. Jobs introduced compartmentalization and hyper-competitiveness to every aspect of the company. For example, his annual “Top 100” meetings were pointedly exclusionary, which Lashinsky suggests is not the norm at such retreats. Apple as a workplace is portrayed as nearly monastic in employees’ willingness to sacrifice their personal lives, remain incommunicado and achieve the extreme interdepartmental cooperation Jobs sought, even at the end. Lashinsky describes Jobs’ successor Tim Cook as “a Mr. Fix-it who blended in but didn’t take no for an answer.” Among other late corporate innovations, Jobs quietly created a management-training program, Apple University, to “record, codify, and teach Apple’s business history.” Such points allow Lashinsky to support parallel assertions throughout—that Jobs’ management style may or may not be transferable, and that Apple’s special success may or may not endure once Jobs-approved projects pass through the pipeline.
A thorough but flawed attempt to penetrate a corporate icon’s blank white shell.