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The End of the Genius Era

Excellent piece by Dieter Bohn at The Verge following news of Jony Ive’s coming departure from Apple:

While Apple might have a good story about having been founded in a garage, the true founding myth of Apple is the myth of genius. You know the fable, which has the benefit of also being true. When Steve Jobs was in charge, Apple made amazing things: the Apple computer, the Mac. Jobs not in charge: the very bad ‘90s with Scully and the Newton. Jobs back in charge: the renaissance, the iPod, the iPhone.

After Steve Jobs, that mantle was passed to Jony Ive. And he quietly (quite literally) took it. It was important to our concept of Apple that there be a single, discerning decision maker. Somebody uncompromising about quality. Somebody with very good taste. A capital G Genius.

Bohn makes the case, based on solid evidence from other sources, that Apple has operated for years without being driven by a singular “genius” but rather a collaborative, highly-capable team – and while that seems to have been more true than ever lately, to a degree it’s always been the case. In spite of the mythos surrounding Steve Jobs, responsibility for Apple’s best work falls not just on his shoulders, but on that of the team he was surrounded by.

Ive’s absence will certainly be felt, but the hole he leaves is likely much smaller than his “legend” would imply. As Bohn remarks, “we should stop thinking of Apple as the singular expression of one person’s genius. History has moved beyond the Great Man theory, and so too should our ideas about how Apple operates.”