Tony Fadell on the unique nature of Apple's design process

Often referred to as the godfather of the iPod, Tony Fadell recently explained why Apple's design process sets it apart from the pack.

Often referred to as the godfather of the iPod, former Apple executive and current Nest CEO Tony Fadell played an instrumental part in Apple's resurgence. Indeed, Fadell joined Apple in February 2001 where he got to work designing the original iPod. Less than one year later, on October 23, 2001, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod to the world, and the rest, as they say, is history.

A talented engineer, and riding high on the incomparable success of the iPod, Fadell rose through the ranks at Apple where he eventually became Senior VP of Apple's iPod Division. He stayed at the company until 2008. 

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As an engineer who has worked on a number of products for a variety of tech-oriented companies, Fadell is in a good position to assess just what makes Apple's design process different from the rest of the pack.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Design Conference this week, Fadell opined on such differences while using his experience at Apple and Philips as an example.

Fadell explained that a key and yet often overlooked difference between Apple and other tech companies is that Apple ships 99% of the products that pass certain internal milestones. By way of contrast, during Fadell's tenure at Philips - where he was charged with overseeing the company's audio strategy - the iPod guru noted that Philips would axe 9 projects out of 10, even if a particular product was about to ship.

Nine times out of ten, or 99 times out of 100, they would kill the project, either at the beginning, the middle or right before the product was supposed to be shipped.

That can't be good for morale and certainly lends itself towards creating a corporate culture where employees feel as if their work doesn't really matter all that much.

"When you’re in a culture that has a point of view, and drives to launch everything it does, you know you’re on the hook and you better bring your best game every time," Fadell explained.

While at Apple, Fadell helped develop 18 generations of iPods and the first three generations of the iPhone.

In a previous interview, Fadell also explained that his superiors at Philips were all business managers who looked exclusively at numbers. That mindset, Fadell explained, does not lend itself to innovation.

If you told someone you wanted to make a thermostat and they looked at the numbers, no one would do it. No one would have made the iPod…no one would have made the iPhone.

And in case you're curious, here's Fadell talking with Josh Topolsky about Apple's early iPhone prototypes.

via Gigaom

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