Inside Apple University, Its Secretive Employees-Only School

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Several years ago, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs realized that he would have to imbue his company with an institutional memory, so that future generations of employees could follow an “Apple way” long after he was gone.

With that in mind, he founded Apple University, a secretive institution on Apple’s campus where students attend courses taught by full-time instructors, some of whom once instructed at Yale, Berkeley, and other prominent schools. According to a new piece in The New York Times, those instructors teach a curriculum instantly familiar to anyone who’s attended business school, full of case studies delineating corporate decisions—only here, all the case studies are from Apple.

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In addition to showing why Jobs and other Apple executives did what they did—the Times highlights Jobs’ decision to make iTunes compatible with Windows, which set the stage for the iOS ecosystem’s subsequent expansion—instructors also run classes with a more philosophical bend. At times, they compare Apple’s design philosophy to Pablo Picasso’s “The Bull,” a series of lithographs in which a fully rendered bull is reduced to a minimalist but evocative set of lines; in a similar way, they argue, Apple has taken hardware components such as the laptop or the mouse and gradually designed them down to the bare essentials.

While propagating a strong corporate culture can prove good for employee productivity and morale, creating one can take a lot of time and effort. Apple had the resources to build a full-fledged school, but that doesn’t mean smaller (and less monetized) firms can’t take steps to impart knowledge and foster an esprit de corps. Executives offering regular classes about business processes, rather than passing along knowledge in an ad-hoc manner, can smooth transitions; even the occasional happy hour can go a long way toward bonding employees together. Comparing your own projects to Picasso, though, might come off as a bit pretentious.

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One Response to “Inside Apple University, Its Secretive Employees-Only School”

  1. the only thing steve-o (as i liked to call him back in the day) created was organized fear. he gui, iPod concept, and to a lesser degree animation from hard working CREATIVE people … he himself was a dry bone