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TECHNOLOGY

Steve Jobs Said Goodbye to Micromanagement. Now His Company Could Be Worth a Trillion

Apple is closing in on being the first ever company to be worth a trillion dollars. Why? Because it’s always been treated like a start up.

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BY Gene Hammett - 08 Jun 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Apple is the most valuable company on the planet. With a market capitalization of more than $950 billion, it could be the first company to reach a trillion market cap.

The company continues to evolve and create new products. Apple has one of the strongest brands in the technology sector and is able to charge a whopping $999 for its cell phones. Apple stock jumped in May 2018 when Warren Buffett, the oracle of Omaha, revealed on the eve of the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting that Berkshire had acquired 75 million more shares.

What makes a company like this continue to lead the world in terms of growth and innovation? It can be summed up in one fundamental that all companies can learn from: organize the company more like a startup than a corporation.

Steve Jobs is the ionic leader who co-founded the company. He left the company in 1985 over disputes with the board of directors. The board didn't believe Jobs was the right leader. Apple continued without Jobs with modest growth for over a decade. In 1997, the new board asked Jobs to come back to lead a new revolution of devices. Jobs knew he had to shift the culture to more of act more like a startup. In four years, Jobs had transformed the company culture back to its roots and launched a new product that change the way we engage with music, the iPod.

I study leadership with hypergrowth companies, mostly from the Inc. 5000. I have seen similar structures of leadership with fast growing companies. The "startup" mentality has guided these companies to double and triple their revenues over a year.

So much has been said about Jobs as a leader. He was often very harsh with the people he worked with. Jobs is also known for getting the best out of others. Jobs knew that he had to create a collaborative company to build the technology that would change the world. Jobs often talked about how Apple's structure is not like that of traditional companies. In fact, he saw Apple as the world's largest startup.

Here are three ways that Apple breaks the norms of company structure that you can model for continuous -- hopefully trillion-dollar -- evolution.

1. No Management by Committee

Apple does not operate by committee. Jobs said, "Do you know how many committees we have at Apple? Zero." He went on to talk about how the structure of the business performs best when they break up work into areas where one person is in charge of key aspects of the business like operating systems, hardware, marketing, etc.

They meet for three hours each week to talk about what they are working on. This keeps them working on their projects in separate groups, but also allows them to know what the other teams are doing too.

2. No Hierarchy of Ideas

At Apple, the best ideas win in their meetings. Jobs was never expected to have all the ideas. In fact, he demanded the teams to collaborate around the ideas. Jobs would spend much of his time floating between teams to work on ideas and solve problems.

This aligns with my research with hypergrowth companies, where they are always looking for the best ideas to win. It's not about your fancy education, years of experience or your position. Company leaders who allow the best ideas to surface and collaborate to make them even better are the ones who will make better products.

When Jobs was asked, "Are people willing to tell you that you are wrong?" He responded with: "Oh, yeah. We have wonderful arguments." Job goes on to say that if you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions.

3. No Micromanagement

Trust is a cornerstone of leadership. However, when you continuously micromanage within your company, you will naturally erode trust. According to Jobs, teamwork is trusting that others will come through with their part without watching them all the time. There is no room for micromanaging within your company if you want to create an organization that creates value. In other words, one that works like a start up.

Tim Cook, Apple's current CEO, shared his thoughts on Jobs with these words, "He's not given credit as a teacher. But he's the best teacher I ever had by far. There was nothing traditional about him as a teacher. But he was the best. He was the absolute best."

Apple has a clear directive when it comes to teamwork. The teamwork at the top of the company is how they all stay connected on all the separate projects of a company of this size. The concept of teamwork filters throughout the company too. When teams are collaborating and working together, they continuously innovate.

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