Apple's Corporate Culture: 10 Lessons for Staying in Steve Jobs' Good Graces

News Analysis: Apple's top iPhone executive has left the company over reports that he didn't fit into Apple's corporate culture. So, maybe it's time for a review of what Apple's culture is really all about.

The announcement that Apple Senior Vice President Mark Papermaster left Apple sent shockwaves through the tech industry. Papermaster came to Apple from IBM after the companies waged a short-lived battle over exactly when he could start working at the hardware company.

After that, he took over the iPhone and iPod Touch and, at least to outsiders, did a fine job of delivering products that consumers wanted. His departure from Apple was very much a surprise.

But it didn't take long for some details and speculation about the reasons for Papermaster's departure from anonymous sources to make their way into news reports. One claim made by the Wall Street Journal stood out. The publication said that its sources claimed Papermaster didn't match well with Apple's corporate culture. And as those problems persisted, Steve Jobs started losing faith in his ability to lead the mobile devices division.

Admittedly, the Wall Street Journal's report has not been confirmed by Apple or Papermaster, so it's impossible to say why he really left. But the source's claim of cultural incompatibility seems to be something that some employees suffer from at Apple. And that's unfortunate because Jobs has created one of the most distinct corporate cultures in the business. Here is what makes Apple's corporate culture so unique.

1. Focus on design

The first thing that every employee must remember about Apple is that the company cares more about the design of products than any other firm in the market. Unlike Microsoft, which has historically done a poor job of creating aesthetically pleasing products, Apple really gets design. It understands what consumers want, it knows how to meet those desires, and it sets out to beat any and all expectations. It's not always easy, but Apple seems to get it right every time. If an employee doesn't help the company do that, he might end up with another company sooner than he thinks.

2. Believe in Jobs

Apple is an interesting firm. Its corporate culture extends beyond its employees to its consumers. So, what it expects from its employees, it also expects from its customers. One of the most important things it expects is for both stakeholders to believe in Steve Jobs. Over the past decade, Jobs has been Apple's savior. He has helped the company revive its aging business model, innovate beyond all expectations and deliver some of the better products on the market. Sometimes, that belief in Jobs can go too far, as evidenced by the most recent iPhone antenna debacle, but for the most part, believing in Steve Jobs has been good for Apple and good for both employees and consumers.

3. Forget everything that came before it

When employees come to Apple, they are expected to immediately do one thing: forget everything they ever knew about the technology world. Apple does everything differently. Whether it's the design of products, how it goes about devising ideas for new products or simply the way it carries itself, everything is different at Apple. To pretend like something is similar to a past employer is a mistake that could cause more trouble than it's worth. Apple is different.

4. Believe Apple is better than all others

Apple has an ego unlike any other company in the space. Whereas Microsoft always believes that the other shoe is about to drop, Apple believes that it can stop the shoe from ever falling. Part of that is due to Steve Jobs' ego. He believes that his company is the best in the world and it should carry itself that way. Apple haters can't stand that, but it has become a call to arms for all of the company's lovers and employees.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...