Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

The Path to Mediocrity: Pride and Protectiveness

The Path to Mediocrity: Pride and Protectiveness

One reason that Steve Jobs got fired from Apple in 1985 was that he was so possessive of his treasured Macintosh, even as it struggled to survive.  For example, he ignored the views of customers who were anxious for Apple to allow independent software vendors to write application software for the Mac.  Once Jobs was gone, Apple launched the Macintosh II with color graphics and third party software tools like Aldus Pagemaker, which turned the Mac into a popular desktop publishing system which temporarily gave the Mac some life.  In essence, Jobs had been too proud and protective of the Mac.

Frankly, Apple seems to be guilty of the same kind of possessiveness today regarding its iPhone. For a couple of years now many consumers have been pointing out that the screen is too small.  They love the big screen of the Samsung Galaxy models.  Additionally, there is no doubt there is a segment of the smartphone market, particularly in emerging markets, that find the current iPhone offerings way too expensive.

So…what is the result?  Apple is losing ground. International Data Corporation (IDC) recently released market shares for the smartphone industry for the calendar year 2013.  Apple’s global share dropped from 18.7% in 2012 to 15.3% in 2013.  The big gainers were Samsung, Lenovo, LG, and Huawei.  The market leader is Samsung, whose market share increased from 30.3% a year ago up to 31.3% in 2013.  IDC’s program director Ryan Reith commented “among the top trends driving smartphone growth are large screen devices and low cost.  Of the two, I have to say that low cost is the key difference maker.”

Apple’s recent business results are consistent with this market share info.  Specifically, Apple announced their October-December 2013 financial results which showed iPhone shipments failing to meet expectations.  This led to a quick 8% drop in the stock price.

Net, just like Steve Jobs in the early 1980’s when he clearly had minimal interest in any product ideas he didn’t originate, today’s Apple seems entirely too proud and protective of its original and current small-screen, high-priced iPhone design.

The lesson here is obvious:

You Are Only As Good As Your Latest Bright Idea!

A leader needs to create a culture that is tightly focused on finding new ideas and approaches and trying them out.  Too often we see success causing people to believe they have finally figured things out and that the challenge now is to not mess it up; that is, they become very protective of the status quo.

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