Apple Inivation: Fail Wisely

Economist.com has a good story about Apple's style of innovation.

Listening to customers is generally a good idea, but it is not the whole story. For all the talk of "user-centric innovation" and allowing feedback from customers to dictate new product designs, a third lesson from Apple is that smart companies should sometimes ignore what the market says it wants today. The iPod was ridiculed when it was launched in 2001, but Mr Jobs stuck by his instinct. Nintendo has done something similar with its popular motion-controlled video-game console, the Wii. Rather than designing a machine for existing gamers, it gambled that non-gamers represented an untapped market and devised a machine with far broader appeal.

The fourth lesson from Apple is to "fail wisely". The Macintosh was born from the wreckage of the Lisa, an earlier product that flopped; the iPhone is a response to the failure of Apple's original music phone, produced in conjunction with Motorola. Both times, Apple learned from its mistakes and tried again. Its recent computers have been based on technology developed at NeXT, a company Mr Jobs set up in the 1980s that appeared to have failed and was then acquired by Apple. The wider lesson is not to stigmatise failure but to tolerate it and learn from it: Europe's inability to create a rival to Silicon Valley owes much to its tougher bankruptcy laws.

What I find interesting is that Apple does two things that most companies don't. First, they sometimes ignore the current state of the market when designing products. Second, they learn from failure rather than stigmatizing it. That sounds like a pretty different corporate culture than most companies.