NYT sheds light on internal training program for teaching the Apple way

Apple recruiter video (African American woman walks holding iPad)

In what seems to be a change of heart for The New York Times which notoriously dissed Apple in a nine-part iEconomy series of articles, the newspaper on Monday ran a rather positive frontage piece about the iPhone maker.

The write-up provides interesting details about Apple University, an internal training program at the firm’s 1 Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino, California that teaches future company leaders the Apple way of doing things.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who passed away nearly three years ago, in 2008 hired former Yale business school dean Joel Podolny to run Apple University. After naming Denise Young Smith its new head of human resources earlier this year, Podolny, who is a vice president at Apple, is now focused full time to teaching the Apple culture to employees…

Apple University teaches everything from clear internal and external communication to blending resources and talents of acquired companies into Apple to case studies about important business decisions like the iPod introduction and the decision to make iTunes compatible with Microsoft’s Windows (Jobs originally hated the idea).

In his article entitled ‘Simplifying the Bull: How Picasso Helps to Teach Apple’s Style,’ writer Brian X. Chen reveals:

Unlike many 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.

And in teaching employees about what makes Apple special, Apple uses a slide showing an ugly button-laden television remote for the Google TV, contrasting it to Apple’s own three-button remote.

Apple Remote (front 001)

According to the article, the Google TV remote is an example of how bad design decisions are allowed to happen when engineers get a vote on the buttons.

In “What Makes Apple, Apple,” another course that Mr. Nelson occasionally teaches, he showed a slide of the remote control for the Google TV, said an employee who took the class last year. The remote has 78 buttons. Then, the employee said, Mr. Nelson displayed a photo of the Apple TV remote, a thin piece of metal with just three buttons.

Classes are “meticulously planned” with “polished presentations,” as is Apple’s wont.

The classes are taught on Apple’s campus in a section of buildings called City Center and are as thoughtfully planned as an Apple product, the employees said.

The rooms are well lit and built in a trapezoid shape; seats in the back rows are elevated so that everyone has a clear view of the instructor. Occasionally, classes are given in Apple’s overseas offices, like one in China, and the professors travel there to teach.

“Even the toilet paper in the bathrooms is really nice,” one of the employees said.

There may even be a future course on Beats:

The company may also offer a course tailored specifically to employees of Beats, perhaps including its founders, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.

And here’s an internal Apple training video which explains what it’s like working for the man, narrated by Podolny himself.

Apple University is Apple’s advantage over rivals, many of which have lost sense of direction and self worth. And the bigger Apple gets, the more important Apple University is bound to become as an indispensable tool to help preserve the company’s DNA.

The whole article is well worth the time so do give it a read and come back here to chime in with your thoughts in the comments. To learn more about Podolny, check out Bloomberg’s extensive profile.