The Jony Ive Theory of Risk

McLeod Governance has been reading a fascinating New Yorker profile of Sir Jony Ive.

Ive is the Apple designer of the the MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, Mac mini, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini, Apple Watch and iOS 7 (which when written like that is a seriously impressive resume!).

If you want to seek to understand one of the of the driving forces in one of our generation’s most important companies – and global industrial design – then the profile is well worth the time to consume the 16,000 word tome.

As we read the article it struck us that that wonderful resume of game changing; category changing; indeed, life changing products was as a result of Ive and Apple being prepared to fail.

And fail spectacularly. 

Many of the products at the time were big plays by Apple that – now lost to the optimistic view of hindsight – could have ruined or significantly dented Apple’s and Ive’s reputation. 

The launch this week of the Apple Watch is a great example of where there are many people prepared – whether through self interest or otherwise – to articulate why something won’t work (although we have our money on us all soon answering our phones by raising our wrists to our ear).

Apple and Ive were prepared to take big risks to get big rewards.

We at McLeod Governance have a theory.

Businesses now rarely take the big risks that they once did.

Perhaps it is the bitterness of experience that the current generations leaders experienced in the darkened halls of the global financial crisis.

Perhaps it is because the global business community has come to a realisation that a boom / bust mentality only guarantees stress.

Perhaps it is because we have got better at understanding the true costs of our efforts.

Perhaps it is because the global financial and capital markets are much more informed – a product of many of the products that Apple has mastered.

We need to continue to take big risks.  

We need to continue to fail big.

And we need to learn the lesson often retold but beautifully captured by Henry Ford:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

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