When will Apple start innovating again?

The 7 secrets of innovation from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is widely regarded as one of the greatest "innovation gurus" of all time. His “secrets of success” are anything but spectacular. Banks and savings banks can (can) orientate themselves well in order to be more successful.

Steve Jobs' principles of innovation management are also relevant for banks and savings banks.

After his return in 1997, Steve Jobs led Apple out of an existence-threatening crisis and made it one of the most successful companies in the world. In addition, he also led the Pixar company to success. With both companies, he has discarded, changed and redefined the basic rules of the game in the respective industries, creating innovations at which numerous competitors have failed or have not even tried. In 2010, Fortune Jobs magazine named Fortune Jobs CEO of the Decade. His death in 2011 left a huge void, but his ideas and principles have a chance to live on.

Seven basic principles for successful innovation

In the book “The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success”, Carmine Gallo traces perhaps the seven most important basic principles of Jobs success, which also offer numerous starting points for banks and savings banks. These are:

  1. Only do what you really love.
  2. Leave something great in the universe.
  3. Use the full capacity of your mind.
  4. Sell ​​dreams, not products.
  5. Say "no" to 1,000 things.
  6. Create great, crazy experiences.
  7. Master your message.

Apple's secret of success for banks and savings banks: Think Different!

It's about “thinking differently” and constantly reinventing your own company, your product or your service from the inside out. "Think Different" was the slogan of Apple's central advertising campaign from 1997 and was Apple's answer to the IBM campaign slogan "Think" at the time.

In the following video, let's see Steve Jobs reflecting on the principles and foundations of change and innovation:


But what do the principles mean in detail and what conclusions can bankers draw from them?

Principle 1: Only do what you really love.

Steve Jobs once said that only people with passion can make the world a little better. You cannot bring out new, innovative and exciting products or services without being passionately inspired by them and thereby moving society forward. Life is too short to live someone else's dream and until you have figured out what that personal dream is, you should keep looking for it.

Groundbreaking innovations that change our lives for the better can only come about in such a very personal atmosphere of passion, regardless of whether it is about products, services or methods. How do you find such a passion? There are things and thoughts that never let go of you. You will find yourself in hopes, in dreams and in thoughts.

"Passion for performance", the former advertising slogan of Deutsche Bank, basically pointed the way to the right path. But, I only know a few top bankers who are really passionate about their customers and their needs. They do exist, without question, but they are a rare species. People who think and act rationally dominate, especially in the large institutes. Often with a background as a consultant. Emotionality is the exception. But this is a virtue that is necessary, valuable and helpful in a customer-oriented company.

Perhaps banks should deliberately open up more than before to other images of human beings in order to bring the customer and his needs back into focus ?!

Principle 2: Leave something great in the universe.

Steve Jobs not only had a great vision, most importantly, he always believed in the power of that vision. At a time when computers were only something for programmers and a very small number of hobby enthusiasts, it was his vision to give PCs into the hands of ordinary people and to make them an object of everyday life. Together with the technology freak Steve Wozniak he created the first people's computer and with the Macintosh he finally achieved the breakthrough, without which PCs would be inconceivable today.

In 1979, Jobs toured the Xerox research facility in Palo Alto, California. It was there that he first saw a technology that was later referred to as the "graphical user interface". While no one at Xerox seemed to recognize the potential and the company continued to build copiers, Jobs saw the enormous opportunities and revolutionized the operation of a computer. One of his credo was: "We'd rather bet on the basis of our mission than to bring out me-too products", which has been proven to be true on the iPad, among other things.

Are there such far-reaching, world-changing visions also in banks or is it me-too thinking that dominates there? At least there was.

Gottfried Friedrich Raiffeisen had his vision of cooperative self-help at a time when poverty and hunger were still widespread and at the same time Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch founded savings and consumer associations on a cooperative basis from which the Volksbanks developed. Century merged with the Raiffeisen banks.

Since the financial crisis at the latest, the financial sector as a whole has not only suffered from a dramatic loss of trust, but above all from the fact that the individual institutes have become largely interchangeable in the eyes of their customers - in stark contrast to Apple. Some time ago I showed here how this interchangeability is reflected in the guiding principles of the banks.

What is needed is more and active differentiation, especially those that are based on customer needs. Innovation has to start with the customer experience and move from there to technology, not the other way around. It must be embedded in an overall concept and it must be allowed to make mistakes. In addition to product innovations, business process innovations must also be added.

Let's listen again to Steve Jobs in a discussion about change and innovation:

Principle 3: Use the full capacity of your mind.

Creativity leads to innovative ideas. For Steve Jobs, creativity means reconnecting things. In his eyes, innovation is more about discovery than inventing.

In his opinion, only a rich treasure trove of different experiences enables human behavior and thus customer needs to be correctly identified and assessed in order to bring the desired creative impetus into a company on this basis. Breakthrough innovations require creativity and creativity requires thinking differently about what you think about.

Jobs has not only recruited numerous employees outside of the IT industry. Artists, musicians, historians and zoologists have contributed to the success of the Mac project. He himself studied calligraphy in college, meditated in an Indian ashram and carefully inspected the Four Seasons hotel chain before the introduction of the Apple Stores in order to get ideas for new and better customer service. It has always been his credo to find suggestions for his own inspiration in other industrial sectors.

I hardly know bankers who are looking for ideas for better customer service or new products in other industries (in the case of processes, of course). And the proportion of people who are neither bank clerks, business economists or lawyers is likely to be well below one percent in most savings banks and cooperative banks.

It's actually no wonder that some people from outside the industry laugh out loud when they are asked about the topic of banking and customer service, as happened to me some time ago with the former managing director of a subsidiary of the leading German aviation company. The financial industry is not seen as a leader when it comes to customer service. Financial institutions should therefore think outside the box much more often and allow and encourage creativity.

Principle 4: Sell dreams, not products.

Steve Jobs never saw people primarily as customers. People are not interested in products, companies or brands. They care about themselves, their hopes, their dreams and their goals. If you want to be successful, you have to support them in making these dreams a reality. Then people become customers and maybe, as in the case of Apple, even loyal fans.

The customer experience, the positive customer experience, must be put in the foreground.

In some of the many sales seminars I have attended in my banking life, this is exactly the approach that has been taught. In reality, however, I still see that most banks, savings banks and their employees primarily sell products. Not only the still numerous spring loan, building society and pension weeks across the country give eloquent testimony to this.

I may repeat myself occasionally, but putting customer needs at the center of sales efforts is, in my view, one of the most important tasks for banks, both to regain lost trust and to be successful in sales.

Principle 5: Say “No” to 1,000 things.

Steve Jobs once said that the secret to innovation is to say no to a thousand things. In his view, simplicity is the highest level of perfection. In other words: Part of Apple's success is based on leaving out or not offering products. When Jobs came to Apple (again) there were 350 products. He reduced the offer to 10 products. Why? So that he could put his "A-Team" on every product, that is, the best and not run the risk of sacrificing quality for quantity.

According to Jobs, a particular credo is simplicity. Customers demand simplicity and convenience. Simplicity requires that something that disrupts the customer experience or is unnecessary must be eliminated. It's not just about product design, but also about website navigation, marketing or other things.

One result of this consistent thinking was that the iPhone lacks a keyboard, which was a revolution in cell phones at the time. Another example was and is the iPad, which is so simply constructed that even two-year-olds can use it, as the following video shows.

In relation to banks, this approach can mean consistently reducing one's own product range and thus removing complexity from the range of services, which not only relieves customers but also employees. But also to simplify the paths that the customer has to cover on a website in order to get to certain information. Or to check the marketing messages or advice for possible simplification. It is not without reason that bank advisors are often accused of trying to train their customers instead of simply and clearly presenting the advantages and disadvantages of services. Admittedly, some regulations such as MiFID II do not make it any easier.

Principle 6: Create great, insane experiences.

When Steve Jobs launched the Apple Stores, he was - once again - declared insane. In the meantime, Apple stores have become a role model for retailers and have set an absolute benchmark in customer service. Apple thus created an innovative shopping experience for customers.

The employees in these stores are not salespeople but experts, consultants or freaks who give the customer an experience and are available to help with all questions about the Apple world. Your goal is to infect customers with their own emotional enthusiasm for Apple.

Now look at the reality in German bank branches. Is it any wonder that branches have been in a crisis for a long time? What some bank executives have still not understood: Ultimately, it's not about the question of whether a counter has to be round or square or which furniture is in the advisory area. There are still regional institutes where several million euros are invested in building a branch with fewer than 5,000 customers. The further training budget in these institutes is sometimes nowhere near this scale, let alone the investments in digitization.

Above all, however, it is about the employees and the way in which they “convey” their service and their advisory services to the customer. so that he enthusiastically recommends her afterwards.

Principle 7: Master Your Message.

The best idea is useless and, above all, ineffective if it doesn't get where it should: with the customer. Steve Jobs usually saw it as an absolute top priority to present a new product. In doing so, he did not make a film battle about technical properties, but always put the idea associated with the new product in the foreground. Not only did he inform, he was a storyteller, inspired, explained or simply entertained. The visual and the haptic experience were always in the foreground for him.

Now take a look at official bank events, be it press conferences, customer events or internal events designed to motivate employees. Steve Jobs wasn't a rhetorical genius either, but he didn't just get his messages across, above all he embodied them credibly for his listeners himself.

Conclusion: innovation has to be part of the brand

The aforementioned seven principles only work if you see yourself as part of the brand. This doesn't just mean the top boss, but everyone in the company. Every employee embodies the company and contributes to the overall picture, both internally and externally. The way you talk, how you move, how you act, all of this reflects the brand you work for and stand for.

All of this has an influence on the ideas that arise and are implemented in a company and above all on how the business develops and how the lives of customers are positively influenced by them. Alfred Herrhausen once put it: “We have to say what we think. We have to do what we say. We have to be what we do ”. Would you show me a banker today who stands for ...

Steve Jobs encountered a lot of skepticism and resistance early in his professional life. Here is a small excerpt from it:

  • "We don't need you, you didn't even get through college."
  • "Go away. We don't buy your products ”.
  • "Your problem is that with the supply of caviar you want to grow in a world that has enough cheese and crackers".
  • "There is no reason why anyone should have a computer in their home".

How may a young person have felt in this situation? It takes a lot of inner strength and a very loud inner voice to listen to them in the face of such words.

Innovation always means risk. Taking risk requires trust, courage and discipline. And sometimes a bit of madness to calm down negative voices and suppress skepticism. You will only be able to develop and implement innovations successfully if you allow this to happen.

Is systematic innovation management with corresponding processes and structures important and necessary for this? Steve Jobs says, “The system at Apple is that there is no system.” Innovation comes when people meet and share ideas and observations. This can be in the canteen, in the hallway, in the elevator or wherever. So they have to be given plenty of opportunities for such informal meetings.

For banks, this means giving more leeway and not only tolerating lateral thinking (and lateral thinkers) but rather actively demanding and promoting them. Innovative strength depends on the right people and the right leadership.

According to Steve Jobs, innovation has nothing to do with the size of the research and development budget. When Apple first came out with the Mac, IBM's R&D budget was 100 times that of Apple. But of course there was and still is an innovation budget at Apple. In the meantime there is also one at some banks.

Innovation differentiates between leaders and persecutors. Banks should finally start operating again.