There is brilliance in execution, but how many times have we mistaken it for innovation or creativity?
Apple’s success lies not in its ability to innovate, though it certainly does that, but in its capacity to achieve supreme alignment in the products it produces. This is execution.
Diamond Multimedia released its portable Rio MP3 player in 1998. HP and Microsoft were showcasing tablet technology as early as 2001. Sony began selling ultra-thin laptops in 2004.
Execution is the ability to focus and discipline one’s efforts into making a product or delivering a service where all elements align into an elegant, effective whole that, by virtue of its quality, provides exceptional value to the customer or client.
The iPod, the iPad, and the MacBook Air are products greater than the sum of their constituent parts.
Sure, it’s sexier to talk about how prescient Steve Jobs is, how creative and unexpected the minds at Apple are. But what if Apple simply pays obsessive, neurotic, disciplined attention to every facet of what it’s doing, afflicted with a drive to perfect that goes beyond the competition, inspired by forces outside the market to execute brilliantly because there simply is no other way?
The technologies Apple has based its growth upon are not unique to the company. What Jobs & Co. did differently was to look at these technologies not as random bells and whistles but as notes on a musical scale that could work in harmony.
The next time you’re confronted with a problem, consider execution as much as you consider innovation. You might be surprised by what you find.
Note: This post was inspired by an interview with Jim Collins that can be found here