St. Stevens Day, or, How Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma

By    Nov 16, 2011

At the risk of piling on the beatification bandwagon, an interesting post from the good folks at Harvard Business Review. The author argues that Jobs solved (Clayton Christensen’s) Innovator’s Dilemma upon returning from the wilderness, citing the radical changes he made at Apple. You know the ending: the case of Jobs and Apple is an excellent illustration of the difficulty, rarity and reward of “solving the dilemma.” I was equally struck, however, by some of the language employed.

He notes (emphasis mine):

Apple talks a lot about its great people. But make no mistake — they are there only in service of the missionIt didn’t matter how great you were, if you couldn’t deliver to that mission — you were out. Profit was viewed as necessary, but not sufficient, to justify everything Apple did.

Apple may arguably be an outlier amongst commercial firms in this respect, but I found the treatment of both mission and profit (substitute “sustainability” if you like) interesting in context of deeply embedded assumptions held by many in our field about the “for profit” world. (And vice versa, to be sure)

What do you think? Is Apple a mission-driven organization? Does this enable them to achieve (and/or get away with) things others can’t? Does this affect how Apple is viewed as a corporate citizen? See here for halo view and here for questioning, slightly less breathless view. Ironically, Christensen himself notoriously failed to recognize Apple as a disruptive innovator, asserting the iPhone would only be a sustaining innovation.


Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma – James Allworth – Harvard Business Review.