Tony Fadell Talks About the Design Culture at Apple


Lately there have been a few interviews with former Apple designer and Nest CEO Tony Fadell. Last November the focus wasn’t on his designs or working at Apple; everyone wanted to know about Scott Forstall. At a the Bloomberg Design conference this week, however, it was all about design and what makes Apple different. And from just a few quotes the difference jumps right out: long term commitment.

While we know that all companies have hundreds, maybe thousands, of products at various stages of design, prototyping, and production. We also know that not all products will get shipped—even some that sound really great. But Tony Fadell highlights a key difference between companies like Apple and companies like Philips:

(regarding Philips) “Nine times out of ten, or 99 times out of 100, they would kill the project, either at the beginning, the middle or right before the product was supposed to be shipped,” said Fadell.

In contrast, at Apple, 99 percent of projects that made it past certain milestones shipped, said Fadell. All of the workers at Apple — from the management to the designers to the marketers — had a point of view, a story to tell, and a specific customer envisioned for the product. If management changed, everyone is still on the same page. “When you’re in a culture that has a point of view, and drives to launch everything it does, you know you’re on the hook and you better bring your best game every time,” said Fadell.

Via: GigaOm

Fadell noted that something as simple as a new manager not understanding the project could get it tossed aside at Philips. That wouldn’t happen at Apple. A product in line to be created would be, most of the time, be created even if there was some change in leadership in the middle of the project. That’s a huge company-wide commitment that I think would instill a sense of pride, ownership, responsibility, even duty, to get the job done and do your best. I can completely understand, and have been there myself, why bother going all out on a project if there was just as likely a chance it would be killed before it was finished as it would be completed (maybe more likely chance that it would be killed). You do a “good enough” job, but an all out total effort? Not likely. Not after the first few projects you put your heart and soul into were killed at the last minute.

Katie Fehrenbacher summarized Tony Fadell’s essential point like this:

Create a culture where everyone is striving to tell the same story, and have a goal to ship the vast majority of products, says Nest CEO Tony Fadell.

Which should be the goal for any company, any job, any task. Have a mission and vision that the team believes in and then live it.

Photo © 2012 Pinar Ozger