Apple is NOT the Problem. WE are.

Apple has been in the news a lot lately, and not just beating the human birthrate in fourth-quarter iphone sales. Word is getting out about working conditions at the Foxconn plant in China, for instance. This American Life had an interesting piece on the same topic last month.

But let me make this perfectly clear: Apple is not the problem.  Mr. Daisey, in the This American Life piece, makes it clear that these factories in China don’t build just Apple products.  they build virtually all of the personally electronic devices we all like.

And it is not enough that we all like, and have mostly convinced ourselves need, these phones and tablets and netbooks etc. Most of us have also convinced ourselves of these two things

  1. that we deserve newer and better devices approximately every year and
  2. that we ought not have to pay very much for them.

Because we want newer and better gadgets at incredibly cheap prices, China (and other countries) will continue to work people in conditions you and I would never agree to work in.

Apple is not the problem.  We are.

Are you willing to update your phone every 3 years instead of every year or 18 months?  Would you be willing to pay maybe twice as much for a tablet computer or netbook or ultrabook?

Does decent working conditions and fairer wages figure at all into your willingness?

I decided about six years ago that I would buy only fair trade coffee. Thus, I felt, I was doing something to help the people who actually farm the coffee to live better lives.

Would I be willing to purchase only fair trade electronics if there were such a thing?

Would you?

Can One Change without Changing?

I just read what Slate says is Tim Cook’s first email to Apple’s employees as the new CEO.  He said, and they choose to pull this thought for their headline of the piece, that “I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change.”

I expect I know (partly from reading the context of the statement) what he meant, and I expect that he didn’t really mean that Apple won’t change.

After all, one of the things that has made Apple the “most innovative company in the world” is it’s ability to change.  Change products, change delivery methods, change the way you and I think about computers, the list is long and impressive.

If Apple is to continue to be the most innovative company in the world, or even one of the most innovative, Apple will indeed continue to change.

On the other hand, in a line not chosen by Slate for the headline, but one at least as important to Mr. Cook’s gaining (or retaining) the confidence of his employees, is this:

 I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA.

Apple’s “principles and values,” which operate at a level analogous to DNA, are what Cook means won’t change.  Whatever change and adaptation is called for in response to the world, to the market, etc., will occur within the same framework that Apple has established.

These days, however, we know that even DNA may not be as fixed as we once thought.  Genes now open or close – adjust – depending on circumstances, surroundings, trauma, etc.  The old (modern) dialectic of nature and nurture is a relic. The two cannot be separated.

We all change; sometimes in an effort to remain the same change is necessary.  As I look back at younger and earlier versions of myself (currently I am on Steve Heyduck 47.10), I can see some stability lying beneath an immense amount of change.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I hadn’t changed over time I would hardly be recognizable as the same person.

But, alas, as Chip and Dan Heath point out so clearly in Switch, we are not opposed to change – we are opposed to change that surprises us or is outside our control.

Apple will change; and so will we all.  What interests me, especially with regard to leadership of and through change, is upon what foundation(s) does one stand to face change, or to bring it about?

Don’t Bite this Apple!

No one is all right OR all wrong. (Ok, maybe the latter wouldn’t hold up, but no one is all right, right?) Not even Apple and Steve Jobs. Wired admitted last week, that they were wrong about some tips they had offered Apple in 1997.  In another interesting piece on March 18, Wired also acknowledged that Apple’s success may, at least in part, be due to ways they don’t fit in with silicon valley wisdom.

But I’ve got to think that Steve Jobs got it wrong here.  Apple’s CEO says that the various methods of electronic delivery of book material, from Amazon’s Kindle to e-books, to other resources is all a waste because “the fact is that people don’t read any more.”

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