Clay “Innovator’s Dilemma” Christensen penned a very interesting piece in Reuters (thanks to Chetan Sharma for pointing it out to me): “Jobs made Apple great by ignoring profit.”
Christensen argues that one of the keys to Apple’s long-term success — and one of the safeguards against Apple being disrupted by others — is the company’s lack of focus on profit:
Many people have written about what makes Jobs and Apple special, but I think they’re missing what truly set him apart. Jobs has succeeded by eschewing the one thing that most people view as the raison d’être for companies — profit . . .
I have come to the conclusion that what has made Apple so different is that instead of having a profit motive at its core, it has something else entirely. Many big companies like to pretend this is the case — “we put our customers first” — but very few truly live by that mantra. When the pressure is on and the CEO of a big public company has to choose between doing what’s best for the customer or making the quarter’s numbers… most CEOs will choose the numbers.
Apple never has.
As paradoxical as it is that the pursuit of profit is what causes the long-term failure of companies, I believe that Apple’s lack of focus on profitability has actually made it one of the most successful companies in the history of capitalism.
It’s a brief but very interesting article. However the question, now that Apple is the most valuable tech company in the world, is: will Apple be able to keep doing what it has been doing or will it become more conservative under less inspired leadership?