Apple is one of my favorite companies that exists, and Steve Jobs is one of my heroes. I think that Apple is able to continually push their software and hardware far beyond what anybody else is able to do. They continually deliver amazing products and because of the success of their organization and innovations, I think there is a lot we can learn from them that applies to leading in the both the ministry realm and the business realm.
People Don't Know What They Need
Apple is known for not looking to their customers to figure out what they need to do. They do what they think is going to be the best product for the end user and they are usually right. When the iPhone first came out, people complained that it didn't have a keyboard; now, people don't care that there is no keyboard.
“Apple market research” is an oxymoron. The Apple focus group was the right hemisphere of Steve’s brain talking to the left one. If you ask customers what they want, they will tell you, “Better, faster, and cheaper”—that is, better sameness, not revolutionary change. They can only describe their desires in terms of what they are already using—around the time of the introduction of Macintosh, all people said they wanted was better, faster, and cheaper MS-DOS machines. - Guy Kawaski on Steve Jobs
In ministry, it would be a shame if we didn't listen to the people in our ministries, but that being said, a lot of the things that our students need to hear, they don't realize they need to hear. Where I see this practice of Apple, really applying to our ministry, is when it comes to these unfelt needs. What do you know your students need to hear or experience that they don't realize they need? Apple figures out what they think that people need and they deliver a life-changing piece of technology. When your ministry figures out an unfelt need and is able to help a student see the importance of it, they can give a life-changing message.
All the Details Matter
Apple is known for paying attention to every little detail. The images that you see as soon as you launch an app, the placement of screws on a macbook, or even the design of internal parts of a machine that you may never open. Apple pays close attention to the small details because they believe that the little things matter. In your ministry are you paying attention to the little things? How does somebody feel when they walk into the room? How do guests feel when it's their first time checking out the church? How well are parents informed about the details of an upcoming trip? Are all the students feeling like somebody cares about them?
Be the Best, Not the First
Believe it or not, Apple didn't invent the smartphone, they revolutionized it. Apple was not the first to create a phone that could run apps, but they did it better than anybody else. They weren't the first company to allow apps to run in the background or change the way notifications worked, but they do it the best.
"[Researchers] found that only 9 percent of pioneers end up as the final winners in a market. Gillette didn't pioneer the safety razor; Star did. Polaroid didn't pioneer the instant camera; Dubroni did. Microsoft didn't pioneer the personal computer spreadsheet; VisiCorp did. Amazon didn't pioneer online bookselling and AOL didn't pioneer online Internet service...It seems that pioneering innovation is good for society but statistically lethal for the individual pioneer!" - Jim Collins in Great by Choice
What Apple realizes is an important reality, that it is not nearly as important to be the first to do something, as it is to be the best at doing something. Find what other youth workers are creating and make it your own. Read about good ideas that would fit in your minsitry and adapt them for your context. You don't have to be the innovator of a new model for ministry or creative idea, just be the best in the context of you ministry enviornment.
Photo Credit: Ruben Bos