Life After Steve Jobs: Apple University for Execs

| Analysis

Steve Jobs led a company that kept its secrets well. He was also a very private person in many ways. In contrast, now that he’s gone, the volume of material about him, indeed surprising stories, may will start to come at an ever increasing pace. Here is one of them.

When Steve Jobs was alive, people in Mr. Jobs’s confidence didn’t speak out. That was basic decency, courtesy, friendship and respect. However, now that he’s no longer with us, the floodgates will start to open.

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is due to be published on October 24. Pre-publication excerpts from that book hav already revealed how Mr. Jobs felt about his iconic jeans, sneakers and black turtleneck. Accordingly, I suspect that earlier books about Steve Jobs will also take on renewed life as we seek to further put his life into perspective.

In addition to what’s known about Mr. Jobs by those who have worked for him, we can also expect to discover the preparations that Mr. Jobs made, knowing that the end was coming sooner rather than later. In his now legendary commencement address at Stanford in 2005, Mr. Jobs explained that when one hears that phrase from the oncologist, “Get your affairs in order,” there are certain things that must be done right away. Fortunately, Mr. Jobs had more time than some less fortunate to do exactly that.

Little did we know that Mr. Jobs had hired Joel Podolny, the former dean of Yale’s Business School in 2008 to to come in house, study Mr. Job’s and build an executive training program that could teach other Apple executives how to think like the Master. The inside story is told beautifully by Jessica Guynn at the Los Angeles Times.

Ms. Guynn wrote, “He [Jobs] identified tenets that he believes unleash innovation and sustain success at Apple — accountability, attention to detail, perfectionism, simplicity, secrecy. And he oversaw the creation of university-caliber courses that demonstrate how those principles translate into business strategies and operating practices.” Mr. Podolny has, I surmise, been teaching these principles to other Apple executives for several years now, in preparation for the time when Mr. Jobs himself could no longer lead Apple. Investment analysts should take note.

I suspect that there will be more of these types of disclosures as others begin to reveal what Steve Jobs was doing and thinking as he proceeded to get his affairs in order in his own unique style. The result will be a body of literature that will add considerably to that already in existence.

The examination of Steve Jobs, a legacy in his own time, will likely give us much, much more than we might have imagined to study and think about for the next 50 years. The body of knowledge (and maybe even some myth) may just be starting to grow exponentially. That’s the way it is with men of his caliber.

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I’m pretty sure I had read about this last year sometime, though it’s probably the first time Joel Podolny has spoken about it publicly.

Edit: Yep, some details came out in 2008, and it was mentioned again this summer in some Fortune article.]


I sooo want to wake up from this.


I understand the rational behind an Apple University. However, much of Jobs’  success has to do with who he was as a person, and a bit of luck. Unlike most executives, Jobs wasn’t really motivated by wealth. Was this because he was already wealthy, or because he just loved building great companies, who knows.

The guy was a buddhist, vegetarian, and a democrat. He didn’t exactly fit any corporate CEO mold.

Lee Dronick

He didn?t exactly fit any corporate CEO mold

No he didn’t and may that is why he could do what he did. I guess one would also need a Board of Directors that are not so hidebound as those that come from a mold. I suspect business schools will be offering classes in Jobsian leadership and management, if they are not already doing so. Planning for profits well into the future, not just the next quarter or two

“A society grows great when old men plant trees
whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”


I sooo want to wake up from this.

Yep, I feel ya, bro.  Same page.  :(


Having a corporate university is nothing new. Trying to continue a corporate philosophy is nothing new. What would be new is actually accomplishing such a feat for a couple of generations.

Companies are run by people and employ people. People are different and do “think different” from one another. Add in some personal ego and the result is things eventually change. That change can be bad, neutral or good. Time will tell what these new leaders do with their inheritance.


That’s the thing, you can’t really teach someone to have all of the variables that make a person who they are, what informs the actions they take, the things they do (look no further than Google or Microsoft for evidence). I truly believe that though someone like Mr. Jobs can certainly serve as the inspiration, ultimately it is our own individual essence and methodology that will bear the fruit for us; focused through that lens, perhaps, but we always bring ourselves to the party, as it should be.

The greatest lesson I learned from Steve (even at one remove) and others like him is that we can trust ourselves and our own vision to lead us where we need to go. This is the true x-factor, and though it isn’t something that can be recreated per se, it is something that can be nurtured and engendered. That was his greatest gift IMHO, and to me personally. smile


“Little did we know that Mr. Jobs had hired Joel Podolny, the former dean of Yale?s Business School in 2008 to to come in house, study Mr. Job?s and build an executive training program that could teach other Apple executives how to think like the Master. “

“The importance of his new position at Apple was apparent from the first day. Podolny moved into an office in between Jobs and Cook, he confided in former colleagues. And, in a testament to Jobs’ faith in Podolny, he was later named vice president of human resources.”

Amongst the widespread speculations about whether Tim Cook has everything Apple needs of its CEO to keep its progress going, or whether “Mini-SteveScott Forstall will need to step up into Steve Job’s product development captain’s seat, perhaps there ought to be more wondering whether Steve might have already (many months & years ago) apprenticed & annointed Podolny as his invisible resident “Holy Ghost” of Steve (hidden there for years between Steve’s & Tim’s offices) to be his personal overseer of all operations & counsel Tim about how keep them as close to how Steve would have overseen them, even before Steve completely departed.

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