Apple University Teaches Employees How To Embody Steve Jobs' Philosophy

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Apple University
Even with Steve Jobs long gone, Apple employees get a thorough education of the philosophies and ideas behind the company through the Apple University program.

The existence of Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) internal training program, Apple University, isn't much of a secret to tech insiders; but  the program has long been shrouded in mystery, with employees discouraged from even talking about it.

In an article published Sunday, the New York Times  lifted the veil about the Cupertino, California, company’s secretive year-round training program, which is designed to educate employees about its history and business culture. Full-time faculty comes from such Ivy league schools as Yale; Harvard; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program at Apple University was developed by Joel Podolny, the former dean of Yale's School of Management. Podolny, who is now dean of Apple U, was selected by the late Steve Jobs to run the program when it was founded in 2008. Everyone from engineers to leaders of recently acquired companies or startups have gone through the program. Here’s a peek inside Apple U and what employees learn.

Being Concise is Key

Randy Nelson, formerly of Pixar, teaches a course called “Communicating at Apple,” which emphasizes communication clarity among peers and while developing and marketing products. Nelson demonstrated this through Picasso’s lithographs known as “The Bull,” which became simpler and simpler until it came down to a stick figure that was still recognizable as a bull. The point being that a message at Apple is broken down until it is a concise message.

Provide Only What’s Necessary

Harping on Apple’s focus on being concise, another course taught by Nelson, called “What Make’s Apple, Apple,” provides examples of this idea in practice -- in real world scenarios. One notable example is the Apple Remote, which was developed after intense debates among its engineers who decided that they only needed three buttons to play music, select an item and go back to the main menu. This innovation runs counter to a number of other remotes such the Google Inc.'s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) TV remote, which has nearly 80 buttons but performs similar functions.

Use the Best and Surround Yourself With the Best

In another course titled “The Best Things,” employees at Apple are reminded to surround themselves with skilled peers and the best materials so they can perform at their best. The title is derived from a Steve Jobs' quote in 1994. “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing,” Jobs said. “Picasso had a saying: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’”

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