Apple University & Mission Formation

Apple, Inc. is synonymous with Steve Jobs. As co-founder and CEO of the tech company, Jobs is credited not only with leading the creation of the Macintosh personal computer, but the iPod and the iPhone as well.  A few years ago, when Jobs took a medical leave, many pundits feared it was the end of Apple. With their visionary leader no longer at the helm, the company would certainly loose direction and would have no choice but to slowly fade away.

This, of course, was not the case. Apple thrived in Jobs’ absence and soon debuted the iPad to great critical acclaim and commercial success.

Even so, stockholders, owners of Apple products and media analysts wonder what will happen to the company when Jobs inevitably leaves. The concern is this: how can they be assured that the founder’s vision is continued when they are no longer around to guide the organization?

Catholic Healthcare and Apple, Inc. are in the same boat.

The ministry of Catholic Healthcare is a few steps ahead of Apple, however. It has been many, many decades since the sisters (and others) founded the hospitals in which we serve today. We’ve dealt with mission drift, created the role of mission leader and created many effective mission formation programs to prepare our leaders to continue the mission.

Here’s what Apple is doing: In 2008, they hired Joel Podolny from the Yale School of Management to begin Apple University. He was to learn how Apple operated - how they made decisions. With a deeper understanding of the Apple way of business, he will then develop a curriculum that will be taught to Apple employees.

Horace Dediu writes about Apple University and the consequences of not teaching new generations of leaders:

Knowledge about decisions disappears once the decision maker moves on, leaving a new generation to figure out the causes of success (and failure) all over again.

Apple is planning for the future. They are doing formation.

Michael Miller, Jr.