Culture & Competency

If Steve Was "Collaborative," Would Apple Be More Successful?

Lee from Technology Review interviewed Evan Rosen on the culture of collaboration, and how more than technology is needed to make collaboration work. Evan is the author of The Culture of Collaboration.

The following comment struck me:

Lee: How [does culture create collaboration]?

Evan: Organizational culture stems from our collective culture. And our collective culture in the United States is star-oriented. We read and hear about “star athletes,” “star chefs” … the list goes on. And it’s a myth. Because all of these so-called stars need help from others to achieve. Star culture is the antithesis of “collaborative culture.” In a star culture, the best people supposedly rise to the top in a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest fashion. Some companies regularly eliminate the bottom 5 percent of the workforce. They rank them, pitting people against each other.

Lee: But there are counterexamples, like Apple. It seems the opposite of everything you’re describing—very hierarchical, with people almost fearful of the guy at the top. Yet it is a huge success.

Evan: Well, there are always examples of companies that are successful even though they’re command-and-control oriented. But the question I always ask is, “How much more successful would they be if they were truly collaborative?”

My Comments
1. In the text of the interview, Evan didn’t specifically address the Apple question. We don’t know if that was editing on the behalf of Lee or Technology Review, or that he didn’t deal with it.

2. My view is that Apple is so successful because Steve is who Steve is – from my outside perspective, he has a clear vision, a clear timeframe, and people work to bring Steve’s dreams to life. They have a clear picture of where they need to get to (“the outcome”), and work together / collaborate to make it happen. A “command-and-control” approach at the top gives a clear decision framework for employees, a clear picture of the performance to be executed, and then great stuff happens.

3. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the limits of collaboration. The problems that the large organization I was thinking about in that post do not exist at Apple.

4. Collaboration is a means to an end – winning in the market – not an end in itself. Apple is clearly doing a lot of things right, in a lot of market spaces.

5. What do you think: Would Apple be more successful at winning in the market if Steve was less command-and-control, and more “collaborative”?

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