Tim Cook was a guest at The Atlantic Festival, where he sat for a virtual interview with Editor-in-Chief, Jeffrey Goldberg. During their conversation Cook talked about everything from climate change, to how Apple is handling the pandemic, both from the perspective of working remotely, as well as what the company is doing to help.
It was at the end of the interview, however, when things shifted to something more personal. Goldberg asked Cook first about whether he had plans to leave (he says he doesn't), and then what impact Apple's $2 trillion market cap had on the company (it sits at just under that as of today's date).
We'll get to Cook's response in a moment, because I think it says a lot about Apple and what has long drawn its most loyal fans to the company. That's an important thing right now as the company has faced criticism over a range of practices, mostly related to the App Store.
I think it's important to stop sometimes and remember what it is that your company thinks is most important. According to Cook, the fact that Apple is the most valuable company on earth (per its stock price), isn't the most important thing at all:
"It is not a fixation of ours... It's not why we do what we do. From our point of view, what we want to do is make the world's best products that enrich people's lives."
That probably sounds familiar if you pay attention to Apple. You can even almost hear Tim Cook saying those words on stage at an Apple product launch event.
I think there are plenty of good reasons to criticize Apple when it doesn't live up to that standard, and I have. I pointed out that Apple's App Store position has, at times, stifled innovation, even though it may technically be in the right. It's also created a worse user experience in some cases--like not being able to sign up for some services in the iOS version of the app (hello, Netflix and Spotify), or buy books directly in the Kindle app.
However, I think it's worth pointing out that compared to almost any other company, Apple actually seems to believe this. As a result, most of the time, its actions align with its values. I think that's directly related to what Cook says is most important.
Cook went on to talk about how he starts his day reading emails from Apple's customers. I think that's such a great practice because it helps give you an awareness about how the things your company is building are affecting the lives of real people. According to Cook:
"And so what turns us on is watching how our products are used out in the wild, and and whose life they're improving. That's what gets us up in the morning. You know, I get up every morning, and the first thing I do is read customer emails. I read about people who got a notification on their watch and found out they had a serious medical issue after after reaching out to their doctor. And we, we prevented that. And, and we prevented it from becoming a real issue.
"And so these are the things that drive us. And we think that if we do those well, if the user stays at our forefront of our our mindset, if we make the best product, then we'll have a good business and our shareholders will be happy."
I think Cook is right. He isn't saying that success isn't important, he's just clear on how to define it. He isn't saying that Apple doesn't care about growth or profits, he's acknowledging that the most effective way to make either of those happen is to do the right thing for your customers. It's to keep the user at the forefront, and build great things that add value to their lives.
In return, it has added a lot of value to Apple and its shareholders. Around $2 trillion worth, to be exact.