The way to deal with controversy with a very interested crowd

In what I believe is an extremely rare event, a very senior Apple executive appeared on a podcast in front a live audience.  The podcast, The Talk Show with John Gruber, was a very friendly audience, made up of folks attending the 2015 WWDC in San Francisco, so Apple developers and fans all.  On the other hand it’s an opinionated bunch when it comes to Apple, an opinionated bunch with very high standards for their favorite computer company.  

What I found so interesting in this discussion was how Phil Schiller, the SVP of Marketing for Apple, handled the difficult topics.  Areas such as software quality, which many Apple faithful will say has declined recently (I agree), were dealt with by reciting facts, the data Apple uses to judge software quality in the wild.   Even though the host took issue with the baseline (some of the most annoying issues wouldn’t necessarily show up on standard crash reports for example) Phil dealt with the controversy very calmly.   Most critically he didn’t apologize for the way Apple runs the show.  Mistakes will be made, but ultimately Apple is looking for the best options and priorities.  Sometimes it will work out well, other times improvements can be made.  

This interaction stands in stark contrast to many companies that fall all over themselves apologizing for the opinions they have or options they’ve taken.  You have to respect a company that has an opinion about how things should be and stands by that over the long term.  

Design for the human

In episode 467 of HBR Ideacast Evernote CEO Phil Libin discusses how the increasingly personal devices such as the phone or smart watch are changing how work gets done.  He makes many interesting points in this podcast, but one that stood out was how these new devices are reducing the session length of each interaction.  Where time spent on a computer can be often measured in hours, time spent on each interaction with a smart watch can be measured in seconds.   This difference, a drastic reduction in session length while at the same time dramatically increasing the number of sessions per day, means that software design must take this into account by designing not for the device but the human.  

Already in the consumer space users are requiring software that seamlessly operates from device to device depending on the context (such as Apple’s continuity).  Enterprise software, or business process within business, hasn’t caught up with this phenomena.