Posted August 29, 2012: Have you heard the news? iPhone 5 is being released this fall! Before you run out and get in line at the Apple Store, you must know that a new version of iPhone will probably be released before Christmas. Let’s not forget about the new iPad!

I have been an Apple (Mac) junkie since my freshman year at college (1993). I’m astonished when I reflect on the impact Apple has had over the last 30 years. I’ve owned almost every type of Apple device and made good money on Apple stock (that I wished I held on to, but that is for another day).

I recently visited the Apple Store and had one of the most frustrating customer experiences I have ever had. I shared this with a few family members and two of them had similar experiences. The experience was very un-Apple like.

I asked myself, “What if Steve Jobs was watching our Apple experiences, what would he think”?

Think Different

In a 2009 TED Talk, Simon Sinek, author of the book ‘Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’ summed up Apple’s success under the leadership of Steve Jobs with this statement, “Everything we do, we BELIEVE in challenging the status quo. We BELIEVE in thinking differently”.  It goes without saying that Steve Jobs was a passionate rebel whose mission was to challenge the status quo. That trait permeated throughout the DNA of the Apple organization. Jobs’ passion for bucking the system, redefining our relationship with our technology and delivering wonderful experiences via Apple appealed to our emotions. In response, we bought Apple stuff. Why?

‘Why’ is not so much a question as it is a statement linked to our emotions. According to Sinek, people follow passion and ‘why’ we believe what we believe. If you go looking for an official Apple mission statement, you won’t find one that explains ‘why’. That is because Steve Jobs personified the mission. Sinek puts forth the idea that, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”.

Did Martin Luther King Jr. say, “I have a PLAN!”? No. He said, “I have a DREAM!” Apple never translated ‘why’ Steve Jobs believed as he did into its mission statement. Their current mission statement describes product (what) and design (how). That does not appeal to our emotions. This may seem subtle, but it strikes at the heart of Apple’s existence. Has the organization unknowingly lost its compass?

Under the new leadership of Tim Cook, Apple communicates, “We have a product.” The leader is no longer a passionate rebel on a mission (Jobs). The leader is now capable process and efficiency expert (Cook). Therefore, things are changing throughout the organization. Will this change cause the organization to decline or will it continue to push the boundaries? Can Apple remain a Game Changer?

Vanilla Ice’s Advice to Apple

Perhaps, Vanilla Ice provides some good advice to Apple in his 1990 hit tune ‘Ice, Ice, Baby’;

“Anything less that the best is a felony-
Love it or leave it- You better gain way-
You better hit bull’s eye, the kid don’t play.”

Let me be completely transparent here. I don’t usually find wisdom in Vanilla Ice lyrics, although I admit I’m a fan.

If Apple fails to deliver anything less than the BEST or a ‘Game Changer’, will we see it decline into mediocrity?

Read Part 2: Success and Upgrade Fatigue