Apple Computer continues to dominate the news, financial markets and cocktail party conversations. This fact is not surprising since six months after the passing of its iconoclast founder, Steve Jobs; Apple remains the world’s most valuable brand and the most valuable company.

For this month’s AIANS column I felt compelled to look outside our profession to seek inspiration and ideas from Apple that may be applied to architectural practices. Some may say it is comparing “apples and oranges,” to explore corporate themes for application to small or mid-sized design firms. It is, but that is the point in this case.

Walter Isaacson is the author of the recent bestselling biography titled “Steve Jobs.” I recommend the book for those who want to get the life story of Mr. Jobs and insight into the companies and industries that he shaped, as well as, his unusual personal story. For a shorter read focused on business practices, Mr. Isaacson has recently published an article titled “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” in the April issue of The Harvard Business Review Several of the key attributes of Jobs that are highlighted by Isaacson can be applied to any business or profession. Consider the following three:

FOCUS – “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do…” It is noted that focus was ingrained in Jobs’s personality from his Zen training and he had an uncanny ability to filter out distractions. At annual leadership retreats he would have his topic executives come up with long lists of what they should do next then he would announce, “We can only do three.” Challenging yourself and your staff to focus on the core clients, projects and services can elevate your practice and yield results.

SIMPLIFY – Apple’s first marketing brochure included Leonardo da Vinci’s famous quote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” We all know that the game changing Apple product lines are known for their simple and bold designs, as is the architecture of the wildly successful Apple stores. Aesthetics aside, pursuing clear and simple solutions to complex design and practice challenges can help your firm stand out.

KNOW BOTH THE BIG PICTURE AND THE DETAILS – “One of Jobs’s salient traits was his ability and desire to envision overarching strategy whilealso focusing on the tiniest aspects of design.” Architects are generally known as very good problem solvers, and we often must juggle complex issues in our businesses as well as on projects. Scattered as it may seem, routinely shifting back and forth between broad ideas and small details is a healthy approach to embrace in practice.

Next month I plan to return inside the architectural profession and report on a practice topic closer to home. For now I close with a Stewart Brand Whole Earth Catalog quote that Steve Jobs embraced…”Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”

AIA NS Professional Practice Committee Chair: Ronald C. Weston, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Email: rweston@psands.com

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