Why MA Innovation Management – Culture, divergence and convergence (Part 2)

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The biography of Steve Jobs describes how he went against the stream of current best practices of management and business administration. He proved that there are other ways of creating and leading a very successful company. From the book it is possible to distill three main areas that have led

The biography of Steve Jobs describes how he went against the stream of current best practices of management and business administration. He proved that there are other ways of creating and leading a very successful company. From the book it is possible to distill three main areas that have led to this success: marketing, strategy and design.

 

The marketing of Apple was mainly shaped by the first chairman of that company, Mike Markkula, who wrote the three pillars of Apple’s marketing philosophy: empathy, focus and imputation. Especially relevant at MA Innovation Management at CSM is empathy and imputation. Imputation is the ability to convey the right meaning to a product or service. This is done by designing an experience that triggers off the emotions someone may wish for.  It can be stated that most of Apple’s products convey a more significant and less disposable feeling to them. It is important to have the ability to design products with a cultural gravity.However, in any organisation it is more important to have leaders with the right cultural mindedness, and who have the ability to identify and shape the meaning of things and services. This understanding starts for every minute detail as well as the emergent meaning of the sum of its parts. This ability to impute a meaning is very much connected to empathy the deep understanding of feelings of individuals and from a wider point of view of cultural features of groups of people. At MA Innovation Management we explore different instruments to capture and understand these cultural features. These, for instance, are semiotics or discourse analysis. They need to be done constantly because the culture of people changes constantly. Technology for instance has changed the value people attribute to music. Understanding this has transformed the prize structure of the entire music industry. Yet, technology also needs to be contextualised into a cultural framework, especially new technology. It is important to be able to acknowledge, that people might like to carry their entire music library in one tiny box, when a new 1.8 GB drive is delivered to a yet non-existent market.

 

The MA Innovation Management course also emphasises focus. The two year journey alternates divergent and convergent phases. The first part of the course puts emphasis on divergence. This has allowed us to explore and go beyond those circles of personal knowledge and skills and experiment with other less familiar areas. Apple has also been able to demonstrate this ability of divergence: from computers, to music players, film and music industry. This company has also understood not to get bogged down with innumerable permutations of one product. This is very much the emphasis in the second part of the course, in which each of us went through a process of focusing on the accomplishment of a major project. The learning here is to diverge, explore and experiment; and then to converge, connect and focus on the most important things discovered during the preceding phase.

 

All in all, you learn nothing about current management practices but to connect to people and culture, to diverge and to focus. Indeed, you learn much more than that, in my next post I intend to discuss the mind-changing stuff. Stay tuned…