Imagine working on a project that would change not only technology but human history? For Ken Kocienda, that was his reality. He became a part of project purple, which was the code name for the iPhone. Kocienda discusses creativity in the Steve Jobs era, and how his biggest failure led him to be one of the first 8 software people on the project.

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Ken Kocienda on Decisiveness

Kocienda has written down what made Apple great, in his book Creative Selection. In it, he tells stories about his work on Safari, iPad, iPhone during Steve Jobs’ leadership. A few key lessons that stick out to me are his takes on decisiveness, taste, and disagreement.

Kocienda told me decisiveness at Apple was a big deal. It was instrumental in making ground-breaking products. When Apple team members created demos, teams would make clear decisions on what to do next. Always. Even if they were wrong decisions, team leaders would still make concrete decisions and move forward.

Most of this comes from Jobs himself. He was very clear and decisive on everything. You can’t really know at the moment if a decision is right. Twenty more decisions down the road may be necessary to know for sure. Making bad decisions was actually quite useful. Committing to a bad decision, clearly showed teams not only what didn’t work, but why.


Disagreement Is Key To Collaboration At Apple

In order to make products turn out well, individual judgment, personal taste, and subjective viewpoints were required. Only when everyone’s personal taste was on the table, could Apple teams find balance. Everyone had their own subjectivity, but their opinions were all balanced by other, possibly incorrect views. Kocienda explains this is really hard work. It leads to disagreement.

Disagreement was pervasive and encouraged at Apple. Jobs may have been intimating, but he often wanted people to challenge each other, and team leaders encouraged that culture. “We had mutual acceptance of each other’s opinions.” Kocienda recounted. “You have to accept—really truly accept when someone tells you that they like or don’t like something. They express their personal subjective taste to you. Sometimes this can be really difficult to accept emotionally.”

It’s hard because you invest yourself in something for weeks, and then a team member tells you something is terrible. Instead of putting the barriers up, truly accepting the feedback and work through it is necessary for a boundary-breaking company. “When you do a piece of work, and the first person you show it to says ‘gosh, I really don’t like that,’ that person probably represents millions of people throughout the world.”

Accepting feedback, but also fighting for your own ideas is how Apple maintaied its incredible ideas during the Jobs era. There is no way to innovate without requesting, and accepting critical feedback and disagreement.


Learn More About Ken Kocienda

Check out Kocienda’s official website right here.




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