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Friday, November 18, 2011, 10:44 pm PT (01:44 am ET)

Apple VP shares four keys to company's success

Drawing from 20 years of experience at Apple, Greg Joswiak, the company's vice president of worldwide iOS product marketing, has explained four keys to the company's success: focus, simplicity, courage and a commitment to being the best.

Joswiak, who goes by "Jos," has seen his fair share of success while working at Apple, first with the iPod and then with the iPhone and iPad. Speaking at a "Silicon Valley Comes to Cambridge" event in the U.K., he shared four critical lessons from his time at the company, as noted by The Wall Street Journal:

Focus

According to Joswiak, the ability to focus relies on being able to say no to things. "We do very few things at Apple. We are $100bn in revenue with very few products. There are only so many grade A players," he said. When companies are spread out too thin over multiple products, "none of them will be great."

Joswiak appears to have learned this lesson from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In 2008, Jobs outlined his views on the importance of focus to Fortune magazine.

"Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we've got less than 30 major products. I don't know if that's ever been done before," he said. "Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully."

Before leaving the company, Jobs went so far as to set up an internal Apple University training program that would teach his guiding principles to future generations of Apple executives and employees. Jobs was also known to share this advice with colleagues and friends.

For example, when Mark Parker became CEO of Nike, he asked Jobs for advice. "Well, just one thing,” Jobs reportedly told him. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

Greg Joswiak

Greg Joswiak at the iPhone launch in Berlin in 2007. Source: macevangelist via Flickr.


Simplicity

The second key to Apple's success is the process of making a complex thing simple, Joswiak noted. According to him, the company's products begin simple, become increasingly simple as they are built, and then are brought back to simplicity.

"A lot of people think it means take something simple and leave it at its core essence. But it isn’t that. When you start to build something, it quickly becomes really complex. But that is when a lot of people stop. If you really know your product and the problems, then you can take something that is complex and then make it simple.”

Simplicity is said to be one of the main tenets for innovation and sustainable success taught at Apple University. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky sees Apple's corporate culture as being steeped in the principle as part of Jobs' legacy.

Walter Isaacson, the author of Jobs' biography, wrote that Jobs was interested in bringing simplicity to the living room. "[Jobs] wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant," Isaacson wrote. Jobs said he "cracked" the problem with "the simplest user interface you could imagine."

Courage

Joswiak also mentioned courage as one of Apple's defining traits. The Cupertino, Calif., company has in part built a name for itself for its bold business decisions, such as adopting new unproven technologies abandoning older ones ahead of its competitors.

”Courage drives a lot of decisions in business," he said. "Don’t hang on to ideas from the past even if they have been successful for you. You don’t build a product just because everyone else has one.”

Jobs himself mentioned the importance of courage in a commencement speech he gave at Stanford in 2005, though he was referring to a more personal application

"Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Be the best

The fourth and final guiding principle that Joswiak shared was Apple's commitment to only enter markets that it believes it can be the best in. Each of the three products currently under the executive's watch — the iPod, iPhone and iPad, has arguably become the best in its industry.

”If you can’t enter the market and try and be the best in it, don’t enter it. You need that differentiation. At Apple if we can’t be the best then we are not interested in it,” Joswiak said.

Apple executives related a similar strategy this summer when they spoke with RBC's Abramsky. As rumors that Apple would launch a low-end iPhone swirled, the analyst left the meeting with the understanding that "Apple’s primary criterion for launching a lower-end iPhone is an innovative, category-killer experience."