Thursday, May 20, 2010

115. Innovation: The Apple or Google Way?

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a technology junky. I asked him what was new in the technology world and he told me google is doing their session this week, sort of a state of the union for google. I was immediately interested

We eventually got into a discussion of comparing apple and google and how they innovate. The following are some the high points that flowed out of this discussion for me.

1. Apple gets a product 100% complete before they drop it into the market. Steve Jobs gets up and announces the new thing, and bam! It hits the market and is ready for consumption. If they talk about it, it is ready to be consumed. No forecasting about what is in the future. The trick for apple is to get better and better on existing products or to pioneer an entirely new product. Google, on the other hand, drops a beta into the world. It is an unfinished product, with all kinds of improvements needed to make it a success.

2. Apple innovates entirely in secret. It is pioneered in a closed system and done in behind closed doors. This assumes a high level of understanding of the market and the consumers. Google still pioneers, but it only comes up with the prototype. The users actually help google finish the product by their use and feedback. Google listens to the people as they are innovating and refining the product.It is an open system, crowd sourcing if you like. The clear and present example of their cell phone technology that allows the user to customize the phone, It is hacker friendly and essentially says to the user "You know best what you want your phone to look like and do." Google listens, Apple speaks.

3. Apple rarely has failures, but they have a very limited product line compared to google. Google has more failures than Apple, but they have a lot more diversity in their scope of innovation. In fact, here is an interesting blog post about some of google's failed products that were introduced to the public, but did not make it into the survivor list of google products.

These are two very different approaches to innovation. The point here is that google is not afraid to put an incomplete product out there and ask people to help them improve it. They are saying "We don't know what will work best until you tell us." They are telling us that they want to listen. There is a lot of risk out there too when you do this. Some products don't fly, they don't even crawl. And failure is very public in this model. However, they have made incredibly successful products as well, like google books and gmail.

Apostolic ministry, if it is going to engage new cultural contexts with the gospel is going to have to embrace innovative forms of mission. The question is, what kind of innovation? I think apostolic ministry should look more like google than apple. It should not be about "better" innovation, but "beta" innovation. I will let you run with the analogy here.


forerunnerJ said...

I don't think either way is right or wrong. I think it's a personality and approach thing. Both Apple and Google are successful and reach a massive audience and consumer base with relevant solutions. I also don't know that there is a 100% parallel to church planting.

I would say our approach is more Apple than Google. Longer on the plan and refine before launch than launch, experiment, refine. It seems that God gives long periods of preparation and waiting before birthing the Church. And a pattern for leaders being in an "incubation" period before launching their public ministry.

Perhaps a balance of these two approaches and a choice between the two at different stages and places in the lifecycle of the organization is best. We can't be afraid to fail, but we also can not afford to frequent of failures if not for the practical constraints of time, energy, money and people. And to fail can yield critical casualties. Leaving some immature Christians disenfranchised as an example. Or launching a practical needs campaign that does not also produce salvation and disciples as another.

Planter said...

Good thoughts Jason. I think that we have to be willing to fail. It does not mean you dont prep for innovation. There is obviously a lot of prep on googles end before they drop. But the key difference is that they involve others on the process. This is part of the reason beta is betta than better in the Kingdom I think. We have to embrce the risk, but lso do so as good stewarfds of the resources we have been given, this includes social capital and the relationships that form out of those innovative forms of mission. Not a right or wrong to me, but there is one that seems conducive with an overall paradigm of innovation in the context of community. I lean towards the google side of things in that context. But I like ipods!

Nathan Capps said...

Great analogy. Apple believes if they get the right people in the room they'll come out with the best solution. Google says get your best people in the room put out the best product you can then allow your market to improve it.