Today we continue our journey into systemic solutions for sustainable innovation with a piece by Larry Dries, JD a team member who is not a Mac user and who therefore has the necessary emotional detachment to write this piece.
I am neither an owner of an iPhone, nor a shareholder in Apple. (I use a BlackBerry, though I own no RIM shares.) I enjoy the benefits of technology, but I’m not emotionally attached to, nor emotionally moved by, any technological product. As such, I hope that I approach the recent Apple product announcement concerning the iPhone 4S in an objective manner.
It appears that most analysts (those faceless, yet all powerful seers of business success) have concluded that: first, the iPhone 4S can only have minimal impact upon Apple’s future success as it constitutes a mere product improvement, as compared to being an all new product version (it’s not an iPhone 5); and second, as a product improvement, it’s not too important because its changes are mostly “under the hood” rather than flashy new design modifications.
Holy mother of God- are you kidding! In 1935, Mr. Justice Sutherland delivering the opinion for the United States Supreme Court, decided the case of Gregory vs. Helvering (293 US 465) in which it articulated the doctrine of substance over form. Gregory was a tax case, and the doctrine, within the parameters of that case, meant that a taxpayer must accept the economic substance of his actions over the form of the transaction. But more generally the doctrine stands for the proposition that the substance of an action is more important than the form that the action takes. The doctrine is of general applicability, except, according to business analysts, at least in the recent Apple announcement, where it appears that only form matters, not substance.
Don`t get me wrong, I appreciate good design. If good design can be incorporated with good functionality, a great product is achieved. Nonetheless, a pig in makeup is still just a pig. I think Apple is to be applauded for addressing some of its weaker product elements. They have, in the iPhone 4S, introduced a mobile phone that is functionally far better than its predecessor, the iPhone 4. It may not be sleeker, or have cleverer, but basically useless, applications. No, it just processes input much faster as a result of a superior operating system and receives radio signals far better as a result of a greatly improved antenna system. Who cares? Evidently not the analysts.
How does this diatribe possibly relate to the central theme of this blog, that being the promotion of intelligent management of organizations? “The complexity and interconnection that increasingly define the life of organizations call for a much better ability to think in a systemic way. This enhanced ability connects coherently the birth of an idea (intuition) with its thorough analysis (understanding) and the operational knowledge required to carry out its implementation.” (Sechel, Domenico Lepore, 2011 Intelligent Management Inc.) Analysis (understanding) is an essential component of intelligent management. Understanding cannot occur if form does not subordinate to substance. Good decision making is achieved by decision makers that are objective, and committed to cause and effect analytical thinking, not ones subject to emotional responses.
While good marketing certainly involves the development and promotion of customers’ emotional attachments to the product, good business “analysis” does not. Analysis is understanding, and it requires more than just a form-over-substance reaction. If we are to reach a new business paradigm we need new business analysis. I think intelligent management can bring about a new paradigm, but it requires a dedication to substance over form.
Business analysts beware. The iPhone 4S may just turn out to be a really good product enhancement even though it isn’t any sleeker.