Apple Watch, And The Sign of a Bad Strategist

Apple Watch, And The Sign of a Bad Strategist


Vivek Sood




January 8, 2019

When I am doing difficult mathematical problems with my son, if he does not yet know the right answer (or the method to solve the problem), generally he will give several answers in the hope that at least one of them might click. I am trying to train him up to be a good thinker, besides being a good mathematician.

So, I encourage precision and brevity. The art of hitting the nail on the head really separates the good carpenters from the bad ones, and good mathematicians, and good product designers from the not-so-great ones.

When I was reading the book “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt, I was struck with the realisation that the bad strategists do exactly that same thing. If they are not sure of which two or three (or four) things will make all the difference in a situation, in general they will recommend a number of solutions (sometimes as many as 20-30) in the hope that at least some of them might click.

That is the reason whenever I see an article with a title saying 7,8 or 9 reasons…(also called listicles) – I know it will just be a laundry list of things of marginal importance. Watch out for strategists who offer a laundry list of unrelated solutions – in most cases they have not really diagnosed the problem adequately, and try and tackle the symptoms rather than the root causes.

This is how Richard Rumelt describes the difference between good strategy and bad strategy:

“The most basic idea of strategy is the application of strength against weakness. Or, if you prefer, strength applied to the most promising opportunity. The standard modern treatment of strategy has expanded this idea into a rich discussion of potential strengths, today called “advantages.” There are advantages due to being a first mover: scale, scope, network effects, reputation, patents, brands, and hundreds more. None of these are logically wrong, and each can be important. Yet this whole midlevel framework misses two huge incredibly important sources of natural strength:   Having a coherent strategy—one that coordinates policies and actions. A good strategy doesn’t just draw on existing strength; it creates strength through the coherence of its design. Most organizations of any size don’t do this. Rather, they pursue multiple objectives that are unconnected with one another or, worse, that conflict with one another.   The creation of new strengths through subtle shifts in viewpoint. An insightful reframing of a competitive situation can create whole new patterns of advantage and weakness. The most powerful strategies arise from such game-changing insights.

It is a great book, and I thoroughly recommend it. In it Richard talks about his meeting with Steve Jobs and his discussion about Apple’s strategy. He was struck by how unique that strategy was especially when compared with all the other tech CEOs that Richard interviewed.

That brings up to the difficult topic of Apple Watch which was launched today.

Being a bit of tech buff I spent several hours trying to understand exactly what does the watch do and looking for those two or three essential things that would make me buy it.

Frankly, I wanted to buy it.

Yet, I could not find anything that will make me keep all my other watches away. When Apple launched printers – they were clear about two or three things these printers did which no other printer did as well. Steve Jobs explains this in one of his videos very well:

This was equally true of all other Apple products that were phenomenally successful.

Itunes allowed people to rip CDs, store music and buy single tracks better than any other product. Ipods allowed listeners the most convenient way of storing a large selection of music. Iphones allowed the best user interface among smart phones (I used to own the best smart phone before Iphone came along – and it was badddd!). CdSo, I looked and looked, trying to find those two or three things in the Apple watch that will make all the difference. I am sorry to say that I did not yet find them. If there is something in there, they have carefully hidden it so far. I will take another look when the Apple watch comes out in the market. What does it have to do with Apple strategy overall? Well, if Apple does not ‘innovate’ another killer product like those earlier ones, very soon it will lose its shine!


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Vivek Sood

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  • Being a father Mr. Sood you are doing a very good job that you are training your son to become thinker instead of a mathematician. Anyway my question to you was regarding Apple watch is do you need an iPhone to use with an Apple watch? can you use an iPad or iPod touch?

  • It may be apple didn’t launch wow feature in Watch but still, it has a great user end experience and followers and market value.

    • Yeah, Apple’s products are very qualitative in comparison to other mobile phones it gives the quality which other mobile phone company’s can’t provide after all apple is all over a great product.

      • Connor, I agree with you but one thing I would like to say that Apple is good at its place but when it comes to user interface the android user one is addicted of android there is fewer chances for them to switch over Apple.

        • Yes, Kinsley, you are right with your to statement only a few people are there who switches from Android to IOS, however, an IOS user never like to be switched on android because the quality and the features which Apple has provided no other company can provide all those features,
          Although Apple is a very big brand now in his own self-monopoly, they don’t require to do the branding of their product it’s selling is already fast by user feedbacks only.

  • So much about the Apple Watch features and gorgeous specs, what about the other side of things? No one can deny that Apple’s first wearable device deserves all the attention and hype it’s got so far. Nevertheless, there are some loopholes, among many attractive features, which are still hidden underneath the Watch’s appeal. A strategy is an approach to overcoming obstacles. If you fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, you don’t have a strategy. I think Apple has missed the strategy element while designing and launching this watch.

  • Strategy has always been a fuzzy concept in my mind. What goes into a strategy? What makes a strategy good or bad? How is it different from vision and goals? Strategy is designing a way to deal with a challenge. A good strategy, therefore, must identify the challenge to be overcome, and design a way to overcome it. To do that, the kernel of a good strategy contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.

  • Good strategy is simple and obvious. Good strategy identifies the key challenge to overcome. Bad strategy fails to identify the nature of the challenge. If you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t evaluate alternative guiding policies or actions to take, and you can’t adjust your strategy as you learn more over time. Many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles. A strategic objective is a means to overcoming an obstacle. Strategic objectives are bad when they fail to address critical issues or when they are impracticable.

  • It’s time to look at the disadvantages of the Watch. If you are going to buy an Apple Watch, you would like to have a glance at the dark sides of the Watch in order to make sure whether you really need this watch or you can wait for it to come better prepared in the next generation. Let’s face it; Apple Watch doesn’t work as fast as you’d like it to. It is rather slow in importing data from your iPhone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. There are times; it takes a lot of time in loading third-party apps. On some occasions, it seems to have got stuck in loading notifications and don’t appear to be moving any further.

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