Apple University hires another prominent academic to teach Steve Jobs' thinking

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Steve Jobs' vision for an "Apple University" to equip the company's employees to serve as future business leaders has quietly made a new hire: Morten T. Hansen of the University of California, Berkeley's School of Information.

A collaborative educator focused on business information

Before serving as a Professor in Entrepreneurship at the French INSEAD business school and at UCB, the Norwegian-born Morten had been a professor at Harvard Business School and has acted as a senior management consultant for Boston Consulting Group.

In his UCB bio, he described himself as "a management scholar who happens to have a strong interest in information," and cited collaboration as an often overlooked management skill. "We know a lot about managing in a hierarchy," he said, "but we know much less about how to manage across many parts."

Staffing the secret Apple University

Hansen "negotiated an arrangement" with Apple to allow him to continue teaching one course per semester at Berkeley, which helped close the deal; he began working at Apple on January 28, according a report by Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune, citing an interview in the Norwegian paper Verdens Gang.

Joel Podolny, the former dean of Yale University's School of Management who was recited by Jobs himself in 2008 to serve as a new dean of Jobs Apple University program.

Podolny, in turn, was said to have first attempted to woo Hansen to Apple back in 2009. At that time, Jobs was too sick to meet with Hansen, but Podolny arranged for Hansen to personally discuss the project with Apple's current chief executive Tim Cook and its chief design executive Jony Ive.

Due to an ongoing book project, Hansen initially turned down a full time position at Apple. In the meantime, Podolny recruited Harvard University's Richard Tedlow, and work on the top secret Apple University has continued with little public information about the program. Late last fall, talks with Hansen resumed and he agreed to come on board.

Feeding Apple's elite core

In an interview, Hansen was careful to avoid any specifics about what he does at Apple, but did share the observation, "believe me, there are many talented people there. It's not like it was just Steve Jobs who ran the company."

Hansen is said to be working with an elite group that he described as "the best there is" at Apple. He noted that Apple is primarily an engineering company, but that an engineering background doesn't provide the best preparation for managing a multibillion dollar enterprise, necessitating Apple University program.

He estimated that Apple has around 800 employees in or being groomed for executive and leadership roles. Apple currently directly employs 80,000 employees worldwide; over 50,000 of these are within the US. About half of the company's headcount, more than 40,000, work in its retail stores.

Apple University and its top secret mission to teach Jobs' genius

In 2011, AppleInsider profiled Apple University as "a plan to teach executives to think like Steve Jobs," drawing comparisons with the Pixar University program formed at Jobs' other company to provide continuing eduction for its employees.

Many large companies promote employee enrichment programs or maintain internal MBA programs. However, Jobs' Apple University project gained particular interest both because of the level of secrecy around it and the high profile talent it attracted.

A report by the LA Times cited "a former Apple executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve his relationship with the company," as stating, "Steve was looking to his legacy. The idea was to take what is unique about Apple and create a forum that can impart that DNA to future generations of Apple employees.

"No other company has a university charged with probing so deeply into the roots of what makes the company so successful."

Jobs was said to have personally recruited Podolny and assigned him the task of helping Apple to "internalize the thoughts of its visionary founder to prepare for the day when he's not around anymore."