Apple Inc. commenced as the ideas of one individual, Steve Jobs in the late 1970s but now it has grown to become a multinational company that has changed the manner in which people think, interact, communicate, entertain themselves and so on. The company main focus during its days of inception was the I.T industry (Khan, Alam and Alam 2015). However, due to intense competition, Apple Inc. shifted its focus to consumer products such as television sets, cell phones, tables, laptops and desktops.
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However, the road to success for this company has not been smooth. Apple has faced numerous challenges in the process of its growth. In response, the company has come up with innovative and creative strategies, developed a strong organization culture that aim at achieving its mission and vision, and carefully analyzed feedback and criticism of its products and services.
With this in mind, this paper will critically analyze the concepts of creativity and innovation in Apple Inc., the impact of transformational leadership on creativity and innovation, and finally focus on how Apple’s transformational leaders analyze and utilize information in the VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). With this information, this paper will come up with recommendation that will aim at enhancing operations within Apple Inc. to enhance the competitive advantage that it has over its rival firms in a bid of realizing its operational goals and objectives.
Creativity and Innovation
Agbor (2008) asserted that culture, structure, strategy, and technology are critical in the process of ensuring success in any organization. However, in the 21st century, the environment in which firms are operating in have become much more dynamic and require different approaches to achieve competitive advantage. In this respect, Agbor (2008) stated that creativity and innovation are the most important ingredients in ensuring organizational success for contemporary firms.
However, for creativity and innovation to be successfully implemented in any given organization, organizational leaders have to ensure that the firm has an environment that will support this approach (Agbor 2008). It is as a result of this fact that Agbor (2008) concluded that leadership could thus be considered as the source and catalyst for creativity and innovation in contemporary firms. Therefore, creativity in any organization is thus determined by the organizational structure and culture that in turn affects the overall innovation process of a given entity.
The models used by many organizations in the past have proven not to be effective enough to guarantee success and competitive advantage in the 21st century. Contemporary firms operate in a dynamic environment that is characterized by rapidly evolving technology, changes in consumer tastes and preferences, globalization, market uncertainties and so on (Jamali, Khoury and Sahyoun 2006).
During the 20th century, firms were able to maintain a desirable level of success, profitability, and market share due to the monopoly that they had either on technology or factors of production. It is as a result of this fact that such organization did not view innovation as a critical factor in overcoming competition and remaining successful in the long run. However, the change in dynamics towards the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have forced these firms to think otherwise.
For them to remain relevant in the industries that they are operating in, they have been forced to become creative and innovative not only to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency, but also to remain profitable in the long run. Such organizations therefore need to modify their leadership strategies to embrace the processes of creativity and innovation. With this leadership approach in place, it is easy for a given entity to build, develop, and embrace an organizational culture that supports the concept of creativity and innovation hence meeting the operational needs and demand for firms within the 21st century by enhancing their competitive edge (Agbor 2008).
Creativity and Innovation at Apple Inc.
Apple Inc. has been consistently conducting market research and analysis to not only understand what its market needs but also to come up with creative and innovative means through which it can enhance its competitive edge over rival firms. Through its leaders and staff, the firm has developed a strong organizational culture that provides the perfect environment that supports the processes of creativity and innovation (Agbor 2008).
As asserted by Khan, Alam and Alam (2015), Apple Inc. has developed an effective creative process that it has enabled the firm to be successful throughout the years. The first step in this creative process is research. It is in the course of this process that Apple Inc. staff research on what needs to be created or improved. This process is usually rigorous and usually involves staff members researching on whether or not other entities have developed a similar product, their progress, the response they have received so far and means through which Apple Inc. can improve on it. This step is then followed by the preparation stage where the involved employee(s) critically think, analyze, and brainstorm about the idea they have come up with.
It is a common practice for leaders to encourage their staff at this moment to develop positive thinking towards their idea as a means of motivation (Agbor 2008). As such, employees are encouraged to exercise their senses and develop positive imagination as a means of developing profound ideas. The create stage is the third step in this process and entails visualization, imagination, fantasizing, and creation of a prototype in the mind of an employee. The final step in this process is innovation. This stage entails the actual development and testing of a prototype. At this stage, it is necessary for the involved employees to develop an action plan that is crucial in enabling their idea to become a reality.
Role of Leaders in Encouraging Creativity and Innovation
As it has been discussed in this paper, leadership plays an essential role not only encouraging but also supporting creativity and innovation in any given organization. Organizations that have become successful through creativity and innovation have greatly relied on their leaders to develop an environment that supports and embraces these concepts. One of the ways that leaders can achieve this goal is through developing a friendly and inclusive work environment (Agbor 2008).
This is consistent with Pfeffer (2008) conclusion that workers become more creative when working in an environment that gives them a sense of acceptance and security. Most importantly, leaders are expected to respect, harness, and value creativity from each and every employee by encouraging them to use their personality, skills, and expertise to come up, build, and develop their creative ideas.
However, for leaders to support creativity and innovation within the organizations that they manage, they themselves need to embrace these concepts. They need to value creativity, be enthusiastic about it and most importantly, encourage the development of new ideas and concepts. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc. is a perfect example of such a leader. For instance, prior to their release of their first computer, Steve Jobs had attended a conference where one of the participants presented the use of a device that can be used to operate a computer remotely.
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Jobs saw this idea as a game changing strategy and after developing it further, the mouse was introduced in their firm computer and changed the manner in which home users interact with their personal computers ever since. The creative drive Steve Jobs had provided the employees at Apple Inc. the needed challenge and opportunity that transformed this organization to the world’s leading company with regards to innovation (Agbor 2008).
It is as a result of this fact that leadership vision and goals play a significant role in determining whether or not an organization is in a position to nurture and support creativity and innovation. In reference to this, a creative vision will most likely result in the development of a conducive work environment that encourages all employees to be actively involved in generating and implementing new ideas thus resulting in both professional and personal growth and development while in pursuit to achieve the common vision within a given organization.
In such a setting, leaders play a critical goal in guiding and influencing their employees to bring out their creativity by enabling them to envision the type of organization that they want to build in the long run (Agbor 2008). Here, leaders play a motivational role by creating a purpose in each and every employee in the process of achieving a greater mission in the long run. Based on this, Agbor (2008) concluded that such a work environment is effective for supporting creativity and in turn the type of leadership exercised under such conditions transforms employees into creative and efficient leaders in the long run.
One of the main ways in which Apple Inc. has been successful is through the effort that its leaders to treat the organization as a living system that comprises of innovation dynamics based on the creative minds of its employees (Khan, Alam and Alam 2015). Through this approach, the top management employees at Apple Inc. have been able to prevent and solve organizational issues that come up in the course of running and managing the organization.
For instance, Apple does not view its employees as machines but as human beings who have a shared innovative vision or a larger entity that makes up the organization that they work for. Additionally, Apple Inc. employees are also involved in the decision making process and coming up with solutions to the problems and challenges that the firm faces in the course of its operations. In response, employees at apple have over the years been able to adapt to change within their work environments, a condition that has enabled them to innovate purposefully to realize the organizational vision, goals, and objectives.
Diversity has also played an essential role in supporting the creative and innovative environment that has resulted in the overall success of Apple Inc. since its inception. The leaders have Apple Inc. have ensured that their organization has fostered a culture that encourages the development of a favorable environment that enables diversity to thrive within the entity (Agbor 2008). Through this diversity, Apple Inc. has been able to tap and benefit from the different forms of creativity that originate from its employees that has thus enhanced the efficiency in the overall functioning of the organization.
This is perhaps the reason why Apple Inc. has been able to release different types of products over time that target different markets and in the process meeting the needs of its target audience. Based on this fact, Apple Inc. has not only been able to build a strong brand name but has also been able to retain its original customers and attract new ones as well. As put by Agbor (2008), having a strong brand name and loyal customers is critical for contemporary firms to stand at a competitive edge over rival firms hence guaranteeing sustainability and profitability in the short run and in the long run.
The diversity at Apple Inc. has also had a significant effect in transforming its internal environment to support creativity and innovation. Leaders at Apple Inc. have developed a strong social culture that has in turn made it possible for all of Apple Inc. employees to develop a sense of belonging and ownership to the company. As asserted earlier, this condition provides a conducive environment for employees to harness their creativity resulting in the development of new ideas which in turn lead to the development of innovative products and practical operational strategies that put the company at an edge over rival firms (Agbor 2008).
As such, it is evident that leaders at Apple Inc. understand the value that come from their employees and in the process make use of their varied talents, creativity, skills, and experiences to enhance innovation within the organization. Based on this fact, Apple Inc. has diversified its product portfolio from exclusively manufacturing and selling personal computers to explore the communications and entertainment industry by developing products such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad that have revolutionized these industries (Khan, Alam and Alam 2015). All this success came about as a result of the effort put up by Apple Inc. leaders to support creativity among its employees.
The creativity, innovation, and diversity at Apple Inc. have enabled this company to be endorsed as one of the strongest brands in the world (Khan, Alam and Alam 2015). As asserted by Khan, Alam and Alam (2015), Apple Inc. has developed this reputation due to the efforts put by Steve Jobs and the passion he had in supporting creativity and innovation at Apple Inc. Despite his death, the current leaders at Apple Inc. have adopted this spirit hence explaining the continued success that the company is currently experiencing.
To support its innovative approach, Apple Inc. has been increasing its investments in research and developments programs from $2.4 billion in 2011 to $4.5 billion in 2013 (Khan, Alam and Alam 2015). The company has also increased its sales by implementing innovative ideas from its sales personnel particularly by setting up outlets in high traffic locations. This has had a significant impact in increasing the revenue that the company has been earning over time. Apple Inc. also has a good relationship with its consumers who are willing to queue overnight at times in dire conditions to get the latest Apple products due to the fact that they are reliable, user friendly, and most importantly, have been designed to meet their needs and expectations.
From a critical point of view, it is evident that an organization can only harness the full creative potential of its employees if it eliminates the barriers to innovation and diversity. This is due to the fact that organizations that have eliminated barriers to diversity tend to be highly innovative and in the process come up with ideas and solutions to the problems and challenges that they might be facing in the course of their normal operations.
As put by Edwards (2006), when people with different mindsets but with a similar vision are put to work together, they tend to develop new ideas and put to tests the strategies and approaches that are currently being practiced in a given organization. However, it is critical that diversity does not occur within a day but requires the leaders to understand and embrace its importance and in the process put in measures that will in turn support creativity and innovation over time.
For firms to be successful in the 21st century, they need to embrace creativity and innovation. However, these dynamics highly rely on the type of leadership that is being exercised in a given entity and their vision. Therefore, it is impossible to an organization to become creative and innovative if its leaders have not put in place the policy and structures to support this approach.
Creative leaders can only achieve innovation within an organization since such leaders will design and develop a working environment that motivates and supports creativity among their employees (Agbor 2008). In such a setting, employees are thus in a position of bringing out their creative selves in the process of achieving a set vision and goals and in the process result in achieving their professional and personal goals hence transforming the organization. Thus, transformational leadership is critical in supporting creativity and innovation in contemporary firms.
This paper has clearly shown that creativity and innovation are essential components to the success of organizations in the 21st century. Globalization, technological advancement, and reduced product life cycles are some of the dynamics that contemporary firms are currently facing. Therefore, technology driven firms such as Apple Inc. highly rely on creativity and innovation not only to operate effectively and efficiently but also to stand at a competitive edge, to develop over time, and to become leaders in the information technology industry (Gumusluoglu 2009).
Transformational leadership has played a significant role in instilling creativity and innovation in most technology driven organizations such as Apple Inc. and IBM (Khan, Alam and Alam 2015). This is particularly due to the fact that transformational leaders build and develop the performance expectations of their employees as well as transforming their personal values, concepts, and perceptions in a bid to achieve higher needs and aspirations in their careers and personal lives (Jung, 2001).
Impact of Transformational Leadership on Creativity
Transformational leadership theory was introduced by Burns (1978) and further developed by Bass and Avolio (1995). In accordance with this theory, transformational leadership has four main components. These are:
- Charismatic role modeling.
- Individualized consideration.
- Inspirational motivation.
- Intellectual stimulation.
These four main components have assistant leaders at Apple Inc. to support and empower their employees to be more creative in generating operational and product ideas. For instance, Steve Jobs had a strong charisma that played an influential role to Apple Inc. employees by inspiring admiration, respect, and loyalty in the process of achieving a collective vision, goals, and objectives (Gumusluoglu 2009).
Contemporary leaders at Apple Inc. are utilizing the same practices to achieve set goals and objectives of the organization. Through individualized consideration, leaders at Apple Inc. strive to build a one-on-one relationship with their employees as a means of understanding their personalities, abilities, and skills. This is important especially due to the fact that different employees have different goals, skills, and aspirations.
Through inspirational motivation, leaders at Apple Inc. have been successful in instilling realistic visions and goals to their employees, clearly setting up means through which they can be achieved, and building confidence in them that the set visions, goals, and objectives can be achieved. Through intellectual stimulation, Apple Inc. leaders enhance the interests of their employees. One of the ways in which they achieve this is by challenging them to thinking about old problems that they can solve them using contemporary means.
By critically analyzing these concepts, it is evident that transformational leadership has a direct relationship with creativity and innovation at the workplace. This relationship is tied to components such as the vision of the organization, its support for innovation, and motivation (Gumusluoglu 2009).
In such a setting, the behaviors of leaders act as a force that enhances creativity in the four perspectives of the transformational leadership theory. For instance, individualized consideration acts as a source of motivation and encouragement for employees in a given organizational setting. Inspirational motivation on the other hand encourages critical thinking especially with regards to supporting innovation, generation of solutions, and diversification. Intellectual stimulation enhances the process of idea generation among employees as a means of realizing the set vision of the organization. The overall result of intrinsic motivation among the employees as a result of the interaction of these forces from transformational leadership provides a conducive environment for harnessing creativity from employees at the workplace.
Therefore, a clear relationship between transformational leadership and creativity exists as a result of the creativity-enhancing behavior displayed by leaders at Apple Inc. In practice, employees usually strive to emulate from their leaders and as such, are willing to work to achieve the set vision, goals, and objectives that have been set as a means of expressing their loyalty. It is due to this fact that Jung and Yammarino (2001) concluded that transformational leadership can only be effective in work environments that follows a collective culture and not an individualistic one.
Transformational Leadership and Intrinsic Motivation
Gumusluoglu (2009) defined intrinsic motivation as the drive that an individual has to be engaged in a given activity for its own sake other than the overall outcomes that might accrue. At Apple Inc., intrinsic motivation is considered as one of the leading sources of motivation for its employees due to the fact that they will put their creative minds into action in the process of researching and developing a new product.
The study by Jaussi and Dionne (2003) revealed that individuals who are intrinsically motivated tend to exhibit a much more creative behavior as compared to those who are not. At Apple Inc., intrinsic motivation is encouraged through supportive supervision whereby leaders take into consideration the feelings, needs, and aspirations of their employees, direct them in the best means through which they can realize the set goals and objectives, and in the process, they play a significant role in enhancing the interest that employees have towards their respective tasks within the organization.
Transformational Leadership and Innovation
As asserted by Scott and Bruce (2004), the characteristics of a given organization play a significant role in determining the creativity of its employees. This is largely due to the fact that the work environment is a strong determinant of employees’ creativity, their perception towards work, and the manner in which the resources within the organization have been designed and directed to support creativity and innovation. Apple Inc. considers innovation as a tool for meeting the needs and requirements of its target market hence achieving a competitive edge over rival firms. Through innovation, Apple Inc. has been successful in coming up with products and operational strategies that have greatly differentiated the firm from its competitors within the market (Gumusluoglu 2009).
Through the application of transformational leadership approaches, leaders at Apple Inc. have been successful to enhance the innovative capability of this firm over time. To achieve this, these leaders have been employing a mix of inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation as a means of promoting creative ideas within the organization (Gumusluoglu 2009). Through the influence of their leaders, employees at Apple Inc. have developed the motivation to enhance their performance beyond their expectations and also to adapt to the changing work environment in an effective and efficient manner that in the process result in the enhancement of innovation. This explains the ability of this firm to be able to keep up with meeting the changing needs of their consumers unlike rival firms.
Transformational leaders are also influential in the market success of an organization (Gumusluoglu 2009). Apple leaders, for instance, foster a strong vision of for innovation within the organization. Additionally, leaders at Apple Inc. also have over time shown strong sense of power and confidence not only to their employees but also towards their products. This has greatly enhanced the overall rate of the market success of its innovations.
By mobilizing their employees, they have been successful in guaranteeing their innovative success especially with regards to research and development where quality takes much more preference than quantity (Gumusluoglu 2009). Furthermore, leaders at Apple Inc. are also actively involved in other external activities of the organization such as market growth and expansion as well as entrepreneurship. Through these activities, the firm gathers relevant information with regards to understanding the needs of the market and the manner in which they can market their innovative products to their targeted markets.
Operating in a VUCA World
Various internal and external factors affect the day-to-day operations of a given entity. This is as a result of the volative environment that contemporary firms operate in. Competition, for instance, requires entities to adapt to changing operating conditions to stand at an edge. Moreover, there have been firms that have lost their competitive edge overnight especially during the 2007-2009 financial crisis that rendered most business models obsolete (Lawrence 2013).
It is due to such uncertainties that Lawrence (2013) stated that contemporary firms operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment (VUCA). Therefore, for firms to be successful in this environment, they need the guidance from leaders with agility and adaptability skills. Such leaders are effective in making the right changes to employees, organizational processes, its technology, and structure to meet the trending demands of the market. Additionally, such leaders generally are flexible and quick especially with regards to decision-making.
Apple Inc. has been operating in a volatile environment especially with regards to the unpredictable magnitude, nature, and frequency of changes that it has been experiencing over time that have come about as a result of technological advancement, globalization, innovation in operating strategies and the liberalization of trade (Sullivan 2012). To counter this, leaders at Apple Inc. have developed clear short term and long-term visions for the organization.
The visions are clearly set and take into considerations volatile changes such as economic downturns and emergence of new competition. This has been influencing in enabling Apple Inc. achieve its set goals and visions despite the challenges that has met in the course of its operations.
Most firms, including Apple Inc. have been operating in uncertain conditions that make it hard for leaders to use past experiences as means of forecasting future outcomes. This makes decision-making to be quite challenging (Sullivan 2012). To overcome these uncertainties, Apple Inc. has developed an understanding mechanism whereby the leaders seek for information, opinions, and ideas from beyond their normal areas of expertise. This includes but not limited to feedback from customers, criticisms from clerics, and responses by rival firms on an external scale. Internally, leaders exercise their teamwork and collaborative skills by encouraging employees from all levels to participate in communication, brainstorming, sharing of ideas and decision-making process.
In the course of its operations, Apple Inc. has experienced complex and difficult to comprehend challenges that in addition to operating in a volatile and uncertain environment makes it difficult to make clear and concise decisions resulting to confusion and ambiguity in the long run. To overcome this, Apple Inc. leaders are equipped with the ability and skill to make clear, quick, effective, and responsive decisions (Lawrence 2013). For instance, when most mobile phone companies were switching to the Android operating system, Apple came to a decision of developing further its iOS in a manner that meets the needs of its target market (Khan, Alam and Alam 2015).
In the process, the firm was successful in maintaining its loyal customers as well as attracting new ones who preferred their software due to its stability, reliability, and ease of use. Apple Inc. has also been in numerous ambiguous situations whereby it has failed to clearly ascertain the threats and opportunities that it is facing (Kail 2010). However, leaders at Apple Inc. are agile and quick to communicate across the organization in a bid to come up with effective and efficient solutions that will enable them to overcome the threats they are facing as well as taking advantage of the opportunities are present.
Operating in a technology driven industry, Apple Inc. has highly relied on creativity and innovation to be successful in its operations over the years. However, for the firm to realize its short term and long-term visions, it has been forced to come up with measures and strategies that provides a conducive environment that supports creativity and innovation. Transformational leadership has played a significant role in ensuring that employees receive charismatic modeling, individualized consideration, intellectual inspiration and inspiration motivation to achieve the set vision, goals and objectives as a means of enhancing their creativity and organizational innovation.
It is also through transformational leadership that leaders at Apple Inc. have developed the agility skills that are required in operating in a VUCA environment. The interaction of all these concepts and factors has been influential in the success that the organization is currently enjoying.
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