Changing Innovation Archetypes … Successfully

Apple-logoShortly after Steve Job’s death, I wrote about the challenge facing Apple to continue its innovation excellence given the archetype they were using was based on the Visionary Leader approach. One of the problems with the Visionary Leader archetype is replacing that person when they leave.

In the case of a planned retirement, a succession plan can be put into place to find and transition to the replacement. In an alternative, one can simply sell the company to a larger entity as George Lucas did with Lucas Film’s sale to Disney upon his “retirement.” Disney’s interest lay within the library and their own innovation archetype will either produce market accepting “sequels” or it won’t. Star Wars trailer anyone?

My concern over Apple was rooted in the untimely death of Steve Jobs and the clear lack of a successor. I further noted that changing archetypes (most likely to a Systematic archetype) would likely be extremely difficult and result in performance setbacks.

Steve had a transition plan in place, of which I was not aware. (He did not seem to feel the need to keep me in the loop.) Perhaps knowing his health was failing (or would), in 2008 Steve set about to create a Systematic archetype that would replicate his thinking as best he could. He hired Joel Podolny from Yale to create Apple University.

The goal of Apple U isn’t to try to replicate Steve, but rather to reproduce his process and approach. Will it work: don’t know, can’t tell, hard to say. But I commend him for recognizing the need well before his untimely death.

I, for one, am more optimistic that Apple can transition archetypes (which they were going to have to make happen) without the crisis I was previously concerned might need to occur.

Mitch

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