CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple may well be the only tech company on the planet that would dare compare itself to Picasso.
In a class at the company’s internal training program, the so-called Apple University, the instructor likened the 11 lithographs that make up Picasso’s “The Bull” to the way Apple builds its smartphones and other devices. The idea: Apple designers strive for simplicity just as Picasso eliminated details to create a great work of art.
Steven P. Jobs established Apple University as a way to inculcate employees into Apple’s business culture and educate them about its history, particularly as the company grew and the tech business changed. Courses are not required, only recommended, but getting new employees to enroll is rarely a problem.
Although many companies have such internal programs, sometimes referred to as indoctrination, Apple’s version is a topic of speculation and fascination in the tech world.
It is highly secretive and rarely written about, referred to briefly in the biography of Mr. Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Apple employees are discouraged from talking about the company in general, and the classes are no exception. No pictures of the classrooms have surfaced publicly. And a spokeswoman for Apple declined to make instructors available for interviews for this article.
But three employees who have taken classes agreed to speak to The New York Times on the condition that they not be identified. They described a program that is an especially vivid reflection of Apple and the image it presents to the world. Like an Apple product, it is meticulously planned, with polished presentations and a gleaming veneer that masks a great deal of effort.
“Even the toilet paper in the bathrooms is really nice,” one of the employees said.
corporations, Apple runs its training in-house, year round. The full-time faculty — including instructors, writers and editors — create and teach the courses. Some faculty members come from universities like Yale; Harvard; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and M.I.T. and some continue to hold positions at their schools while working for Apple.
Taking a Cue From Picasso
That drive can be seen in many of Apple's endeavors today, including its product marketing and the design and ergonomics of its mouse.
The program was devised by Joel Podolny, then the dean of Yale School of Management. Mr. Jobs selected him when the program was founded, in 2008, and he remains head of the effort.
On an internal website available only to Apple staff members, employees sign up for courses tailored to their positions and backgrounds. For example, one class taught founders of recently acquired companies how to smoothly blend resources and talents into Apple. The company may also offer a course tailored specifically to employees of Beats, perhaps including its founders, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Neither Apple nor Beats would comment.
Some of the courses teach case studies about important business decisions that Apple made, one of the employees said, including the one to make the iPod and its iTunes software compatible with Microsoft’s Windows system. This was a topic of fierce debate among executives. Mr. Jobs hated the idea of sharing the iPod with Windows, but he eventually acquiesced to his lieutenants. It turned out that opening the iPod to Windows users led to explosive growth of the music player and the iTunes Store, an ecosystem that would later contribute to the success of the iPhone.
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