Fortune just published a long, fascinating excerpt from an upcoming book about Apple called “Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works“ by author Adam Lashinsky, Fortune’s senior editor-at-large. It reveals how far the company is willing to go to ensure its secretive culture. It also tells a tale of Apple’s organizational structure and what makes them tick. Interestingly, Lashinsky writes that Apple’s design guru Jonathan Ive is among the “untouchables,” corroborating claims laid out in the official Jobs biography book by Walter Isaacson. Apple’s late CEO told his biographer that he made sure nobody can touch his “spiritual partner” Ive at Apple. “That’s the way I set it up,” he told Isaacson. Speaking of Apple’s famous culture of secrecy and lack of corporate transparency (at Apple, everything is a secret!), Lashinsky writes it takes two basic forms —external and internal. Needles to say, many employees can hardly stomach security policies focused on preserving internal secrets:
Apple employees know something big is afoot when the carpenters appear in their office building. New walls are quickly erected. Doors are added and new security protocols put into place. Windows that once were transparent are now frosted. Other rooms have no windows at all. They are called lockdown rooms: No information goes in or out without a reason.
As you could imagine, this is “disconcerting” for employees. Organization charts are nowhere to be seen at Apple. There are no open doors as folks use badges to access areas that sometimes even their boss cannot. Only few people at Apple are allowed into Jonathan Ive’s industrial design bunker. People working on hot projects are required to sign “extra-special agreements acknowledging that you were working on a super-secret project and you wouldn’t talk about it to anyone – not your wife, not your kids.” Even former employees do not talk to press and some were reprimanded for talking too much. Apple goes to great lengths to prevent secrets from leaking and maintain discipline culminates with carefully orchestrated media events akin to a blockbuster Hollywood movie-opening weekend.
People working on launch events will be given watermarked paper copies of a booklet called Rules of the Road that details every milestone leading up to launch day. In the booklet is a legal statement whose message is clear: If this copy ends up in the wrong hands, the responsible party will be fired.
Steve Jobs would often tell executives participating in a meeting “Anything disclosed from this meeting will result not just in termination but in the prosecution to the fullest extent that our lawyers can.” Of course, Apple is keen on keeping everyone else on a need-to-know basis described by a former employee as “the ultimate need‑to‑know culture.” Trustworthiness is not assumed, he recalled:
Quite likely you have no idea what is going on, and it’s not like you’re going to ask. If it hasn’t been disclosed to you, then it’s literally none of your business. What’s more, your badge, which got you into particular areas before the new construction, no longer works in those places. All you can surmise is that a new, highly secretive project is under way, and you are not in the know. End of story.
Apple expects newbies to figure out on their own how to connect their newly issued Macs to the corporate network. In addition, executives teach every subordinate that the hype preceding Apple product launches is “worth millions of dollars,” telling them in no ambiguous terms that the penalty for revealing Apple secrets is “swift termination.”
For new recruits, keeping secrets begins even before they learn which building they’ll be working in. Many employees are hired into so‑called dummy positions, roles that aren’t explained in detail until after they join the company. “They wouldn’t tell me what it was,” remembered a former engineer who had been a graduate student before joining Apple. “I knew it was related to the iPod, but not what the job was.” Others do know but won’t say, a realization that hits the newbies on their first day of work at new-employee orientation. “You sit down, and you start with the usual roundtable of who is doing what,” recalled Bob Borchers, a product marketing executive in the early days of the iPhone. “And half the folks can’t tell you what they’re doing, because it’s a secret project that they’ve gotten hired for.”
Make sure to check out the source article over at Fortune that contains a lengthy excerpt from “Inside Apple.” Based on earlier excerpts, we also know that “Inside Apple” portrays iOS head Scott Forstall as Apple’s “CEO-in-waiting.” The book is tabulated at 240-to-272 pages and is scheduled to hit bookstores Jan. 25. Lashinsky said his book is based on numerous interviews and was born from an investigative piece he did for Fortune last year. It should be noted, however, that Lashinsky did not enjoy unparalleled access to Apple executives, unlike his peer Isaacson. You can pre-order “Inside Apple” at Amazon for $16.92 for the hardcover version, $12.99 for the Kindle version, or $17.92 if you prefer audio format. The iBookstore also has it available for pre-order, priced at $12.99. Check out Business Insider’s one-on-one with Lashinsky about working at Apple and his book…
- Adam Lashinsky’s look ‘Inside Apple’ profiles iOS head Scott Forstall as Apple’s ‘CEO-in-waiting’ (9to5mac.com)
- Adam Lashinsky’s look ‘Inside Apple’ will be released on January 25th (9to5mac.com)
- Fortune releases ‘All about Steve’ (9to5mac.com)
- Isaacson interviewed Jony Ive in his bunker, here’s what came out with him (9to5mac.com)