No transparency, no managers and products over promotion – new book on Apple lifts the lid


Adam Lashinksy’s expose of Apple

As Apple reports record profits of $6bn in the last quarter alone, Fortune journalist Adam Lashinksy has published a book claiming to reveal how exactly the world’s biggest company does it.

Lashinksy’s unauthorised analysis, Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired – and Secretive – Company Really Works, goes on sale tomorrow. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, Lashinksy told business editor Simon Jack that the book reveals how Apple doesn’t follow normal business rules.

“Jobs had an open disdain for business rules,” says Lashinksy. “He didn’t care much for MBAs in general. Where business schools teach the principles of general management and managers that are jacks of all trade, Apple values expertise, they laugh at the idea of a general manager.

“Business schools teach the idea of transparency; Apple is as opaque and secretive as companies come.”  

Lashinksy goes onto to describe how the secretive ethos at Apple trickles down throughout the employees right out into the everyday. “Someone I know in San Francisco plays in a regular poker game with Apple employees and when the subject of Apple comes up around the poker table, everyone changes the subject,” he told Today.

But if the Inside Apple excerpt published by Fortune is anything to go by, this anecdote is nothing compared with what the book has in store:

Apple employees know something big is afoot when the carpenters appear in their office building. New walls are quickly erected. Doors are added and new security protocols put into place. Windows that once were transparent are now frosted. Other rooms have no windows at all. They are called lockdown rooms: No information goes in or out without a reason.

The hubbub is disconcerting for employees. Quite likely you have no idea what is going on, and it’s not like you’re going to ask. If it hasn’t been disclosed to you, then it’s literally none of your business. What’s more, your badge, which got you into particular areas before the new construction, no longer works in those places. All you can surmise is that a new, highly secretive project is under way, and you are not in the know. End of story.

And it’s not just secrecy that sets the world’s biggest company apart. Many would assume those working in a business that thrives on innovation and being one step ahead would be equally ambitious themselves. Yet according to the author, the traditional structures surrounding promotion don’t exist at Apple:

“Whereas, the mantra in the rest of the business world is, how can I get ahead? How can I promote myself? Apple is all about promoting Apple and only Apple and not you,” said Lashinksy on Today.  

Writing on the Apple Blog on Gigaom.com, tech journo Erica Ogg is full of praise for Inside Apple. Comparing it to Walter Isaacson’s best-selling Steve Jobs biography published at the end of last year, Ogg points to Lashinksy’s lack of authorisation from Apple as being a crucial factor:

“He has had firsthand experience watching Apple’s rebirth, and he has interviewed many current and former Apple employees about their work and experience with Jobs. And this can’t be stressed enough: Lashinksy did this all without any cooperation from Apple, Jobs or current Apple CEO Tim Cook,” writes Ogg.

Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired – and Secretive – Company Really Works goes on sale tomorrow.