I was talking to a friend this week who worked at Apple for a number of years. I have long been interested in Apple's culture and have looked at it from many different angles. My friend summed it up well though – he said it was like the world's biggest start-up. Now he was there in the last decade so this was many years after Apple was really a start-up.
How did Apple do this? How did it manage to foster a culture that felt like a start-up and was able to develop such groundbreaking products while still being huge and prudently run?
The day after I spoke to my friend I read an article by the musician Moby, talking about why he moved from New York to LA. You can read the whole transcript below but the main point he made was that LA was so much more open to people failing as a route to success. New York had become uptight about things not working out first time, while LA saw it as part of the creative journey.
The paradox of Apple - certainly on Steve Job's watch when my friend was there - is that while it absolutely wouldn't countenance product failure it encouraged the kind of constant rapidfire failure and learning that comes from trial and error development.
A lot of big companies develop cultures where no one wants to or is allowed to fail in the day to day work place but large scale project failure or at least under delivery is tolerated.
If you want to foster the culture and the performance of a start-up you need to flip that.