What does Apple's approach to AI tell us about strategy?

18 Jun 2024

What does Apple's approach to AI tell us when we are planning strategy as teams and organisations?


In the strategic process, where a team wants to align around the vision and mission, looking towards the strategic approach there are trade-offs to consider. For Apple it would appear they have prioritised privacy and performance but at the expense of accessibility, where the new hashtag#AI features will require a new phone, at least in the short to medium term. However, you might say this is sticking to a priority of encouraging trade-up from their extremely large customer base?


A consideration in the strategy planning workshop, similar to a design sprint is how your offering compares to your competitors in the sector. Apple has let OpenAI, Google and other push ahead with widely accessible cloud-based hashtag#GenAI solutions. It would appear they have chosen to differentiate themselves by providing on-device solutions that aim for high performance and provide more privacy assurances for users. Why compete on open access tools with OpenAI or Google? Apple's growth has been focused on high performance, innovation and design so it appears they have remained true to a guiding principle and avoided pivoting to follow the rest. Google rushed to follow the explosion created by OpenAI and has fallen victim to some stutters in launching new products.

Speed to Market

This brings us to the strategic decision on how to launch. Google is known for speed to launch and iterating, and often killing products... Ah Google Reader, I miss you. Again, in the strategic planning workshop this can be guided by the vision and mission that defines how you operate and make decisions. Are you known for innovation that launches early, are your users used to early stage features that get refined with user-feedback or are you known for high quality fully tested services/products and features? It is a good reminder or why the vision and mission need to be articulated and shared across your teams. They should provide guardrails for decision-making that avoid too many people getting into long discussions and not being aligned on the approach you should be taking. I would expect early on at Apple when GenAI was exploding there was a conversation about their values, approach and clarity on a phased approach allowing for thorough testing, user feedback, and iterative improvements.

Image is blurred and shows a window of sticky notes arranged with yellow rectangular topic notes on the left, most redacted. They have red and green sticky dots indicating some kind of vote on pirorities. To the right there is a combination of pink and blue sticky notes against each category.

Of course, when you have around 2 billion users and you know they have high levels of loyalty to your products or services you have time to take that approach!

Know your customers

Customer segmentation will form part of your strategic planning, where basing that on actual data rather than hunches and gut feelings it vital for a robust strategy. Apple would have needed to make a call on whether they felt the rush to GenAI by other providers would attract their customers away or whether they would be able to take some time to build in solutions that enabled them to build it into their newer devices. I find exercises that use vision and mission, values of an organisation to make decisions, fast or slow, hardware or software, prioritise sustainability are a great way to help them align. Yes, it does sound like Phoebe's way of choosing a route for Joey!

Adapting to change

A strategy workshop is not a one off exercise that is 'complete' when I pass on the delivery assets to the team. It needs to live and breathe with the ability to be continually adapted. In many cases this means vision, mission and values include OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) that can cascade down through the teams and organisation or KPI (Key performance indicators). I often find teams reflect on our time together by looking at how to implement my approach more into their day to day way of working. Being more collaborative, adaptable and able to align quickly as a team when things change, challenges appear and they need to adapt.

Final thoughts

Strategy is hard, so prioritising time for teams to come together to focus on it is a good return on investment. I am lucky to be able to support teams with strategy as a facilitator with an adaptable approach as no two teams or organisations are the same.

You can see indicators of Apple's strategic approach in their recent announcements, do you see your strategy come through in your posts, services, products, launches and the way your teams work together?

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Ben Rouse is the founder and facilitator at Evolving Design, who help teams collaborate, problem solve and achieve their ambitious goals.

Ben worked as a teacher and trainer before moving into facilitation, bringing his expertise together to facilitate team experiences.