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How Does Apple Do It?: The Innovators

With the iPad, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and his team of leading edge innovators have done it again. Can you do it?
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iMac.

iPod.

iPhone.

And now the iPad, the latest innovation from

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

. CEO Steve Jobs and his team of leading edge innovators have done it again.

How does Apple do it?

Can anyone else do it?

Can you?

Think strategically, think simply, and as Apple said in its infamous advertising campaign, "think differently" with these considerations:

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  • 1. Connect the Dots (and Dashes) -- Find the pain or frustration that customers and prospects are feeling and come up with possible solutions to explore. Apple is relentless in putting things together that seem natural, but also things that aren't. A portable phone is for convenience of talking anywhere at any time, but who would think about playing games, looking up stock quotes, or accessing computer capabilities on the same device? Some things don't make sense until you think about maximizing utilitarian value.
  • 2. Ask, What If? -- Simplifying something, combining something, or eliminating something is a great place to begin brainstorming. The true test is assessing whether it's of value to someone "if ..." If you could enable someone to access his emails without being at his desk, would people find that valuable? If you could pack up your desktop computing and take it with you, would people find that useful?
  • 3. Go Smaller or Bigger -- A true phenomena and paradox: while we're miniaturizing some gadgets, TV screens and computer monitors are getting ginormous. Size matters, but bigger is not always better. Consider the possibilities. Consider the alternatives. Consider how someone would use something and under what conditions. A giant display on a desk makes sense and so does a miniature one displayed in an airplane seat or on a train.
  • 4. Risk Failure -- While some things will be hits, others won't. Remember Apple failed miserably to dominate the desktop in business and lost out to the inferior PC. This was due to several things, not the least of which was focusing on education rather than business markets, and being very restrictive in encouraging application software development by outsiders. Apple's board attempted a monumental leadership transformation under PepsiCo's (PEP) - Get Report John Scully. It was a disaster. Yet, Apple not only kept going, but found a renewed resurgence in passion, purpose, and product innovation under its founder's return to the helm.
  • 5. Go Younger or Older -- While some hip gadgets appeal to younger buyers, don't forget an aging population who wants to hang on to or reignite technology to better their lifestyle or quality of life. Think large print, one device vs. juggling many. Age isn't the only demographic. Consider others as well as psychographics and adapting to targeted buyer profiles.
  • 6. Elegance is in Simplicity -- Instead of cumbersome code and unforgiving strings of hieroglyphic-like code, what if there was a way for people to point at easily recognizable pictures? And the graphical user interface was created. If there is one thing we are all craving in product and services design and process, it's simplicity. Less is more when it comes to setup, operations, and servicing anything and everything.

Leadership and cultural personality matters as well.

Steve Jobs is a fierce competitor, a savvy marketer, and a man on a mission to dominate the world of gadgetry. The first two characterizations are undeniable, the last point is my personal observation. Regardless, there is no denying that innovation is driven by people who are also driven. He has created a company that attracts and fosters experimentation and daring inquiry into the fusion of the known and what could be.

While every leader can't be Jobs or

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

Bill Gates

, they can encourage, invest, and consider research, training, and development, to engage in actions with no immediate return to the company.

There is one troubling dimension for Apple's innovation future.

It is wrapped up in and around the frightening singularity that is Apple - CEO Jobs. Should anything happen to him -- health scares have been troubling -- the company may suffer from tremendous fear, uncertainty, and doubt in its ability to continue to innovate.

As every successful team owner knows, bench strength counts.

Vince Crew, is founder of REACH Development Services (www.REACHdevelopment.com). He has more than 30 years of Communications and Ethics experience and holds a master of science degree in marketing and communication, with an emphasis on "Leadership and Ethical Decision Making During the Lifecycle of an Organization." Vince is a national media expert on business innovation, strategic growth and leadership. He has been interviewed by Entrepreneur magazine, Fox Business Network, CNN, CNBC and more. Crew is the author of four books, including his latest, Everyday Ethics, Everlasting Consequences.