The existence of Apple University, a college of sort for teaching the Apple way at Apple’s Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino, California, is not a secret. But the details of how Apple University works and what the school teaches have been mostly hidden from the spotlight. Today, The New York Times has published a fairly extensive profile of Apple University, which is well-worth a read.
Unlike many corporations, Apple runs its training in-house, year round. The full-time faculty — including instructors, writers and editors — create and teach the courses. Some faculty members come from universities like Yale; Harvard; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and M.I.T., and some continue to hold positions at their schools while working for Apple.
Apple University is run by former Yale business school dean Joel Podolny, and Podolny took a full-time role as Dean of Apple University earlier this year as he handed off his former Human Resources responsibilities to Denise Young-Smith. The New York Times’s profile discusses some of the classes. Courses range from those for the leaders of newly acquired companies to learn how to integrate their former businesses into Apple to courses about simplifying products.
In “What Makes Apple, Apple,” another course that Mr. Nelson occasionally teaches, he showed a slide of the remote control for the Google TV, said an employee who took the class last year. The remote has 78 buttons. Then, the employee said, Mr. Nelson displayed a photo of the Apple TV remote, a thin piece of metal with just three buttons. How did Apple’s designers decide on three buttons? They started out with an idea, Mr. Nelson explained, and debated until they had just what was needed — a button to play and pause a video, a button to select something to watch, and another to go to the main menu.
While Apple University teaches Apple employees some key lessons about Apple’s decision making processes that led to the company’s rapid growth and success over the past decade, the most important take away is that Apple has set up a unique and comprehensive experience for ensuring that the company continues to thrive in the immediate post-Steve Jobs era and beyond.