My Rating of “Tim Cook” by Leander Kahney: 8 / 10
Let me open by posing a question. 10 years ago would you have thought a quiet achieving, super smart operational guy who manages the back office of Apple would become the CEO of the biggest company (by market cap)? If you read this book you will understand why this is the case. What Cook lacks in charisma he makes up for in entrepreneurial thinking, operational excellence and a calm + controlled executive approach. Kahney writes a book that surfaces who Cook really is, the rationale of his approach and how he has become the leader he is today.
Many criticise Cook when comparing him to Steve Jobs. Sure, Tim Cook isn’t the innovative bullet train that Steve Jobs was. It is clear that Cook doesn’t focus on product management or innovations at Apple. Instead he focused on establishing the best foundational ecosystem and platform that has made Apple who it is today. First, think about where Apple’s supply chain was when Cooked joined to where it is today. Days of inventory were out of control, demand + supply were not in sync until Cook established operational discipline. He began outsourcing many aspects of what Apple were not good at to 3rd parties (think Foxconn).
Second Apple’s pivot to a service based revenue model is genius and is driving today’s continuous record breaking quarters. Apple will continue to pump out products with incremental innovation. Yet their service portfolio and the recurring bundle concept is going to provide a rock solid revenue stream. It will keep customers hooked into their ecosystem for decades to come (more on the concept here from Scott Galloway). Other than Amazon, Apple has mastered this art and continue to obsess on how to delight the customer through integrated services delivered on beautifully designed devices. Cook has driven the former whilst Jobs established the latter.
Kahney wrote this book based of publicly released interviews. He never had the opportunity to interview Cook directly however was able to pull an interesting story together. Cook is is a quiet and secret individual and not much of his thinking or living has come directly from him. With that said, there are many learnings on why Cook’s approach has been the successful and why he was the best choice to lead Apple after Jobs.
Three key takeaways from the book:
- What the reader learns is that Cook eats and breathes Apple 24x7. He is very passionate about the company and what Jobs established. He sees his work has continuing to set the bar and extend the legacy. Whilst this is commendable, to what end? He gets up at 3am every morning to check email and then progresses with his day until early evening. It is a classic live to work scenario.
- After reading this book it become very clear why Jobs selected Cook as Apple’s next CEO. As mentioned above, what Cook lacks in charisma he makes up pretty much everything else.
- It is clear that many readers disregard profiles such as Cook as lacking the end product innovation we have seen with many other high profile CEOs. Think about Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma as examples. Other reviews of this book miss the point that today’s technology age will all be about incremental innovation. We will have the occasional innovation jump however that will be the exception to the rule. Cook is manage the ship nicely release by release and device by device. That 1% innovation in each release compounds over time.