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New York Times profiles Apple University, Apple's secretive internal training program


The New York Times today has a moderately informative profile on Apple University, the internal program set up by Steve Jobs with the express aim of teaching executives and employees the dynamics that make Apple, well, Apple.

The program highlights many of the rubrics which Jobs felt were key to Apple's ability to innovate, and relates them to real-world scenarios. Utilizing the case method favored in many business school curricula, several courses explore business decisions Apple has made, for better or for worse. Jobs believed that if Apple's "hits and misses" were examined in-depth, future employees and executives would be better equipped to make informed decisions.

The program, originally started back in 2008, is spearheaded by Joel Podolny, who formerly served as the dean of Yale's Business School. As one might expect, Apple U features a wide array of classes that, in many ways, mirror what one might experience on a University campus.

Given Apple's penchant for delivering a top-notch user experience, it should also come as no surprise that many of the program's teachers come from esteemed institutions like Stanford and Harvard.

The New York Times adds:

On an internal website available only to Apple staff members, employees sign up for courses tailored to their positions and backgrounds. For example, one class taught founders of recently acquired companies how to smoothly blend resources and talents into Apple. The company may also offer a course tailored specifically to employees of Beats, perhaps including its founders, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.

Some of the courses teach case studies about important business decisions that Apple made, one of the employees said, including the one to make the iPod and its iTunes software compatible with Microsoft's Windows system. This was a topic of fierce debate among executives. Mr. Jobs hated the idea of sharing the iPod with Windows, but he eventually acquiesced to his lieutenants. It turned out that opening the iPod to Windows users led to explosive growth of the music player and the iTunes Store, an ecosystem that would later contribute to the success of the iPhone.

Other classes highlight the traits that help distinguish Apple from other high-tech companies, while another imparts strategies for effectively communicating ideas with peers.

Another class (or perhaps lesson) we're aware of, thanks to Ben Thompson who runs the Stratechery website, focuses on Apple's relatively abrupt decision in 2000 to transition the focus of the company's "digital hub" strategy from movies to music.

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