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Tim Cook: 'You Should Rarely Follow the Rules'

The Apple CEO encouraged Duke undergrads to make their own rules and soak up the value of learning.


On a recent visit to Duke University, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked by a student, "When should we listen to our professors and when is it OK to break the rules?"

Cook smiled. "You should rarely follow the rules," he replied. "I think you should write the rules.

"I think if you do follow things in a formulaic manner, you will wind up, at best, being the same as everybody else."

When companies follow the rules, he continued, they are successful for a little while, but ultimately they won't succeed.

That said, Cook doesn't dismiss formal training. What Duke's Fuqua School taught him so well is how to learn, collaborate, and work with people who have different perspectives.

"To me, that was the overwhelming value of being here--not the specific rules of marketing or strategy or operations," Cook said. 

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jun 6, 2013

JULIE STRICKLAND covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City.

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