'Apple University' Trains Future Apple Executives with Focus on Missteps of Apple and Others
Details of Adam Lashinsky's new Inside Apple book set to debut tomorrow continue to surface, and while some of the ideas behind the company's "Apple University" program for training the next generation of executives were previously disclosed in Lashinsky's original Fortune piece on the topic and in a Los Angeles Times article last October, the new book takes a more extensive look at the concept.
As had been previously disclosed, Apple in 2008 hired Yale School of Management dean Joel Podolny to head up the Apple University initiative on management training. Several other professors, including Harvard business historian Richard Tedlow, came on board in consulting roles to help develop the curriculum. Classes were primarily taught by Apple executives, with guidance offered by Podolny and the other professors.
Examples of the case studies being taught at Apple University include the story of how Apple crafted its retail strategy from scratch and Apple's approach to commissioning factories in China. Wherever possible the cases shine a light on mishaps, the thinking being that a company has the most to learn from its mistakes.
Tedlow quietly retired from Harvard last year, and is now working full-time for Apple to add his expertise on U.S. business history to the Apple University curriculum. His lectures reportedly draw upon crises and missteps experienced by other major businesses, events which offer lessons to help Apple's future leaders avoid similar pitfalls and learn how to respond when faced with adversity.
[H]e is teaching them business lessons about other companies that the Apple executives can apply to their own situations. For instance, Tedlow has lectured Apple's PR staff on the Tylenol tampering crisis of 1982 and how the McNeil Consumer Products unit of Johnson & Johnson responded. He taught a class for executives about the fallen grocery store chain A&P as an example of what happened to a company that once dominated its field. Quipped an attendee: "We were all trying to figure out what A&P had to do with Apple."
Lashinsky notes it that will be interesting to watch how the company that shunned traditional business school business practices under Steve Jobs evolves over time now that academics have been brought in to help mold the next generation of Apple leaders. That evolution will, however, likely take years before it becomes apparent to the public.