This week, Steve Jobs’ death seemed to capture the attention of most of the industrialized world. While many of us noted his frail health (and his eventual date with destiny), we were still caught by surprise. I learned of Jobs’ death while checking the USA Today app on my iPad2 – which is ironic since Jobs sought to be at the forefront of the information age.
Well, frankly, Jobs sought to do more than just be at the technological forefront of the information age…He sought to make Apple the be all and end all of all things cutting edge and innovative. Apple is apparently the most valuable brand, and they hold more cash than the US government, so one could effectively argue Jobs’ success.
Jobs wasn’t a saint (his work ethic and questionable leadership and relationship management skills are legendary), but he was an effective transformational figure for Apple. Jobs knew the limits of his own mortality, and he sought to ensure that Apple would continue to prosper, even after he was gone. In the past, I’ve written about the importance of leadership development, performance management, and competency modeling – and Tim Cook’s recent ascension to the top spot at Apple is evidence of Apples commitment to sustained success.
I’m intrigued, however, after learning how Apple’s leaders have gone a step further in developing what they call “capturing the essence of Steve…”. In “With No Steve Jobs, Will Apple Lose Its Juice?”, a recent article that appears on NPR’s website, Apple’s leaders shed some light on their attempt to institutionalize Jobs’ discipline and methodical work ethic (e.g. a form of competency modeling):
Josh Bersin, a Silicon Valley expert in talent management and corporate succession, says Apple is “digitizing” information about key decisions during the Jobs years and turning them into case studies for future generations of managers.
“What they’re trying to do is essentially capture the essence of Steve Jobs and what he did and how he did it, so that people can maintain it,” Bersin says.
I know Bersin’s work (he’s a well-respected analyst and leads a highly sought after consulting firm in the human capital management space), so it’s interesting that he doesn’t have much more insight into Apple University’s new project.
Lest anyone think that Apple is looking to clone Steve Jobs (I remember when everyone thought that Jack Welch was the next great coming of the Messiah), one should not overlook the importance of competency modeling. Identifying competencies for success and building models by which organizational leaders can hire, develop, and retain top talent makes sense…plain and simple. Whether you’re the #1 branded company in the world, or the owner of a neighborhood bicycle shop – your organization’s leaders should be prepared to ensure that they have strong future leaders and “high-potentials” already identified for the future.