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Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs Hardcover – September 4, 2018
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"I’d be interested in the behind-the-scenes story of any Apple product. But if there is one I’m most interested in, it’s the iPhone. Kocienda delivers just that, and it truly is extraordinary. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in how Apple actually creates its products." ―John Gruber, Daring Fireball
“Kocienda reveals the real secret of Steve Jobs's leadership and Apple's magic: the ability to push people to think for themselves, and to empower them to turn their best thinking into reality. It is a story about the intersection of technology and humanity.” ―Kim Scott, New York Times bestselling author of Radical Candor
“I’ve literally been waiting a decade for this book. Ken Kocienda takes you inside Apple in way only a true insider, a veteran software developer, could. Creative Selection is the answer to the prayer uttered by anyone who wants to truly understand how Apple works. I couldn’t put it down.” ―Adam Lashinsky, New York Times bestselling author of Inside Apple
“Ken Kocienda played pivotal roles in the creation of both Safari and the original iPhone. One of the hardest problems―and biggest risks―of the first iPhone was the development of a multi-touch keyboard. I placed this formidable responsibility squarely in Ken’s hands, and the success of the keyboard emerged from his insights, collaboration, and dogged pursuit of excellence. He now offers readers, in his own words, a window into his experiences and insights from the trenches.” ―Scott Forstall, Original iPhone Software Team Leader and SVP iOS, Apple
“If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work in a hotbed of innovation, you’ll enjoy this inside view of life at Apple. Ken Kocienda pioneered the iPhone keyboard, and this book gives a play-by-play of their creative process―from generating ideas to doing a demo for Steve Jobs.” ―Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals, Give and Take, and Option B (with Sheryl Sandberg)
About the Author
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The vivid descriptions in the book are better than the analyses. I would stress that the principles and practices described by the author were completely unwritten and unnamed, as the author says. So if you're trying to be like Apple by reading a book, you're doing it wrong. If you want to be like Apple, ditch the business books and startup blogs (do you think Steve Jobs read those things?), and really focus on the product. There's nothing in the book about MVP, Agile, Scrum, A/B testing, TDD, etc. Apple really didn't work like that. The key is what the author calls "creative selection" (demoing/dogfooding/iterating/converging the product), with tight loops of communication (with minimal teams, enforced by secrecy).
One thing that occurred to me is that the examples given (and generally in Apple's history) are ones where the product definitions were relatively well-formed and concrete up-front, leaving plenty of room for technical innovation (but little room for exploration and business validation). Before getting to that concrete vision, the Apple way isn't applicable.
2. There aren't many business related books about the work of an "individual contributor", which makes it refreshing, the activity was the day to day work and output.
2a. This meant he could tell the story of Apple's culture and influences without trying to be the center of the story.
3. A large part of the story is about a specific problem to solve (the iPhone keyboard) and how it was overcome, but the story was able to zoom out as well and talk about design in general.
4. There isn't a lot of ego, he talks about who helped him, mistakes along the way etc.
Ken distills the Apple development approach that ultimately made them successful to seven elements: inspiration, collaboration, craft, diligence, decisiveness, taste, and empathy. And he walks through what each of these elements means to him with detailed stories exemplifying each.
But I wanted to share some personal observations I took away from the book on how Apple built products in such a fundamentally different way.
Ken describes the process by which they would prepare product demos for their own team and then for various leaders, use that demo as the primary avenue for feedback, and then continue to iterate to the next demo, followed by more rounds of demo feedback, and so on. He calls this process creative selection. While at the surface this may sound like a typical product review process that many companies have, there was so much that was different about it.
First, demos were done early and often, even at the prototype stage. These were not just reviews at the end of the process to get final approval, but instead they were done to show early progress, determine viability of the project, and make fundamental design decisions. The goal was to produce an initial prototype to demo as quickly as possible and then continually refine the prototype through subsequent feedback sessions. These demo sessions with senior leaders happened on a weekly basis, not months apart.
And in contrast to so many classic reviews where leaders are largely concerned with ensuring projects are on time, that there are no unaddressed bottlenecks, and that the team is executing on the right strategy, leaders at Apple in fact played the role of arbiters of taste. Ken defines taste as developing a refined sense of judgment and finding the balance that produces a pleasing and integrated whole. And in these reviews, leaders would often be making calls on the spot on design decisions for the product. Ken retells the story of many reviews with Scott Forstall, who was head of iPhone software, and Steve Jobs himself who would make critical decisions to remove UI elements, to pick amongst a few design directions that the team was presenting, and to cancel efforts entirely, all based on the context and feedback they got from the presenting team, their own first-hand experience with the demo, and their ultimate sense of taste. This feedback was highly respected by the team and didn't feel like classic executive swoop-ins because of how deeply involved the senior leaders were on a weekly basis with engaging in-depth with the product during these demos.
The nature of these meetings also looked so different from traditional exec meeting topics with discussions around market opportunity, competitors, resourcing, etc. They were instead fundamentally about the design and user experience. And each leader would play with the product themselves just as a user would to really connect with the product experience.
Equally important to their process was extreme product dogfooding, which they called living on the product. They understood that even after making initial product decisions in these demo reviews, they needed to continue to experience the product on a daily basis to ensure the experience was actually satisfying. And in doing so, they would continually come up with feedback from amongst the team who was living on the product, and incorporate that feedback into the product. Ken shares how each change he made to the keyboard auto-correction capabilities would be rolled out to the small team of iPhone software engineers and how the feedback directly from those individuals shaped his future iterations. I do regularly see a disconnect in product quality emerge when the product, design, and engineering teams aren't using their own product on a daily basis.
And finally, the teams tasked with owning critical software components were very small empowered teams of individuals. Each component would have a DRI - a directly responsible individual - who was ultimately on the line for producing that component. And there was a fundamental belief that small teams did the best work, because they were empowered to do so. Ken was the DRI for the iPhone keyboard and worked directly and closely with an associated designer. Glaringly absent from these teams were in fact product managers. The responsibility instead was divided amongst the engineers, designers, a program manager for project management support, and the senior leader. By empowering these very small teams they had the ability and motivation to do their very best work.
I would encourage you to check out the book for yourself as it was a fascinating glimpse into the design process of one of the world's most innovative product companies: Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda.
The author does a nice job of marrying difficult programming concepts such as "compilers" and "porting" with interesting discussion involving Immanuel Kant and Vince Lombardi. Of course, Steve Jobs features prominently and his eagerness to "relentlessly chase perfection" is apparent throughout the book. I also gained a new found respect for how much work was put into the auto-type of the iPhone keyboard.
The one negative I thought was that it could be a little too tailored to product development. If that is not your interest, you may find this a little slow at times. This is not a fast paced account of Steve Jobs but more of a detailed analysis of the plethora of steps needed to design something great.
Top international reviews
A gripping read. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Apple history...
Great read for Apple aficionados and those just looking to learn about what does and doesn’t work in a team.
It’s a hard book to put down!
Full marks for the author for ensuring that a very technical subject has been written in layman's terms, which makes it good for brisk reading and people from non-IT background will also not find it cumbersome.
Consigliato per chi, come me, è appassionato della storia dell'evoluzione di questo brand.
Hay mucho que aprender del ser y quehacer de la industria y muy entretenidas anécdotas del proceso creativo.
En lo personal, me permitió conocer un poco más de Scott Forstall, el polémico antiguo VP de iOS.
Lo recomiendo mucho.
It was vers inspiring at times, especially to someone who is just starting out in a career in engineering.
Several things are repeated a few times, but keeping Amazon's rating scale in mind, I give it five stats.
Ken has a very easy writing style.
This book assumes readers are not programmers, thus examples are rather lengthy at times.
This was a quick read.
Inhalt ist natürlich top! Da es hier ja um den Inhalt geht, gebe ich (trotz des besch******* Covers) 5 Sterne.