Does Tim Cook Possess the ‘Art of Logic’?

Written on
Oct 4, 2011 
Christian Lindholm  |

ADOTAS – Since the announcement of Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple, many stories have done the rounds analysing Tim Cook’s skill set and suitability as leader of one of the highest-profile companies of the century.

While nobody would deny that Apple has an incredible design and product team in place, the final call on decisions large and small no longer sits with one of the most respected business and design thinkers in the world. So how can Apple ensure that it stays on the right path?

When faced with design or product related challenges, many Apple employees have often asked themselves “What would Steve do?” This question sums up a long standing approach for many at the consumer electronics powerhouse, but the final stamp of approval and the decision on the table will now sit with someone else. Will employees soon be asking themselves “What would Tim do?”

To ensure the best chance of success, millions – sometimes billions – of dollars go into the R&D of a new product, ensuring that it excites the market and ultimately flies off the shelves. However, in my opinion, it’s “the art of logic” that enables the decision-maker in a company like Apple to repeatedly win over their audience.

Any great product is a combination of hundreds if not thousands of small binary decisions. Should the product be black or white? Should the “rotate key” lock the screen or would it be better placed as a “mute” key? Clearly someone has to make the decision, and it needs to be consistent throughout an upcoming product line.

Often, no amount of R&D can help. It’s a combination of understanding the market, having a crystal-clear vision of the user experience benefit and taking it to the next level. That intelligence needs to be packaged up and taken forward with a sheer determination that allows the person in the driving seat to remain focused, ignore distractions, and avoid developing an ego that blocks input from others.

So, to achieve the incredible success that Apple has experienced, you need to harness the art of logic. It means finding a way forward that combines the art of predicting what users are going to want in the future, and the science of involving users in creation by harvesting their feedback on future plans. Or to put it another way, the art of logic leads to a highest common denominator between creating and fulfilling needs.

The “art” is making a conscious prediction about the future that will differentiate you from the competition, while the “logic” involves meticulously applying the same knowledge as your rivals. If several businesses are entering the same sector and are researched in the same way, they will probably deliver similar results. But if one applies the art side and takes a bold gamble on something (e.g. an unproved technology, an underdog, a weak trend), they can achieve differentiation.

The question that many Apple fans, industry analysts, shareholders and journalists are asking is “Does Tim Cook have the power to continue the success of Apple?” Unfortunately, the “art of logic” is not a skill or task that can be delegated down the food chain. It has to sit with the person at the top. If it’s passed around the team, the “final call” decision process becomes diluted and unstable and it simply won’t stand up as time progresses. This is how a product line can easily become fragmented.

Only time will tell whether Apple’s new leader will have the ability to continue the journey. With Steve Jobs still playing an important role at the company, it would be surprising to see any decisions made in the near future that fundamentally rock the boat, but any inconsistencies in upcoming designs could suggest that Tim isn’t applying the same potent mix of logic and art as his predecessor.

Christian Lindholm is Chief Innovation Officer at service design agency Fjord. Christian is one of the digital design industry’s true gurus, being highly respected throughout the web and mobile space. (So much so that Helsinki’s top daily once described him as "the godfather of mobile phone users.") As a partner at Fjord, Christian has been able to combine his mobile and web experience to steer the development of world-beating digital design solutions. This included linking up with Nokia to create the market-leading LifeBlog, and his vast experience has allowed him to ensure that Fjord’s creations continue to meet the needs of the mass market while remaining at the forefront of innovation.

Previously, Christian was VP of Mobile Products at Yahoo, overseeing the development of several leading platforms including the award-winning Yahoo Go 2.0. Before that, he managed the digital design team at Nokia and was responsible for the iconic navi-key user interface and the highly regarded series 60 operating system. He oversaw Nokia’s digital design when the company was at the height of its domination of the mobile handset marketplace.

Christian has written for top publications such as Businessweek and is a frequent conference speaker. As one of the fathers of the smartphone revolution, his views are much in demand, and he is one of the industry’s most incisive commentators.

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