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I did enjoy a lot Carmine Gallo’s “The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs”, so I was keen to read its sequel “The innovation secrets of Steve Jobs”. And it was worth it.

The book takes us on a ride through 35 years of relentless innovation and unmatched success by Steve Jobs and his teams at Apple and Pixar: from the first Apple computer in 1976 to the recent iCloud announcement, through a succession of breakthrough innovations like the Apple II, the Macintosh, the iMacs and iBooks, the iPods, iTunes, the iPhones, Apple and Apps Stores, iPads, and the Pixar creations. Using vivid and timely quotes from Steve Jobs, Apple executives and other monographies, the book recreates the conditions in which each of these innovations emerged. As the reader transitions from case to case, common patterns and regularities start to appear. 

Carmine Gallo captures these regularities with seven key principles underlying Steve Jobs’, and consequently Apple’s, philosophy:

1. Do what you love
2. Put a dent in the universe
3. Kick-start your brain
4. Sell dreams, not products
5. Say no to 1000 things
6. Create insanely great experiences
7. Master the message

These principles reach out well beyond the world of business to the fundamental human needs for self-expression, self-fulfillment, purpose and happiness, and build an imaginary bridge connecting the Apple brand ethos and the people who use Apple’s products and services in their everyday life.

Reading through the cases, another, equally important set of regularities in the Apple’s innovation way emerges. Apple favours innovation within existing markets, with established social behaviours and clear evidence of strong consumer pull (e.g. iPod innovating within the portable music players market, iTunes within the music download market, iPhone within the smartphone market). Within these markets, Apple zooms in onto the big pain points that people experience and the unmet needs that nobody else is addressing. Removing pain points and satisfying unmet needs are the main drivers for innovation. For example, the iPod solves two user problems at once: limited storage capacity and speed of transfer from the computer to the music player; the iPhone solves multiple complexities in using smartphones. The innovation target is couched in mission-critical language using compelling Good-Bad narrative structures that motivate and make concrete. Already in 1983, Steve Jobs was calling for a mission to free the world from an IBM-controlled world. The mission sets the challenge for the best engineers, designers, marketers to deliver the simplest and most elegant experience; of never being satisfied and keeping improving and refining  the experiences.

Innovation in existing markets is not the only pattern though. Several cases presented in Carmine Gallo’s book start from gaps in existing markets and lead to the creation of new product categories. The iPad and the MacIntosh are great examples of this second way of innovating.  Whatever the approach, the clarity of purpose remains exemplary.

The book starts and ends with the statement that there is no Apple system for innovation. However, I was left with the strong impression that Steve Jobs and Apple have developed a heuristic for innovation that may sometimes fail, but most of the time will succeed. Unsurpringly, the heuristic is simple, intuitive, demanding and so hard to execute.

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