“Make it Glass” – Inside the Relentless Executive World of Apple

On February 10th, former Apple wizard, Rich Molyneux, visited the University of Southern California to provide exclusive insight into the internationally-acclaimed branding and execution strategies he implemented and witnessed during his six year career at Apple.

“There are key people at the head of every product’s team… Products had to be perfectly designed before they were even manufactured. Our advertising focused on perfected light and precision reflected over the glass screens. We even redesigned box handles. One of the first impacts we have on a customer happens when you walk into the store – we wanted to make sure that you’d be comfortable with that box in your hand. When you get home, it’s like opening a jewel box or uncovering a treasure.”


And right down to the mute button on the side of the iPhone: “The placement, design, color of that red dot would take many hours to arrive by.” Apple evidently pays painstaking attention the detail, manufacture and delivery of its products, but Molyneux insists that it was no easy feat behind the scenes, especially under the direction of the late CEO, Steve Jobs.

What were Job’s strengths, according to Molyneux? “His vision. He was thinking geographically, camera, game machine, HD Video.” Jobs boldly thought two generations of product ahead. He set goals for $7M in sales when others went for $5M, pushing his engineering and manufacturing teams to match. And Jobs was relentless, with a given “ability to see around the corner. The spirit of the company was ‘What do I have to do to make this happen?’ It was never pushed back. It was figured out.”

Molyneux claims that his second interview, in which he appeared in jeans as opposed to a stuffy suit, was much more successful and led Apple interviewers to finally label him a “good cultural fit.” He continues: “Overall, those who were happy to be at the company were the happiest people in the world. People who fit there fit in very quickly. You either catch the fever or you’re gone.”

Apple CEO Steve Jobs poses with the new iPhone 4 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California
Apple CEO Steve Jobs poses with the new iPhone 4 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, June 7, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SCI TECH)

Naturally, Jobb’s leadership had its weak points. “In terms of HR, he was good at hiring key people,” Molyneux reveals, “but he neglected looking at the overall organization. There was a lack of accountability in how vendors were treated.” Apple fell victim to “squeezing people without a thoughtful remedy for the high pressure.” This squeeze was reflected in the intense executive travel obligations: “I commuted from LAX to Cupertino. I spent 3 1/2 months in China and I never lived there.”

There was also an overly-casual way in which really big decisions were made. After Jobb’s famous iPhone announcement at MacWorld in 2007, he walked off the stage, handed the original polycarbonate iPhone off to the engineering Head and said, “Make it glass.” Molyneux believes that was the “right decision, but that conversion was extremely difficult with 8 weeks left to manufacture [the new model]. We were only saved by our previous legwork.”

tim cook

Though he believes Tim Cook is a “great, traditional CEO,” he sees more room for growth: “I think they’re still looking for that technical inspiration that Steve Jobs provided… Apple used to just WORK across your devices in a “seamless halo effect” – that is eroding. They’re so focused on the iPhone 7 but they’re losing touch with the groundwork that made the earlier models’ software and interface so seamless.”

Would Molyneux work there again? “It’s not in my DNA anymore, but the people I [worked with and] supported? If they needed me again, I would.”

Sent from my iPhone/Macbook/Apple Halo,

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