The Importance of Focus

One common theme we hear from our clients is the importance of their participants learning about a focused plan/strategy. The most valuable brand in the world[1] exemplifies this concept. When Tim Cook was Apple’s COO, he credited Apple’s success to their ability to focus.

In 2010 Cook said:We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose. The table each of you are sitting at today, you could probably put every product on it that Apple makes, yet Apple’s revenue last year was $40 billion.”[2][5]

During a business simulation course, while running their own company, participants practice setting focused goals and tracking results. Saying no to a bad idea is easy; however, saying no to a good/great idea is difficult. A business simulation exercise provides the environment to develop the discipline of saying “no” when needed and reserving a “yes” for what really matters to a company.

In 2020, Apple’s revenue was 274.5 billion [3]. Today, Apple is a company with almost limitless technical capabilities, know-how, cash [4], etc. in summary, a company with almost limitless resources. However, Apple realizes it can’t say yes to everything. It reminds us that every time we say “yes” to something by default we are saying “no” to another project, activity, idea, product, task, etc.

If a company like Apple, with virtually unlimited resources, has to say no to great ideas, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Apple’s Revenue

Apple’s revenue gives us an insight as to how focused the company is. In 1997, 80% of Apple’s revenue came from 2 products, the iMac and the Power Macintosh. Twenty years later, 80% of Apple’s revenue came from 2 products, the iPad and the iPhone.
Source: www.datavisualisations.net/ visualisations/from-imacs-to-iphones-the-change-in-apples-revenue-mix

[1] Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-surpasses-amazon-as-worlds-most-valuable-brand-2021-1
[2] Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/live-apple-coo-tim-cook-at-the-goldman-tech-conference-2010-2
[3] Source: https://d18rn0p25nwr6d.cloudfront.net/CIK-0000320193/7b5717ca-6222-48e6-801c-9ea28feeef86.pdf
[4] Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/27/apple-q1-cash-hoard-heres-how-much-apple-has-on-hand.html
[5] Cook’s comment builds on the foundation Steve Jobs laid for Apple: “People think focus”, Jobs said, “means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully… Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Source: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/629613-people-think-focus-means-saying-yes-to-the-thing-you-ve