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187 comments

There is nothing democratic about buzzwords (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38878581)

It is always an elite activity, whether by a recognized or unrecognized elite.

Google is moving toward Apple's model already (0, Troll)

jmcbain (1233044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878599)

Google's current CEO, Larry Page, took Steve Jobs' advice [businessweek.com] to heart and is cutting the bloat (e.g. Google Wave, Google Labs, etc. have all been cut in the last several months). That means less 20%-time projects from engineers who have no experience with product development and more polished projects from the top management and PMs.

Not Even Close (2, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878757)

Google's current CEO, Larry Page, took Steve Jobs' advice [businessweek.com] to heart and is cutting the bloat (e.g. Google Wave, Google Labs, etc. have all been cut in the last several months). That means less 20%-time projects from engineers who have no experience with product development and more polished projects from the top management and PMs.

Where do I even start with this? Okay, 20% time still exists [google.com] . Eliminating projects that resulted from it just means those engineers can move on to new ideas or join other projects. Saying 'less 20%-time projects' doesn't really make any sense. That perk still exists ... it's possible his strategy was to disassemble those bigger teams so that they get more engineer hobby projects to pick from. If Page was taking Steve Jobs' advice, the 20 percent perk would be eliminated completely and Page would be walking around instructing people what the consumer wants.

The fact that you think that engineers have 'no experience with product development and more polished projects from the top management and PMs' makes me think you are either management or you live in a fantasy world where management has tricked you. I am a software developer, I do agile development. Guess what? The engineers can do all of what you just listed too! Not having that BS middle management means we get paid more although we have more responsibilities but those responsibilities were already foisted upon us when something went wrong anyway! What does 'more polished projects' mean exactly? Who has always done the polishing and development? It wasn't management and I've often found their direction is a coin flip.

Re:Not Even Close (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878865)

Agile's been around since the early 2000's, it also coincides with the cutting out of middle management in IT (no more Phil Lumbergh). If anything software development has picked up since, no more bloat in the process, so if anything adding layers of management to "polish" projects killed projects rather than helped them in the 90s. Not sure what OP's OP is talking about, but cutting the bloat has more to do with axing products (that were once 20% time probably) with no future than stopping innovation at google as far as I can tell.

Re:Not Even Close (1, Redundant)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879315)

Thanks, learned a new word: foist Seriously

Re:Not Even Close (-1, Flamebait)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879385)

I'm grateful for posts such as GP made. I'm very much aware, due to poor color vision, that not all people see the world the same way. So, I saw the title of this article, and immediately I thought: "What's this going to look like to some poor, unfortunate Phanboi?"

jmcbain stepped forward, and satisfied my curiosity quite promptly. "Oooooh, looky, Google is copying Apple!" Poor sod - there's probably no cure for his disease.

Re:Not Even Close (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38879507)

makes me think you are either management or you live in a fantasy world where management has tricked you

This. Perhaps not in this person's case, but I see all the slobbering over Jobs and only one thing occurs to me... he's every manager's dream icon. He knew what people wanted more than anyone else, and everyone else just handled the mechanical details because that's what they're paid to do.

For years management has been convinced that the people below them are dumb, have no vision, that (s)he is the "real person" that knows what "real people" want. Everyone wants to think they're Jobs, who they think is some guy that pictured the awesome products in entirety, and all the other people just shut up and made it happen the way he wanted.

Nobody really talks about the people that did the really great work. There's very little mention of Jonathan Ive around the offices of america. They all want to believe that one guy, that imaginary proxy for themselves, knew what to do and everyone just did the dirty work... resulting in many of the worlds most successful products for real people. It's a convenient personal defense for someone that knows they're not actually trained in any real skill... "I have vision".

I don't buy it for a second, and nobody I know could fill the shoes of that story character.

Re:Not Even Close (2)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880335)

Jobs wasn't just a visionary. He was a visionary that could communicate his vision to people that could turn it into reality. I've yet to meet anyone like that.

Re:Not Even Close (4, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879913)

If Page was taking Steve Jobs' advice, the 20 percent perk would be eliminated completely and Page would be walking around instructing people what the consumer wants.

The present Google operation is so engineer-centric that they're afraid to even decide what color blue they should use [stopdesign.com] without submitting it to the Cloud for arbitration. The point isn't that the Cloud would give you a bad result, but that their internal groupthink is so strong that they can't even tolerate individual decision-making. Somebody wanted to make a CSS border three pixels wide, and he had to make an empirical case with evidence and metrics. This isn't about agility, it's ideological and engineers trying to stake out a higher moral ground than creatives or commercial interests.

The whole "eliminate middle management" and "bottom-up" "agile" approach is totally valid in a lot of circumstances, but to be honest I think the open source movement and the whole "cathedral and the bazaar" mentality has totally politicized any conversations about business management. Developers have been blowing their own smoke for so long that they've basically constructed an internal value system where if a product requires marketing, it's not worth making, and if a project requires management, it's not a good project to do, and if the customer doesn't like the deliverable (cuz there weren't any PMs advocating for him) the customer should RTFM.

The consumer isn't even part of the equation, it's really just a semantic battle over who gets to claim to be the more honco technologist. Google makes tons of money, and Google gives the outward appearance of making money in the "right sort of ways," the ways that most people have made prior commitment to support, so Apple making lots of money is challenging. But it's not a mystery in a business sense, nor even really in a technological sense. It's a moral problem people have, and they use terms like "agility" and "innovation" to frame the moral debate.

What does 'more polished projects' mean exactly? Who has always done the polishing and development? It wasn't management and I've often found their direction is a coin flip.

Engineers are way too fast with the "I don't understand this, therefore it must be stupid, arbitrary and redundant" judgement.

Aside:

Not having that BS middle management means we get paid more although we have more responsibilities but those responsibilities were already foisted upon us when something went wrong anyway!

I don't think you understand elasticity of wages. Not having middle managers doesn't mean you get paid more, it means your firm charges the customer less -- laying off programmer middle-managers doesn't suddenly make programmers in demand or curtail their supply, it's actually the opposite, because all those PMs and partner engineers are looking for work and can probably do your job too, and would be happy to take less than you to do it.

This might have the knock-on effect of making your firm more competitive and keeping you more consistently employed, but the marginal gain of eliminating redundancy does not accrue to the remaining employees. There's a reason the guy that's paid with stock options does the firing: he's the one with the unbounded upside.

Re:Not Even Close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38879939)

Yes, they innovate so much that most of their products are results of acquisitions, including Android, Maps several components of Google+ and many more [wikipedia.org] .

Don't get me wrong. Google is a fantastic place to be if you are an engineer, even with all the assholes in management positions, but an innovative company it is not.

--
Jordyn Buchanan

Re:Not Even Close (2)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880863)

The biggest difference I notice between Google and Apple in an area where it really matters is this: how they treat problems and shortcomings with their services/products.

* Apple: There are no problems with our products. All of our engineering, design, and software efforts are perfect. If there's a problem with your application it's not our fault. If there is a problem, it's probably your fault.

* Google: if there's a problem or missing feature in a major product (Gmail, calendar, search, whatever) they're working on "improving" it, with no ETA on the horizon. If it's in something with minor use, it's sooner trashed/gotten rid of than fixed. They've mastered the domain of the "simple but elegant" web UI, and everything hinges on that.

Honestly, of the tech titans out there, Microsoft seems to be one of the better ones right now when it comes to actually eating their own dog food and making their shit work. I've been quite impressed (even though I don't even use any of their products anymore, personally or professionally). They're doing a lot to win back the hearts and minds they alienated during the era of Microsoft Suck.

Re:Not Even Close (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881061)

They've mastered the domain of the "simple but elegant" web UI, and everything hinges on that.

I suggest you crack open an Adwords account and STFU. Adwords is an abysmal clusterfuck that is far from elegant and simple.

--Google fanboi

"It's not the consumer's job to know what to want" (0, Troll)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878635)

Apple's philosophy resulted in their products being used by millions. Google's philosophy has produced search, gmail, and pretty much nothing else that anybody uses. The results speak for themselves.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38878673)

Because search and gmail aren't used by millions?

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

sureshot007 (1406703) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878699)

I hope you are trying to make a joke, because I'm pretty sure that a few people use google search and gmail for a couple things.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (4, Insightful)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878703)

Way to downplay those two items, which are used by millions, and conveniently ignore Android and Google Maps, among others.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38878715)

... Google Maps, Android...

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (3, Interesting)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878717)

The results speak for themselves.

Yes, you people scream "monopoly" about Google every chance you get.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38878787)

Wow, amazing. Someone who doesn't search on Google or use Gmail.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (2)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879031)

  • Search
  • Gmail
  • Maps
  • Android
  • Google Talk
  • Google Plus
  • Google Voice
  • Google Docs

Your argument is invalid.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879497)

Google Voice, is this for real? I've never called someone and had google voice answer (I use google voice, so I know it scares callers away, but I've never even heard what it says).

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879613)

Google Voice, is this for real? I've never called someone and had google voice answer (I use google voice, so I know it scares callers away, but I've never even heard what it says).

I don't think many Google Voice users have it do call screening. I know I don't.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38880951)

Nobody gives a rat's ass what you do with Google Voice, you imbecile. Can't wait until one of your kids borrows one of daddy's guns and shoots his brother. Take your hunting rifle and shove it up your ass, fucking asshole!

--
Jordyn Buchanan

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38879935)

You do realize that Maps, Android, Google Voice and Google Docs are all based on products of companies that Google bought rather than products that they developed. And Google Talk is an XMPP server and client application. If this is what passes for innovation in your book, I'd have to agree with GP. The only item on your list that's an original creation other than the two already mentioned is Google Plus. And the jury is still out on whether that will be successful.

However not including AdWords in the list of successful products is extremely negligent on both your parts. It's among the most successful web products of all time.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

Kartu (1490911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880727)

Same as with Apple. Multi-touch, Siri, heck, CPU design, had to buy all those companies.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38881251)

Google Talk
Google Plus
Google Voice
Google Docs

Nobody uses them. And they will go the way of Google Wave soon. Google Plus will take a little bit longer but Talk, Voice and Docs will be dead by this time next year.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879051)

You left out their biggest seller: advertisement.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (4, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879127)

His philosophy speaks to why I don't buy Apple products .. lack of choices. While some lament the Android phones and it's associated plethora of choices, that is exactly why I prefer to my only choice being black or white. But I like to analyze and comprehend the impacts of different configurations. I know what I want Mr. Jobs, I need Apple to make devices I want with the options I want. And one of those options is ... lots of options and price ranges. Until then, I'll continue to go elsewhere.

It's almost like people buy Apple because they don't want to have to think .. it's safe. There have been moments when Apple had true advantages in specific markets, such as graphics design. But for the most part, Apple products were perceived as easy to use and dependable and really were more about packaging existing technologies into better containers that true innovation. Jog button, mouse, GUI interfaces .. all existed before Apple added them to devices.

But Apple did it in a way that meant no thinking was required. Some called it intuitive, yet I and others have stumbled over such idiotic interface choices like using the trash can to eject. And swiping to unlock. Pinching to zoom and unzoom. And holding a button down to power off. Sure, they make sense and are easy to use once you are shown, but that didn't make them intuitive.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879593)

Hey, 1994 called, and they want their objections to apple back. "using the trash can to eject"? seriously?

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (3)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879893)

Hey, 1994 called, and they want their objections to apple back. "using the trash can to eject"? seriously?

Yes it's an obsolete issue, but it's mind-bogglingly non-intuitive.

Many people who understand how things work are baffled by some current Apple UI choices. Not that this means Apple's choices are wrong; they're just not intuitive to everybody.

Apple products aren't right for everyone. That's all.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880775)

So in your infinite wisdom you take something old and use a joke that's even more overplayed to get your point across? Seriously?

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38880261)

Yeah, I know nobody read AC posts :) , but here it goes anyways...
I have freeBsd and slackware on my computers and I get any choices I want , but for my iPhone I fire up virtual box and use iTunes. Why ? Because it works, my previous laptop was a MacBook and it just worked. Choice is great, but so is a product that does what you expect. Does anyone else remember the headache it used to be to get modems and X running well back in the day?
If you want stuff to just work there are trade offs, but in apple land you seldom have to worry about drivers and IRQ conflicts, it's like BMW vs tuner cars. Sure you can make your Honda have 700 hp and heated seats... If you have the time and desire. Sometimes a polished products that works as advertised and does what you expect with out tuning or tweaking or recompiling is nice. Not perfect, maybee not the way you would have done it, but you just turn it on and works

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38880925)

People buy Apple products because that is their choice. You don't buy Apple products because that is your choice. Apple is one of many choices and hopefully there will always be many. Apple makes their products for people who want what Apple has to offer and not for someone else. Apple gets a lot of things right and they also make mistakes but it usually isn't for a lack of trying to make the user experience better. Apple is happy with the profit they get off of a small percentage of the desktop and laptop market. People who prefer a Windows-like or Linux-like experience don't want Apple and Apple doesn't want them. So why isn't everybody ecstatic? Why all the vitriol ? It's just an effing machine for craps sake. If their products don't do what you want done or don't do them well enough to suit you for the price then buy something else and let the market sort things out. It's as simple as that. People have different values. It's a beautiful thing until someone starts implying that people with values different from theirs are somehow defective.

Re:"It's not the consumer's job to know what to wa (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881089)

There are a bunch of people that are straight loco over Google docs. Google Maps? Pwns. Google Earth? Gee let me think. Google Analytics? Yeah, no one uses that. Should I keep going? Your dumb.

apple does market research (5, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878677)

ipod released only after there was a market for MP3 players
iphone released after some phones got the ability to play music files, access email and surf the internet. WAP had been around for years
tablet concepts had been around for years as well

Apple's innovation is to find a new market or one in need of a new product
make a list of all features currently available or wanted
pick one or a select few thought to be the top features and do them better than everyone else
add in the rest of the features over the next few years

apple has never released a brand new unique product that no one ever has

Re:apple does market research (4, Interesting)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878945)

apple has never released a brand new unique product that no one ever has

And, of course, neither has Google. They took existing ideas that were rapidly becoming seen as vital and did them in a more cohesive, higher quality way then their competitors.

Just like Apple did.

Re:apple does market research (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38879065)

What? I clearly remember the time before Google where you couldn't google anything. Back in those days, you could not access a site unless one of your friends had told you the URL. Or find it in that directory, what was it called, it had this funny name, like a joyish yell? Yihaa?

Re:apple does market research (0)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879579)

Eureka?

Re:apple does market research (2)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879983)

What? I clearly remember the time before Google where you couldn't google anything. Back in those days, you could not access a site unless one of your friends had told you the URL. Or find it in that directory, what was it called, it had this funny name, like a joyish yell? Yihaa?

True enough. There were "Internet search" sites, but they all totally sucked. Google completely changed the way we look at the internet by producing a search engine that provided accurate, relevant, fast results in a clean, usable interface. Because of Google, URLs are all but irrelevant to most internet users. Need to find Apple innovations? Google "Apple innovations". Information about cabbage? Google "cabbage".

Re:apple does market research (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880139)

True enough. There were "Internet search" sites, but they all totally sucked. Google completely changed the way we look at the internet by producing a search engine that provided accurate, relevant, fast results in a clean, usable interface. Because of Google, URLs are all but irrelevant to most internet users. Need to find Apple innovations? Google "Apple innovations". Information about cabbage? Google "cabbage".

Once, my machine went kablooey and I lost several URLs. I found all the lost sites with Google.

Re:apple does market research (2)

doom (14564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881129)

True enough. There were "Internet search" sites, but they all totally sucked.

Well no, actually they didn't. You needed to know what you were doing, and have some skill at refining searches and so on, but altavista was a pretty fucking amazing innovation.

Also, much as I like google's search, it's worth remembering that what they do has some downsides: they make it very easy to find the same kind of stuff that everyone else wanted to see when they did a similar search. That circular definition of quality creates the same sort of problem you see everywhere else in the culture, where the popular is popular because it's popular, and the big stay big because they're big.

Since we're on the subject of innovation, how exactly does a new site get established in a post-google world where no one will see you down there on page 17 of the search results?

(Answer: you game wikipedia with self-promotional edits, so that there's lots of buzz about you in the top ranked link on google... )

Re:apple does market research (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880103)

I vaguely remember a search engine called "Dogpile" I'd guess that it was probably called that for a reason.

Re:apple does market research (4, Insightful)

ultramk (470198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879001)

While I agree in some aspects... I have to disagree in others. For example, while MP3 players existed before the iPod, the market largely didn't: there were three main types of machines out there, big HD-based nomad-type players the size of paperbacks with gigs of storage, CD-MP3 walkmans, and small flash-based players with only 16 or 32mb of storage (only enough for a handful of songs). I only knew one person who actually owned an MP3 player before an iPod, and I was smack-dab in the middle of the target demographic at the time. The reason for this is that all the options had big flaws:
- The big Nomad-type players were heavy, fragile, had terrible interfaces, expensive, and could only run off battery for a little while. Even worse, they were all USB 1 based, which meant that transferring music was incredible tedious.
- The CD-MP3 devices could hold a lot of music and were cheapish, but they also had terrible interfaces, were as big as a discman, and went through batteries super quickly. They also required a whole additional step of burning off what you wanted onto CDs ahead of time.
- The little stylish flash players were neat, portable and had good battery life, but only holding 5 or 10 songs made them a complete joke.

I really think what Jobs' method was, was to look at a class of products and say "OK, here's what exists. Why do they all suck so much?" ...and in the process of answering that question, create a new device that gets right to the heart of the problem and addresses it instantly.

Re:apple does market research (3, Informative)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879633)

So he introduced a product that had marginal battery life, low capacity for a hard drive system, and only supported the Mac because it was "reserved for the superior customer experience". The original iPod sucked, too, and much of that was available technology of the time. Don't forget, additionally, that the iPod was developed by an outside company and purchased by Apple. Apple's dominance of mp3 was due to money, being a big name in an emerging market, and a commitment to incremental improvement. Apple was the IBM of mp3, it succeeded because of who it was, not the superiority of its product. That came later.

Re:apple does market research (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880987)

Apple's justification for originally only supporting the Mac was that they thought it would help drive Mac sales. I don't know if it did or not.

Re:apple does market research (3, Insightful)

ultramk (470198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881153)

I disagree. The original iPod had excellent battery life compared to equivalent devices. It was also tiny compared to HD-based systems, and had vastly higher capacity compared to the flash systems. The firewire connection ensured that it was quick to charge and load, and let it double as a hot-swappable HD. As far as it being Mac-only... Apple hadn't ever made a Windows device before, and why would they? Nobody really anticipated what a game-changer this would be for the whole industry. The iPod wasn't "developed by an outside company" either. Apple contracted with two different outside companies that had more experience in the consumer electronics area, but that's not the same thing, and much of the work was kept in-house. It's not like when they were just selling Canon printers with an Apple badge on them. ...as far as succeeding because of "who Apple was", in 2001 they were "that company who's going out of business". Everyone knew it. It was just a matter of time.

Re:apple does market research (4, Informative)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879949)

I hate to do this to a +5 insightful, but you're wrong.

The first iPod that came out was in direct competetion with the nomad zen. The zen had a longer battery life (14 hours vs 10 hours), bigger harddrive (60gig vs 20 gig), usb1.1 and firewire (the iPod only had firewire), a tuner, and a microphone, and worked on windows, osx and linux (the iPod was a pain on osx and a nightmare for windows). I will give you that the interface was a step up after you got your music on it, but viewed side by side, and dollar for dollar (as I did back then), you'd have to wonder what people were smoking when they bought an iPod. They were not competing with cd-mp3 players at all, and they didn't start competing with the flash players till years later.

The only thing they at had at first had was white headphones and a bunch of monocrome dancing ads, but, as history has shown, marketing beat out the technically superior product. It wasn't till about 2005 that the iPod actually became the superior product.

Re:apple does market research (3, Informative)

rylin (688457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880219)

The original iPod had 5 or 10GB of disk.
It wasn't until the Zen that NOMAD got firewire.

Thanks for playing!

Re:apple does market research (1)

ultramk (470198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881183)

Ah, you're closer but no cigar. The original iPod was at first only available as a 5gb, although they eventually bumped it to 10gb. :-)

Re:apple does market research (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881285)

Runs off to check wikipedia...

Ok you were right, there was a version of the iPod released in november 2001 that was actually much worse than the one I remember. Also yes, it was the Zen that had firewire. That is what my post said. The Zen technically competed with the second gen iPod (released 9 months later).

I probably never considered it because it was impossible to use if you didn't own a brand frickin new mac with OSX 10.1 (which came out in september 2001). It was the second gen iPod released 9 months later that let you use a windows box to put music on them, and it was a long while after that (iirc) before someone hacked it to allow linux.

So my bad. You were right, the very first iPod was so terrible that it completely fell off my radar, and it was the second itteration that I had hands on expirence with, and rejected as an overhyped fashion accessory. Seriously, the first gen iPod only worked if you had a brand new iMac to go with it. There's a bad product and then there's pants on head stupid.

Re:apple does market research (1)

Mithent (2515236) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879033)

Apple provide the features that most people want, and make them easy-to-use. The iPod came out with fewer features than the competition, but most people didn't want an interface cluttered by FM radios and audio recorders and other optional features. They wanted to play music, and the iPod made it very easy to play music. Apple don't try to please everyone, but you get a long way by pleasing the majority.

The alternative strategy is to try to please everyone by offering every conceivable feature and making everything highly customisable. This is great for the minority who want the lesser-used features and want control over every aspect of the experience, and this is the route that Google take with Android. I prefer it, I have two Android devices, and I would never trade them for iOS ones. But to the average user, all this ancillary stuff is, at best, superfluous, and at worst, gets in the way. The average person wants a phone that has a button they press to get Facebook, and the iPhone OS UI is little more than a grid of buttons you press to get to stuff, compared to Android's highly customisable but undeniably more complex homescreens and widgets.

Apple innovation is focused on experience and ease-of-use, Google innovation is focused on features and engineering.

Re:apple does market research (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879079)

When was the last time you really saw a brand new unique product?

You got a Rock, You smash you hand it hurts, your enemy comes after you, you smash him with the rock, you win. Lets get a bigger rock, lets attach a stick to that rock. Lets sharpen the point of that rock, Lets use lighter rocks that throw better. Lets use an other stick to throw that rock and stick further, Lets put a vine to an other stick and use that to fire the rock on a stick. Lets add some feathers so it flies smoother.....

You were walking over a log you pushed it and a heavy object on to of it moved much easier, you use the the log to move other heavy objects, you get more logs and move it. You use the large part of the log and put a heavy stick in the middle and moving things is a little easier you put something around the Stick to stop it from slipping off, you get an animal to pull the wagon....

Innovation is not coming with something brand new and amazing it is incremental steps improving the original product. Then finding a good niche for your improvement.

Re:apple does market research (1)

lurch_mojoff (867210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879157)

There seems to be ongoing confusion between innovation and invention. What you describe as Apple's innovation is what innovation is in general -- you start with an existing thing and improve it some way. Coming up with something completely new is invention and I don't think either Apple or Google do a lot of that.

Re:apple does market research (2)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879283)

Apple created one thing that didn't exist before that is what really saved the company. It wasn't the iPod, it was the thing that actually made the iPod useful for most people. Apple created iTunes. They actually got license agreements to sell songs online, legally, for a price that people would pay. That was why everyone bought iPods, because they could play music that you could purchase legally without having to rip a CD. Combined with the original iPod being a pretty good MP3 player they were able to pretty much claim a monopoly in the MP3 player market, which allowed them to keep improving the iPod and eventually led to much of their current product line.

Re:apple does market research (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879447)

apple didn't create itunes. they bought a company that sold music management software and renamed it. there were two at the time. SoundJam and something else. don't remember the names. I think the first one said no to a buyout and the other one said OK and iTunes was born. forgot the details but that was about it.

Re:apple does market research (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879461)

and there were online music marketplaces before. apple tied to a product and made DRM music a safe buy.

the ipod was a good product and unless you're a bored tech boy trying something new every month there was no reason to switch and "lose" your music

Re:apple does market research (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880001)

Slight quibble: iTunes Store.

iTunes software was some music organizer application they bought and rebranded.

Re:apple does market research (1)

doom (14564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881311)

Apple created one thing that didn't exist before that is what really saved the company. It wasn't the iPod, it was the thing that actually made the iPod useful for most people. Apple created iTunes. They actually got license agreements to sell songs online, legally, for a price that people would pay.

Before iTunes, there were places like eMusic (I used to work at one of the many incarnations of it before it started getting bought and traded around). eMusic had cut deals with every indie label in existence, and was selling subscription-based access to a collection of drm-free mp3s... they would've loved to carry the major labels products, but they couldn't talk 'em into playing.

The critical thing that Apple did with iTunes is they talked them into it. That's it. You can argue that the DRM plus pay-per-download model was the key feature, but I submit that the important thing was that Jobs could talk you into using shit for shinola, and he turned his reality warp field on the majors, and away he went from there.

Techies always want to believe that technical capability is key, the people who bought a product always want to believe they bought Quality... you're all ignoring the obvious though, which is Steve Jobs psychic powers.

Re:apple does market research (1)

doom (14564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880887)

Close:

pick one or a select few thought to be the top features and do them better than everyone else

Really what they do is convince everyone that they're doing it better. If you have any trouble with an apple product, obviously that's you're fault, everyone knows that they're so easy to use. Clearly you need to get in touch with the Tao of Apple.

Elites (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878683)

Needs one kind of elite to innovate, and another kind of elite to monopolize, shut down, put trivial patents around that innovations or other "innovative" measures to avoid them to succeed.

Right, the 'Openness of Apple' Really Got Me (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878873)

Needs one kind of elite to innovate, and another kind of elite to monopolize, shut down, put trivial patents around that innovations or other "innovative" measures to avoid them to succeed.

Heh, I got some laughs out of reading this article as well:

Yet Apple has also repeatedly displayed its openness to new ideas and influences as exemplified by the visit that Mr. Jobs made to the Palo Alto research center of Xerox in 1979. He saw an experimental computer with a point-and-click mouse and graphical on-screen icons, which he adopted at Apple. It later became the standard for the personal computer industry.

Is "adopted" the right word here? It's funny how some people consider that same "influence" to be stealing [forbes.com] .

In 2010, Apple bought Siri, a personal assistant application for smartphones. At the time, it was a small start-up in Silicon Valley that originated as a program funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Pentagon. Last year, Siri became the talking question-answering application on iPhones.

So those are you examples for 'repeatedly displayed its openness to new ideas and influences'? They "borrow" and idea and then they buy up and assimilate a start-up? Well, if that's your frame of reference, Microsoft excels at openness too! I know this article is not even trying to be exhaustive but Android isn't even mentioned once. I don't understand how Apple can even be called "open" when compared with Google's offerings to everyone [openhandsetalliance.com] .

Re:Right, the 'Openness of Apple' Really Got Me (3, Insightful)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878955)

Is "adopted" the right word here? It's funny how some people consider that same "influence" to be stealing [forbes.com] .

Of course, the fact that Apple did, indeed, pay Xerox for those ideas, makes it hard for most people to see it as stealing. They got an amazingly good deal because Xerox didn't value what they'd developed. Again, not stealing.

Re:Right, the 'Openness of Apple' Really Got Me (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38879013)

Is "adopted" the right word here? It's funny how some people consider that same "influence" to be stealing [forbes.com] .

Of course, the fact that Apple did, indeed, pay Xerox for those ideas, makes it hard for most people to see it as stealing. They got an amazingly good deal because Xerox didn't value what they'd developed. Again, not stealing.

So very very very wrong [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Right, the 'Openness of Apple' Really Got Me (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879649)

How is buying $1M of pre-IPO stock not paying them? They made about ($29-$22/$22)M dollars or $318k on the first day from that agreement.

Re:Right, the 'Openness of Apple' Really Got Me (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880029)

They also misinterpreted what they saw. Jobs thought that he saw overlapping windows and insisted that the Apple engineers figure out a way to do this. Later on, they found out that Xerox stuff didn't do overlapping windows. So Apple did manage to code something new. Once. But it's not like they got OS source code from Xerox, so they could write a GUI app and then incorporated some of that code in Mac OS.

The problem with top-down (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878705)

Apple got away with top-down because it had developed an incredibly strong brand, with incredible customer loyalty. Part of this was based on the intense focus they had/have on image control and artistic design, part of it on the almost cult-leader-esque charisma of Steve Jobs, and part of it on their conscious cultivation of their "hip underdog" status (even as they became anything BUT an underdog).

Very few can pull that off. And it takes a lot of work over a very long period of time.

Apple is not wholly top down (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878841)

Do you honestly think every single feature of every single product Apple releases comes from the top?

The facts are that Apple has a lot of smart engineers. Major product directions (like producing an iPhone or AppleTV), sure that comes from the top. But within the confines of a product people at all levels are coming up with ideas.

Now ultimately those have to be approved by people at the top, but I do think a really successful project needs a handful of people to control direction, or you'll have an explosion of features which may confuse or not mesh well. But innovation can still happen at any level.

Re:Apple is not wholly top down (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879201)

Do you honestly think every single feature of every single product Apple releases comes from the top?

Exactly. One of the neat features in 10.3 was Expose, which started as a simple hack to Quartz Extreme (the GPU windowing system at the time, which didn't include GPU-based compositing). It was kind of a basic thing - since the windows were just textures in memory, they could certainlly be manipulated like a normal 3D scene. All Expose did was rearrange and rescale the windows around, letting the GPU handle the details of scaling and video processing (it's why you could still see the movie playing while it was invoked - the GPU was doing all the heavy lifting).

Steve Jobs saw that and made it a priority feature. Of course, the initial implementation he saw probably was nowhere near as what came out in 10.3, but still.

Of course, not every idea or feature makes it in, especially those that don't work very well or are clunky at best - Apple's got a habit of dumping features that they couldn't get working right until someone can come up with a way to do it properly.

Re:Apple is not wholly top down (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880041)

So... you're saying they have really good editing skills?

Re:Apple is not wholly top down (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881143)

I read in an article once that Steve actually dictated what was served in the company cafeteria - sure spaghetti and meatballs wasn't his invention, but it was sure his idea that day.

Re:The problem with top-down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38879099)

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Re:The problem with top-down (3, Insightful)

ultramk (470198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879119)

Really what you're saying is just a variation on "Apple fans are all deluded fools who buy everything because it's cool." Of course, that kind of ignores history: Apple wasn't the cool brand by any stretch until the last 12 years or so.

The reason that over the years Apple was able to make and retain such intense customer loyalty was because they chose to focus on making sure that every aspect of their products made the user's life a little bit easier. When you see--in a thousand little ways--that someone has gone to the trouble of trying to make it easier for you to do what it is you're trying to get done... intense loyalty is a natural result.

The difference between the Mac OS and Windows (back in the old days at least) was that Windows was designed and engineered to sell to IT buyers and CTOs--not the users, while the vast majority of Macs were bought by the person who would use them. The difference in priority showed.

Re:The problem with top-down (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880083)

Nope, everyone who's ever purchased anything at any time from Apple is obviously a handlebar mustached, penny-farthing riding, latte sipping esthete with too much money and no knowledge of anything related to computers. They don't even open the boxes they bought but just show them off at fancy parties, with everyone gathered around their $5000 dollar coffee table and sound like the dad from Wild Thornberries.

Re:The problem with top-down (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880415)

Really what you're saying is just a variation on "Apple fans are all deluded fools who buy everything because it's cool." Of course, that kind of ignores history: Apple wasn't the cool brand by any stretch until the last 12 years or so.

Apple has always been "cool" or did you forget the Macintosh, and the 1984 Superbowl commercial?

The reason that over the years Apple was able to make and retain such intense customer loyalty was because they chose to focus on making sure that every aspect of their products made the user's life a little bit easier.

Apple products are no more easier or harder to use the Microsoft's. But Apple has done a tremendous job building up a cult like following. That is why they retain such intense customer loyalty. People didn't line up because the products worked, they lined up because it was "cool."

Re:The problem with top-down (1)

Kartu (1490911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880871)

Apple wasn't the cool brand by any stretch until the last 12 years or so. Neither was it remotely as popular. But I recall the "fastest computer" with IBMs CPUs bogus ads and iZealots defending it.

Re:The problem with top-down (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38881005)

The reason that over the years Apple was able to make and retain such intense customer loyalty was because they chose to focus on making sure that every aspect of their products made the user's life a little bit easier. When you see--in a thousand little ways--that someone has gone to the trouble of trying to make it easier for you to do what it is you're trying to get done... intense loyalty is a natural result.

Yet, they haven't done this, per se. In some ways, it's been a symptom of their own efforts, but for the most part it hasn't even happened. There is not much Apple has done which has been innovative or even all that useful which was not done before.

The answer is in two words: black turtlenecks. Quite simply, good, consistent marketing, a cohesively uniform product/corporate image, and trendy products naturally appeals to trend-setters (and those who appeal to them). Remember the "I'm a Mac" commercials, and how incredibly stupid and low-brow they were? They appealed to common people who buy consumer products. They're the reason why flashy sports cars which have a reputation for running poorly have, in the past, sold so well: people cling to image when they are image focused. They don't care if it works well, just that it works and looks cool in the process of it doing so.

The fact that the rest of the tech industry was flagging at the time when Apple was coming out of the closet was a fortunate coincidence. Everything was stagnant at the consumer level, basically waiting for the next step in evolutionary change: Fisher Price XP was out, Vista was on the horizon but not terribly promising unless you were a fanboy; the MP3 player market was expensive and very much a small market due to the technology humps that needed to be overcome to use the devices effectively; and later, there weren't many feature phones which were capable of doing what the iPhone did (or, at least, which were marketed like the iPhone was).

Re:The problem with top-down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38881223)

One really good example of this is how apple allows you to drag and drop directly from applications. Have a word doc open you want to attach to an email? Just click the icon in the document's title bar over to the window for your email message (you can cmd-tab if you need to), and let go. The document is attached. Want to post a photo from iPhoto on your friend's facebook wall? Click upload photo on facebook, go to iphoto, and then drag the photo over to the "Choose file..." button and release. Done!

I tried using Windows 7 the other day and nothing remotely resembling these features existed. You have no idea how frustratingly inefficient that makes moving files from one application to another.

Re:The problem with top-down (0)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879301)

Very few can pull that off. And it takes a lot of work over a very long period of time.

Not only that, Apple has made its billions by being very good at identifying a market where the existing participants are not meeting the needs of consumers, then entering the market and using its clout to exert leverage over the existing participants who are fouling things up.

Think about it: Before iTunes and the iPod, the RIAA had been ruining the consumer experience in the market for digital music. Before the Mac, Microsoft had been ruining (and continues to ruin) the consumer experience in the personal computer market. Before the iPhone, AT&T et al had been ruining the consumer experience in the smart phone market.

They're all markets where some dastardly monopolist or cartel had been putting their foot up the ass of anyone who tried to innovate in those markets, and Apple came in with enough money and influence to tell them to pound sand and yet still get what they want.

The problem for Apple now is that when you're at the top, there is nowhere to go but down. The incumbent monopolists they've humbled and profited billions from are still around, and they don't really like playing second fiddle. They're going to be fighting to reclaim their power, either (as Microsoft has) through various dirty tricks, or (as the telcoms have) by opening up the previously tightly controlled market to more open competitors like Android that they can subsequently exert more influence against, or (as the RIAA has) by lobbying Congress to screw over the entire tech industry with unconscionable legislation.

That's a lot of fronts to be fighting at the same time, especially when you're the new incumbent with everything to lose and little to gain than what you already have.

there are different kinds of elites (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878775)

Yes, some people are better at some things than other people are, so in a sense "elites" always exist. But they can be organized quite differently, in particular when it comes to openness and boundaries, or what you might call a welcoming versus elitist mentality.

For example, the Homebrew Computer Club was an elite in a sense, but an elite that was: 1) open in a literal sense to anyone who in good faith wanted to come and participate; and 2) open in a cultural sense to educating people and spreading knowledge. It wasn't an elite in the elitist sense, of a closed club that wouldn't let you in if they didn't deem you worthy. If anything, they represented the opposite type of hacker, the hacker evangelist who actively wants to spread the good word, knowledge, passion, and skills.

There are some modern organizations that operate similarly, aiming for high quality of community and discourse (so part of the "tech elite"), but without the exclusionary/attitude sort of aspects (so not "elitist"), like Noisebridge [noisebridge.net] , the Hacker Dojo [hackerdojo.com] , and the SuperHappyDevHouse [superhappydevhouse.org] hackathon/parties.

On Jobs and consumer market research (4, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878821)

When asked what market research went into the company's elegant product designs, Steve Jobs had a standard answer: none. "It's not the consumers' job to know what they want," he would add.

This is misleading. Jobs usual answer was closer to, "Customers really don't know what they want until they actually use it."

He liked to quote Henry Ford:

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses'."

Re:On Jobs and consumer market research (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878907)

Note that it's questionable whether Henry Ford actually spoke those words. But the saying stuck in marketing lore.

Re:On Jobs and consumer market research (1)

RevEngr (565050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879341)

Jobs and Ford also agreed (for quite some time) on:

"You can have any color you want, as long as it's black."

Re:On Jobs and consumer market research (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879553)

...which is also untrue. The Model-T came in many colors.

Re:On Jobs and consumer market research (1)

RevEngr (565050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879945)

...which is also untrue. The Model-T came in many colors.

...as will the iPhone soon, undoubtedly.

I own a 1913 Model T, which I believe is the first year that they were only available in black. [modelt.ca] According to the same source, it's not known whether Ford ever said that quote or not, and it is true that:

"In the first year, Model T Fords were not available in black at all, but only in Gray, Red, and Brewster Green."

Re:On Jobs and consumer market research (1)

softwareGuy1024 (2564569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880813)

According to wikipedia, [wikipedia.org] he quoted himself as having said it in his autobiography.

Re:On Jobs and consumer market research (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879615)

This is misleading. Jobs usual answer was closer to, "Customers really don't know what they want until they actually use it."

Anyone who has ever developed software for anyone else comes to this conclusion at some point.

general business vs. the pursuit of knowledge (5, Interesting)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878909)

Top Down == innovation for the sake of business (value)
Bottom Up == innovation for the sake of knowledge (evolution)

Hasn't changed for thousands of years if you think about it. Aside from the power hunger dictator once in a while.

Re:general business vs. the pursuit of knowledge (1)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879003)

That is a VERY interesting thought! Wish I had modpoints.

Re:general business vs. the pursuit of knowledge (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879435)

So in other words, we live in the greatest time to be alive as consumers of knowledge, but I should be shorting GOOG?

Re:general business vs. the pursuit of knowledge (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880091)

I have to disagree with that. A lot, if not all of bottom up innovation had to do with business. Gutenberg, for instance, was in business. So was James Watt (Steam Engine), Robert Fulton and 1000s of others. Sam Walton in the 1960s was bottom-up innovation. Walmart making executive decisions in 2011 is top-down. Top-Down is when executives/politicians/rulers with money and clout make decisions, it routes through the bureaucracy and is built. Bottom-Up is the entrepreneurial spirit in action.

Re:general business vs. the pursuit of knowledge (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880265)

A lot of the people you mention were essentially both the top and bottom at the time. Hmm, I think I saw that video a few days ago...

Re:general business vs. the pursuit of knowledge (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38880457)

None of them were in any position of power when they started. Gutenberg NEVER had power or riches. James Watt wasn't born poor but that doesn't mean his inventions are not to be classified as bottom-up. When a large corporation/government makes a decision and then implements that decision that is Top-Down. When an individual, on his own, without the backing of government or large institution develops something that is Bottom-Up. There are some developments that can be considered in the middle. Tim Berners-Lee work at CERN can be argued both ways. He was working at CERN so it's Top-Down (my opinion) but a counter argument is that he developed it independently with a few others and then presented their work. Clearly Larry Page and Sergey Brin's development of Google while students are an example of bottom-up - even though they were at Stanford.

Motivation (2)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878983)

Fun video on motivation studies that appeared in my Facebook feed today. Interesting for anyone who wants to give it a watch. Big companies and small alike deal with encouraging innovation and motivation in their own ways. http://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc [youtu.be]

If somebody brings up... (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38878993)

the Cathedral and Bazaar meme here, I'm gonna call a GodWin.

Re:If somebody brings up... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879295)

the Cathedral and Bazaar meme here, I'm gonna call a GodWin.

You just did, so GodWin!

And seriously, it's not a meme, it's an essay [catb.org] by Eric S Raymond which seems to capture pretty well exactly why Paul Saffo is completely wrong.

Re:If somebody brings up... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879625)

Its also a book that expands on the essay.

need new killer product family every 5 years or so (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879445)

Billion dollar revenue products that redefine the company. Google has had about three: Search, Adwords, and Android. Apple has had about six: Apple-2 , Mac/laser-printer, iPod, iPhone, iPad. Apple had a drought in the 1990s that nearly killed it. MicroSoft has been mostly living in the past the last decade. Every has to continually innovate to avoid Kodakization.

brainless organization (3, Insightful)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879495)

I think that the whole Article is based on a false premise, i.e. that the two approaches are different, while in reality the Apple model is a (successful) subset of the Google model.
In Google, no committee or burocracy has control of the creation model, same as in Apple. in Steve Jobs' Apple, only one person had the control of the innovation process; in Google apparently no one has it, it seems a bit like trying to see in the dark by tossing ping pong balls and hearing the sounds.

They DO have one thing in common: no one is tasked of "organizing the process", so the burocracy priesthood, "fill the proper form", " there's no time at the next committee, we have quarterly reports; would june next year suit you?", is nowhere to be seen, or rather is firmly put into place as a service to the cutting edge part, design, production and marketing. The parts of the company that are usually overpowering in a normal organizations are simply not there on a decision making level.

Incidentally, and I quote "John Kao, an innovation adviser to corporations and governments" has a sysiphean task; It's the existence of these layers that makes the organizations wilt in the face of change, not their inadequacy, so I think his business card in my view should state "lost causes" as a specialty.

Paul Saffo is an idiot (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879707)

Democracy in the sense of distributed power is precisely what leads to innovation. Telecommunications and an educated public are two of the biggest factors in innovation. The more people are able to share, copy and build upon the innovations made by others, the greater the amount of innovation we have.

top-down / bottoms-up - it's all in the context (5, Insightful)

RevEngr (565050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38879791)

There's a subtle thing here that I think often gets lost in discussions of this nature. The fact is that much (most?) innovation is "top-down" in the sense that there is one person holding the entire idea in their head that ultimately drives its attainment. That person might be a team of one, in which case they are just managing themselves, or they might have 20 people reporting to them that they can direct.

Whether you consider the resulting innovation top-down or bottom-up really depends on the context of that person within their organization. (And if you are in the organization, it depends on your own position in relation to that person).

Consider a manager in a company like Google who has 20 people reporting to her. Imagine that this manager has a vision of some innovation she believes she can achieve through the work of her 20-strong team, and so she manages the team in an extremely hierarchical and directed way in order to achieve it. She sets goals for individuals, she approves all design decisions, she vetoes any aspect of the project - at any level - that she doesn't like or that don't fit into her vision of how the result should look.

If the result of this process is ultimately perceived to be some Great Innovation (say, something like Google Maps), then outside observers are very likely to point at this as an example of why "bottom-up" is the best way to get innovation. After all, the manager was low-level, and was operating outside the direct influence of upper management, such that the innovation "emerged" rather than was designed from the top down.

Yet this same scenario tweaked such that the manager is instead the CEO of a 20 person company suddenly looks like the epitome of "top-down" hierarchy a la Steve Jobs. People will point at the CEO and say that she is controlling and hierarchical. But, again, if the result is good, this will be used as an example for why top-down hierarchies are "good" for innovation.

I've witnessed this directly in my own career. Several years back, as the lead of a team of ~20 people, I developed "innovative" new products that were not dictated by upper management of my 2000-person employer. It was seen as 'bottom-up' innovation in the organization, even though I was fairly hierarchical with the team and driving them to my vision. No matter, it was 'bottom-up' because I was innovating without being instructed by my bosses. Flash forward to being CEO of a 40+ person company with a ~20 person product/engineering team. The same characteristics that brought me success and the perception of "bottom-up" success at the large company are now perceived as "top-down" and controlling in this organization.

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