By Michael Gunther

I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Apple’s headquarters this last month with a group of 40 business leaders through a trip planned by our local chamber of commerce. I must admit I have been late to the game in reference to being an Apple convert. It wasn’t until I got my first iPhone about four years ago that I quickly became a loyal fan leading to both iPad and Mac Air Laptop acquisitions. Is it Apple’s ‘cool’ product design/image I am attracted to or the easy user interfaces that has transformed how I use technology in my personal and professional life? This trip to Apple actually provided me a whole new level of appreciation for the innovation, design and ‘coolness’ of their products and how an intentional focus on innovation has transformed their culture, making Apple the most successful firm in history.

As many of you know, Steve Jobs was about challenging the status quo with a goal of using technology to give people access to information and tools to foster innovation as well as creativity. This innovation philosophy was evident as each speaker spoke about their experience of working at Apple while they shared their inner workings of their respective area of responsibility. The consistent thread throughout the day was the belief that only when one can truly understand the issues or challenges you are attempting to resolve, can you ever change the status quo with innovation. Apple has integrated a relentless learning philosophy within their culture, ranging from studying historical references of individuals that challenged the status quo to questioning the foundation of your current knowledge, assumptions and beliefs. Their credence is through understanding that you can challenge, which then leads to innovation. Even their organizational structure is innovative and goes against the traditional model. Many in the academic realm are scratching their heads on how their unorthodox model can work. It does work, because of the pervasive intentional focus on the user experience and innovation.

This experience had me wonder – innovation can’t just be a project or process. It needs to be part of the culture and everything within the organization aids the drive to innovate. Imagine if everyone on your team was focused on innovation. At the same time the culture of your organization helped support the successes and failures that came from their new innovative ideas. The intent would be to improve processes, products or customer experiences with a focus on knowledge disruption, while challenging the status quo with the underlining belief – there is a better way.

Bottom Line

Challenge the status quo within your business both internally and externally. Innovation takes more than a great idea or invention. It takes discipline, constant evaluation of what you know to be true, healthy debate and, most importantly, implementation.

On a side note: We had the opportunity to visit their new, Apple Campus 2, which is opening in the Fall of 2016. All I can say is the innovation in design of Apple’s new headquarters will certainly go down in history as one that challenged the status quo.

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