In a word: girls
Not in the Carls Jr. or Fox Sports sense. But more like the way Yahoo needed Marissa Mayer. In fact, Apple may need Marissa Mayer. They definitely need someone like her. And not in the way that Yahoo had seconds left on the clock to get all the way down the field and needed someone who could throw a Hail Mary pass (and at least keep customers from bailing to beat the Sunday traffic). No, Apple needs girls for a different reason.
Have you ever looked at Apple's senior management page on their website? It's a sausage-fest. A virtual wall of techtosterone. Probably some of the smartest guys in the Valley, but every last one of them pees standing up.
Not that there's anything wrong with the dude executive. I happen to be one. It’s a model that’s worked for a long time for a lot of companies. But if you haven’t noticed, Apple is not like a lot of companies. There aren’t many companies that have come back from the brink of death to become the world’s most valuable company in a dozen or so years. Of course, Steve Jobs liked to use the word “magical” quite a bit when describing some of the company’s output. Whether it was technically magic or not, I’m not sure. But there was certainly something extraordinary about the company’s track record over the last decade.
Maybe it wasn’t magic. As we were all watching it happen, I remember thinking that Apple didn’t seem to be doing anything too magical. It was more like every other company in the world seemed to be clueless. The success formula seemed pretty obvious: differentiate on design, keep it simple, make products that are beautiful and super easy to use, hide the technology behind a great user experience, and make an ecosystem of products that work together seamlessly. Nothing magical about that, it’s just that no other CEO — certainly no other tech CEO — was as passionate about these things as Steve Jobs was. Why not? Probably because they were all geeks as kids. And if you’re a geek, simple is the opposite of fun.
So what then was Apple’s secret to success?
Steve Jobs was a lot like a girl.
In addition to his well known personality traits as a ball-busting, obsessive, stubborn, perfectionist leader, he also happened to think like a girl. If you boil down to the essence of what differentiated Apple, it has a woman’s sensibility to it.
Now back to the sausage-fest. Without the omnipotent, charismatic, girlish, magician leading the company, how does Apple get its Mojo back? No matter how brilliant Tim Cook is, that’s a pretty tough alchemy to replicate.
Soon after I developed this X-chromosome deficiency hypothesis, Tim Cook announced he hired Angela Ahrendts to run Apple’s retail operations. Angela is the CEO of Burberry and worked her own magic to restore relevance to that 100 year old brand.
First of all, this was an absolutely brilliant hire. Second, this was the first significant indication of how Tim Cook’s Apple is going to work. It’s been all about momentum to this point. Now Mr. Cook is ready to show us his magic act.
I like his first trick.