I've just finished Leander Kahney's "Jony Ive:
The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products". The book has its flaws, but it is definitely worth a read.
My principal objection is that it relies too much on secondary sources. Yet,
the fact that a seasoned Apple-watcher had to resort to such approach tells
you more about the subject and less about its author.
Be that as it may, the book is very insightful. I'm certainly going to give Isaacson's tome a go. If this all sounds interesting, you should also check Matt Jones' impressions from the book. edit: I see that Horace Dediu
has done one too.
For my part, I found three pieces of insight particularly relevant from a product-management point of view.
You're building something. You have many options you can take. How do you find the best one? Well, you make as many options and you pick one. It's that simple.
Throughout the book you read of Ive's tendency to create large number of better fidelity prototypes and then engage with those with a critical stance.
It is not so much that Ive, Jobs or the collective Apple design team know what is the best. It is not even that they have the best taste. What they do have is a clarity of mission, great design sensibility and a series of design explorations / prototypes that are then evaluated, discarded or improved upon.
In a way, it's a bit like Samsung's product discovery process as described by Benedict Evans, but with one key difference. Instead of unleashing every possible form factor on the market hoping to see what sticks, Apple starts with a defined vision and then develop increasingly higher fidelity prototypes, picking winners along the process.
**So what? **Prototype! Explore! Not even the most accomplished designers out there have the answers. All they have are the questions and series of explorations that slowly nudge you towards the final design.
End-to-End Design Process
Clearly, Ive's genius lays in his combined mastery of the product vision, development and execution.
As the book progresses through the linear narrative of Apple's history, there is more and more evidence on this point. From the stories of Ive's growing power within Apple, or the attention given to previously overlooked bits (unboxing, designing guts of the machines) or the minute details on manufacturing processes like friction stir welding or CNC milling.
In fact, one feels a bit for Tim Cook. Even from cursory passage in Kahney's book it's clear that Cook did an amazing job on manufacturing process. I'd find a book on ERP deployment as fascinating as this one on design. Nevertheless, I understand why editors are not rushing to commission such a volume.
**So what? **At the very minimum product designers and managers have to understand the entire chain - from production via sales and marketing to customer services.
Much has been said about Jobs' feedback style. Reportedly, when it came to Ive, the feedback was always non-directive. As Satzger reports in Kahney's book:
> "He never suggested how should something be changed but rather pushed Jony and his designers to come up with a better solution."
The sentence resonated strongly with me. During the redesign of Nestoria I often felt it was my job to give both feedback and specific solutions. In those cases where I would struggle to suggest specific avenues to explore, I would even self-censor the feedback.
Which leaves you in a strange position. A degree of selectiveness in feeding back is great. Holding back - not so much. On the other hand, pointing out specific solutions closes off options and avenues to be explored.
**So what? **Don't hold back on feedback. State it clearly, voice your opinion. Then let the people you trust to be solving domain-specific issues to suggest better options. Repeat.