Monday, October 26, 2009


Has anyone else noticed the striking similarity between the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and Apple?

I put this out there simply as an observation and I am definitely not trying to relate the goals and methods of Apple to those of a totalitarian regime, which are clearly different, but to make a point about the similarity of the structure of the two. These points are based on how it appears to those on the outside, which may or may not be a complete or accurate picture of Apple as it actually is. As you read through these points you can see how they apply to both:
  • An iconic, charismatic, highly respected, larger-than-life leader- there is definitely a cult of personality surrounding Steve Jobs.
  • Restricted access to the leader- Steve Jobs rarely ever appears on the quarterly conference calls, and interviews with him are always at a premium.
  • The leader maintains a tight grip on everything that goes on, and decisions and direction (appear to) come straight from the leader.
  • The leader's sickness was hidden to everyone on the outside for as long as was possible
  • Extreme secrecy maintained- employees kept quiet and sometimes don't even know what they are working on
  • A tendency to bend the rules to fit what they want to do
  • Isolation from the rest of their peers
  • A very clear identity and image maintained in everything that they do
  • The need to buy in completely to the ideology - the "I drank the Kool-Aid" idea.
  • A second-in-command (Tim Cook) who works behind the scenes underneath the iconic leader to make sure that what needs to be done, is done.
  • Elaborate shows of the progress being made
Interestingly, the antithesis to this would probably be Google, championing openness and transparency, which is interesting because Apple and Google are two of the most powerful companies in technology, and until recently had a very tight relationship- even though the two companies competed directly on several fronts, and compete even more now that Eric Schmidt has resigned from Apple's board.
Apple can get some really amazing things done, and we also know that totalitarian regimes were notoriously efficient.  It is interesting to look at these similarities and see that even though it's not always pleasant for everyone involved, this kind of structure allows for immense progress towards whatever the goals are.

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