Bite-Sized Lessons from Apple

The death of Apple Inc. founder and CEO Steve Jobs reminded us all of how one individual can have a huge impact on a particular company – and on the national and global economy as well.

Unquestionably, Steve Jobs and his impact were unique but some lessons from the Apple experience can be distilled and made applicable to banking organizations, says former Apple “chief evangelist” Guy Kawasaki. For example, “the biggest challenges beget the best work,” Kawasaki says in the following interview with BAI Banking Strategies. “Forget bite-sized challenges for employees; give them something magnificent to overcome.”

Kawaski, the co-founder of Web content aggregator Alltop.com, will appear at Retail Delivery 2012 in Washington D.C. on October 11 to elaborate on these lessons from Apple as well as insights from his new book, Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.

Q: In your new book, Enchantment, you write about the power of a good idea to transform the marketplace and the individual, and improve individual customer experiences. As you well know, the banking industry could definitely use some enchantment right now. How can bankers apply some of the lessons of your book to their own industry?

Kawasaki: The pillars of enchantment remain for any industry: likeability, trustworthiness and quality. That’s sort of the general answer – that you have to act in a likable way, be trustworthy, especially in something like banking which involves money, and the product has to be good. This is not rocket science.

For most people, the main point of contact with the bank is probably the bank’s website, which is the most important factor in enchanting people. And frankly, if you look at many banking Websites, they could use an English teacher going through it to correct the grammar and logic. Many dialog boxes and confirmation boxes just don’t make sense.

Then, of course, the next level would probably be the smartphone application. I’m only familiar with one bank, but if you look at my bank’s smartphone app – let’s just say it’s challenging. My wife and I were both sitting down the other day to look at it and wondering: How do we pay bills with this thing?

Q: You’re well known for your career at Apple, where you certainly learned a lot about innovation and entrepreneurship. What sort of lessons can financial services companies learn from Apple; what was Apple’s magic formula that can be translated to banking?

Kawasaki: The magic formula for Apple was that Steve Jobs either convinced people to desire something they didn’t know they needed or he anticipated what they would need. It’s not clear which one was in effect at any given moment – whether he created the need or he just anticipated the need – but that’s the secret to Apple.

Q: What about developing new products? Whether Jobs was good at anticipating or actually creating things that would appeal to customers, how then did the organization transmit his ideas into actual physical products?

Kawasaki: Steve Jobs wasn’t just a visionary who had this brilliant idea at the 50,000 feet level. He got right down to whether the corners of the Apple icon should be rounded or square and whether the line should be this thick or that thick. He just didn’t pontificate about the need for a stylish personal computer or a better smartphone because he heard someone say this at a conference. He really got into the weeds.

I hesitate to tell everyone to just copy Apple because Apple was a unique situation with a unique CEO. Having said this, there are some principles that a banking organization can apply from Apple. For example, customers can tell you how to evolve a product, but not how to jump to the next curve. The next curve is where the real action is.

Second, design counts. A lot. How many bank Websites are beautiful and intuitive? They could be if the bank cared enough. And finally, the biggest challenges beget the best work. Forget bite-sized challenges for employees; give them something magnificent to overcome.

Mr. Cline is managing editor of BAI Banking Strategies. He can be reached at [email protected]