Adapt or Die: The Darwinism of Apple

Love, hate, envy, accept. Coming to terms with Apple’s dominance is not easy for everyone. There are mixed feelings, and allegiances that run deep in the tech world. However, there is no denying the impact Apple has had on innovation culture, not just in the realm of technology, but across all industries. Competitors and admirers alike are all rushing to emulate the creative model at the core of Apple’s success. So what’s the secret? How has Apple, a once endangered species, crawled back from the brink of extinction to become an example of a flourishing organism?

It isn’t a lack of imagination holding
any of us back, it’s a lack of adaptation.

Let’s avoid the well covered design innovations, marketing aptitude, and attention to detail that Apple is known for and focus instead on adaptation. Apple was once ‘Apple Computers’, a computer maker. Today Apple inc. is a device maker. The very same people who brought personal computing to the masses have now turned their backs on their creation to make room for something new, mobile devices. And they aren’t looking back. Steve Jobs was famous for saying, “If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.”1 This seems simple enough, right?

Try this simple exercise: imagine yourself convincing a board of directors that everything they know is now outdated, every process they’ve mastered is now obsolete, and the main product/service the organization offers needs to take a back seat to something new and unproven. It isn’t a lack of imagination holding any of us back, it’s a lack of adaptation. Apple came to this realization early on, which is how it managed to evolve. And it’s doing it again. The computer maker turned device maker is now a ‘content distributor’ as well.

The Appstore is where the gaming world, the business world, and the ‘waiting at the dentist’ world get their apps.

In order for any organism to sustain life and flourish, it needs an ecosystem. Borrowing again from nature, Apple has gone to great lengths to create that ecosystem. Every i-device is supported by an ecosystem consisting of a content delivery system – a sort of feed for our devices. iTunes is where the new generation gets its music to play on their iPod, iPhones, iPads and Macs. The Appstore is where the gaming world, the business world, and the ‘waiting at the dentist’ world get their apps. The iCloud is where i-device owners sync their settings, photos, and back up their data.

But what about that other Apple product, the AppleTV? Apple claims that TV is an intense area of interest. In fact, it isn’t difficult to imagine that all it would take to kill off cable and satellite TV is an AppStore for the AppleTV. Download the ‘NBC’ app and get the live broadcasts in HD with optional on-demand viewing of your favorite shows. With an ecosystem like this, who needs cable? The ability to adapt is only as beneficial as your ability to create a sustainable environment.

One can’t work without the other. One degree too warm or too cold and the system falls apart. This is where Apple is criticized for its tight control of its devices and the software they run on. But where others may feel that this need to control and regulate stifles creativity and limits users, Apple sees it as protection of the species. “ We have tremendous culture of innovation with a relenteless focus on making the world’s best products that change people’s lives,” says Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook.2 It seems that innovation at Apple is about creating an environment with no walls, no limitations, and a willingness to evolve.

The music, television and film industry executives would have been wise to heed Charles Darwin’s message, adapt or die. Something tells us that Apple received that message loud and clear.

1. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

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