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Friday, February 24, 2017

BOOK SUMMARY 322 Feminist Fight Club

BOOK SUMMARY 322 Feminist Fight Club

·         Summary written by: Sara Saddington
“And yet each of us, in every field, in every role, was stumbling into gender land mines at seemingly every turn—and often ones we didn’t even know existed. It was like trying to dodge the stench that lurks on a New York City street on a hot summer night: there you were, minding your own business, and BAM.”
- Feminist Fight Club, page xvi
I first heard about Feminist Fight Club on one of my favorite podcasts: Call Your Girlfriend. Hosts Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow were interviewing the author, Jessica Bennett, and talking about their tactics for dealing with sexism in the workplace. The conversation was candid, funny, and exhausting (seriously, every woman I know has some anecdotal evidence of sexism in the workplace, and that just makes me tired), and I knew I wanted to pick up a copy.
The book is a charming, sometimes hilarious, sometimes dead-serious blend of memoir and self-help. Bennett’s stories about herself and the women she champions are personal and filled with great advice. The book includes illustrations, factoids, quotes, and yes, even cursing (which was no issue for me; after 10 years in the—sometimes sexist—service industry, there’s a special place in my heart for people who curse when warranted). Bennett arms the reader with fight moves that can be used against workplace sexism, to create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

The Golden Egg
Understanding and Uncovering Deep Bias, Not Fighting Each Other
"Recognizing sexism is harder than it once was. Like the micro-aggressions people of colour endure daily—racism masked as subtle dismissals—today’s sexism is insidious, causal, politically correct, even friendly. It is a kind of can’t-put-your-finger-on, not-particularly-overt, hard-to-quantify, harder-even-to-call-out behavior that maybe isn’t necessarily intentional, or conscious. Sometimes women exhibit it too. None of that makes it any less damaging."- Feminist Fight Club, page xxii
I’m aware, as I’m sure Bennett is, that just using the words “feminism” and “patriarchy” feels aggressive to some people. I’m not one of those people. But the book lays out a straightforward answer to those sorts of objections. The tactics that Bennett provides for combating sexism in the world and workplace are all strategies creating a more egalitarian environment for everyone. The fight is against the construct and manifestation of patriarchy, not against individuals.
We can all get better at navigating our workplaces, regardless of our gender expression, and understanding the biases we have (often unconsciously). The key is to recognize that becoming aware of our behavior, and correcting it when needed, is not a personal failing. Look around your workplace: are men in the C-Suite while women primarily run the administration? Do you hear water-cooler talk about your breastfeeding co-worker getting “special treatment”? Are all of your staff development events focused entirely on playing beer-pong or going to sporting events? Start to look for opportunities to change those behaviors. Sexism and bias in the workplace can be subtle and insidious. By simply becoming more aware of the way it can manifest in the workplace, you can start to contribute to a solution.

Gem #1
Beware the Manterrupter
"We speak up in a meeting, only to hear a man’s voice boom over ours. We chime in with an idea, perhaps a tad too uncertainly—and a dude interjects with authority. We may have the ideas, but he has the vocal cords—causing us to clam up, lose our confidence, or cede credit for our work."- Feminist Fight Club, page 7
The book lists many examples of workplace sexism, and provides solutions, or “fight moves” to help overcome them. Watch out for the Bropropriator, the Mansplainer, and the Womenemy. Perhaps the most easily recognizable is the “Manterrupter”: a person who frequently speaks over others in meetings. Bennett uses the example of Kanye West grabbing the microphone from Taylor Swift at the 2008 VMAs, so that he could launch into a monologue about himself, despite the fact that she was the award winner. Classic manterruption.
Bennett gives four tactics to fight against this behavior in the workplace:
·         Verbal chicken: stay strong and keep talking. Throw in some side-eye, and make it clear that you’re not finished. Don’t back down.
·         Womanterruption: Speak up when you see this happening to your colleagues. “Wait, can you let her finish?”
·         Lean In (Literally): Use body language to assert yourself.
·         Kanye-Free Zone: Are you running the meeting? Make it a policy that interruptions will not be tolerated.
Being interrupted constantly is a demoralizing experience, and I love the simplicity of these four tactics for minimizing interruptions in the workplace, which can easily be applied in your next meeting.
Gem #2
Pay Me!
"There’s no easy way around it: negotiating sucks. It’s difficult, anxiety-inducing, awkward, risky—no matter your gender. Some people are good at it, a few may even enjoy it, but most people I know would rather do almost anything else (and in fact we often do avoid it, at great cost."- Feminist Fight Club, page 197
The wage gap is one of the most frustrating elements of the modern workplace for me. Pair that with the “pink tax” (i.e. higher prices for personal care products, dry-cleaning, etc. that are specifically marketed to women), and the result is a systemic economic disadvantage for women. We often hear that women make approximately 78 cents on the dollar compared to men—a frustrating statistic on its own, and even more disheartening when you pay attention to the fact that women of colour typically make even less.
The last time I was in a position to negotiate a pay increase, I felt so nervous and sick about it that I almost abandoned the task. I was also fairly certain that my (male) predecessor, who was let go for poor performance, had been making more money than me, despite my own glowing reviews. The modest increase wasn’t even close to what I’d been hoping for, but I was so nervous about the process that I enthusiastically accepted the low-ball increase and silently kicked myself later for being such a pushover.
Bennett outlines a fantastic cheat sheet for negotiating a raise, complete with sample language to practice ahead of the meeting, follow-up steps, and countering objections. I wish I’d had this handy when I was negotiating. We all (yes men too) need to do our part to fight the wage gap. Whether that means trying to negotiate a raise, disclosing your salary to team members or others in your field, or recommending outstanding members of your team for a promotion, Bennett makes it clear that there is at least one actionable step you can take today.
Feminist Fight Club is funny, charming, sometimes infuriating, and always entertaining. What I love about Bennett’s approach is that the book is packed with actionable steps to combat sexism and bias in the workplace. For anyone who has felt the discomfort of working in an environment that felt even vaguely sexist (which is, unfortunately, almost all the women I know), this book will arm you with strategies to recognize, call out, and begin to change sexist behavior. These tactics also extend to other biased behavior—implicit racism, ageism, ableism, or subtle discrimination that may be playing out in the workplace. Regardless of your position, a more inclusive working environment creates better opportunities for everyone.  

PERSONALSPECIAL..... Reframing Failure

Reframing Failure
Fear of failure is a topic that Leticia Gonçalves, president of Monsanto Europe, is passionate about. She faced such fears years ago while working for Monsanto in her home country of Brazil. In 2006, Gonçalves was asked to take on a management job at corporate headquarters in St. Louis, but she balked. “I didn’t think I was competent enough,” she recalls. Sleepless nights, butterflies in the stomach, and long talks with her husband, a lawyer who would have to give up his practice, finally yielded a decision to say yes.
Now Gonçalves, her husband, and their two American-born children are living in Switzerland, where she moved two years ago to head up Monsanto’s European operations. She has a few words of encouragement for others facing equally difficult choices: “We are afraid of what we don’t know. Fear of failure is not really based on facts. It’s emotional. If you can overcome that emotional barrier, you can do a lot.”
Such encouragement is sorely needed. “Even among people who are outwardly successful,” says Kristi Hedges, a Washington, DC-based executive coach, “there is a fear of either not measuring up, letting people down, or letting themselves down.” Hedges says the topic comes up “all the time” in her coaching to professionals at the highest levels of organizations. (Apparently, only in an intimate setting can many executives admit to such fears.)
The need to succeed is ingrained in our culture, and the indoctrination starts early. Even in the classroom, “you want to have the right answer and get good grades,” Hedges says. The emphasis is on getting the answer correct, not how you got there or learning from an incorrect answer. And despite the lip service that some companies pay to creating a safe environment for failure in order to nurture innovation, that clear line of thinking that divides success stories from failures follows most of us all the way up to the C-suite.
And while the corporate world is more dynamic and creative today than at any other time in history, it is also more demanding. Disruptive technologies, global competition, and incessant investor demands, to name a few stressors, are wreaking havoc on the mental state of corporate executives who face constant pressures and challenges.
Failure is also more visible. Success creates rising stock prices, heady pay packages, promotions, and public acclaim. But an executive who endures failure sees the company’s stock nosedive (along with her pay) and can lose her job and become a pariah in the media. Furthermore, social media can provide harsh play-by-plays of C-suite failures.
Is it any wonder we fear failure, now more than ever?
Sometimes the fear of failure and self-doubt aren’t based in reality, such as in the case of Gonçalves. Sometimes the objective data points to an actual possibility of a major screwup, but we persevere. And sometimes failure takes us by surprise. But regardless of the form it takes, at some point, if you haven’t already — deep breath — you are going to have to deal with the fear of failure, and with failure itself.
Those who succeed in school and in the early days of their career start having failures the more successful they become, Hedges explains. “The farther you go up the chain, you can’t have a level of information about everything you once did, there’s a lot more ambiguity, and you have to take leaps you wouldn’t have in an earlier part of your career,” she says. “So the chance of failing is always higher.”
So, the question isn’t “How do I avoid failing?” — it’s “Because failure is inevitable at some point in my career, how do I overcome the fear and use it to my advantage?”
The fear of failure, and the accompanying retribution, leads many executives to play it safe, says Carol Seymour, who founded Signature Leaders, a company that runs leadership programs for women executives. Seymour thinks perfectionism is part of the problem. “So many people get into these executive roles, they play not to lose rather than play to win,” she says. “If you play to win, you have to take some risks.”
Stories of famous business leaders who’ve suffered monumental defeats are part of the corporate lexicon, including those of Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. Business culture often claims to embrace failure because it leads to innovation. And innovation can’t occur without bold risks. But in reality, Hedges says, “most organizations don’t value [failure]. People don’t get paid to fail. In fact, failure is severely punished.” As a result, it’s often the people who have already suffered crushing defeats who can face the prospect of failing with aplomb. If you’ve survived it once, you figure you can make it a second time.
One CEO Hedges counseled “had a pretty spectacular fail in his career and decided that it didn’t kill him,” she explains. So when he was offered a new CEO job, he decided to take action. “I have one shot at this,” he told Hedges, “so there’s no reason not to just to go for it.”
Failures can help people take risks necessary to rise above the ordinary — and they can also teach executives the necessary humility to manage those risks the next time around.
Success may instill confidence, but failure imparts wisdom,” says Gary Burnison, the CEO of Korn Ferry International and author of No Fear of Failure (Wiley 2011), which profiles courageous leaders. Burnison says his firm’s study of thousands of executives has found that the overriding characteristic of those who succeed is an agile mind and lifetime love of learning.
Indeed, learning from mistakes is a critical takeaway. Seymour recalls a man who took one of her leadership seminars. He told of being fired 18 months into his first CEO role. “He came back and sat in front of his peer group, and he talked about why he was fired,” she says. “He realized he had all these ideas for the company, all these initiatives, but now says he should have focused on three things that would be game changers.” It’s not just about knowing what went wrong, but also realizing what went right and using the good ideas embedded in the failure that can be repurposed the next time around.
The reality is that few business leaders make it through their careers without having some failures — often spectacular ones. Maybe the issue should be framed another way. “What we’re really looking for in leaders is resilience,” Hedges says. “Can you get yourself back up?” In the end, that’s what separates the winners from the losers.
Michelle Celarier

RESUME SPECIAL .....Scrub These Words And Phrases From Your Resume Right Now

Scrub These Words And Phrases From Your Resume Right Now

Who wouldn't say they're "hardworking" and "results-oriented"? Unfortunately, those descriptors won't land you an interview.

We've all heard the saying, "You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression." This is perhaps most true when it comes to your resume. While many companies use screening software to screen resumes, recruiters are largely the first people you need to impress.
"The language or content of a resume can definitely tank a job seeker’s chances of landing their dream job," says Jamie Hichens, senior talent acquisition partner at Glassdoor. "You have a limited amount of time to catch a recruiter or hiring manager’s eye—use it wisely."
Filling precious resume space with verbose language or overused buzzwords can certainly backfire. So we tapped a group of HR and resume experts to give us the inside scoop on some of the most common words and phrases to avoid. Scan your CV to make sure you’re not guilty of including any of them.

"Your employment dates already show if you’re unemployed—you don’t need to highlight it," says Hichens.
"We hope you are a hardworking individual who shows up to work on time and is self-motivated, but you don’t need to call it out," she adds.
"Command of Microsoft Office is not a skill. It’s a given."
"Misspelled words [like this one] should never appear on your resume," says Elizabeth Harrison, client services manager and senior recruitment partner at the recruiting firm Decision Toolbox. "Read your resume numerous times, print it and take a pen to it and have someone else read it. One misspelled word can completely eliminate an otherwise strong candidate from consideration because it demonstrates lack of attention to detail."

"Popular resume templates and HR pros prompt job seekers to include a list of strategic skills on their resume," says Glassdoor expert Eileen Meyer. "From Java to Final Cut Pro, speaking Arabic to spearheading 150% growth, be sure to include not only the relevant skills that make you a perfect fit for the role, but also the skills that make you stand out. Take note, command of Microsoft Office is not a skill. It’s a given."

"Is your career trajectory pretty straightforward and lacking major gaps between jobs? Then you probably don’t need an objective statement," contends Glassdoor writer Caroline Gray. "If your resume is self-explanatory, there’s no need to take up valuable space with anything that’s redundant. Also, if you’re submitting a cover letter with your resume, that should be more than sufficient in addressing your objective for your application.
"Words like ‘synergy’ and ‘wheelhouse’ are completely overused lingo," insists Hichens. Steer clear.
Having "references upon request" at the bottom of your resume is a sign that a candidate is overeager. If a recruiter wants to call to know more about you, they will reach out directly. There is no need to point out the obvious. As one HR expert said, "everyone assumes we want references, but honestly, we can ask."

"Talking in first or third person reads weird—did someone write your resume for you? Just state the facts."
"Talking in first or third person reads weird—did someone write your resume for you? Just state the facts," says Hichens. Avoid "I," "me," "she," "he," "her," and "him." For example, write, "Led a team of four," not, "I led a team of four people" or "Jamie led a team."
This term, says Jennifer Bensusen, technology lead and senior recruitment partner at Decision Toolbox, has "been overused in the last five years." Like other cheeky titles that have come into wider use, like "ninja," it's best to avoid it—"unless you are truly a singing superstar, applying for a wedding singer or entertainer role that is!"
Bensusen says not to refer to "technology or systems you have touched or were exposed to but really don’t know." For example, stay away from sentences like, ". . . a Software Engineer who dabbled with Python in college seven years ago but has been developing in .NET professionally since." In this case, don’t add Python to your resume if you’re not a pro.
Again, a candidate being on time is an expectation. "[Instead] craft a well thought out, concise resume with interesting content on accomplishments, KPI success or significant highlights with bullets on what you did," advises Bensusen. "Did you create efficiencies that saved the company big bucks? Did you hire a stellar team that accomplished world peace?"
"Stay away from the word 'expert,' unless you truly are," says Bensusen. Otherwise, "be prepared to be peppered with questions regarding your expertise."
Negative words should not be included in a resume. "Resumes should demonstrate what you can do and not what you can not do," says Harrison.
Instead of saying you're accomplished, show it. "Accomplishments are currency when it comes to resumes," says Anish Majumdar, CEO of "The more you have, and the more applicable they are to the job you want, the greater your perceived worth. This can have a big impact not just on whether you receive an interview, but how much you’re ultimately offered. Front-load the accomplishment, then describe how it was achieved."
Nicole Cox, chief recruitment officer at Decision Toolbox, adds to that advice: "Substantiate your accomplishments with numbers," she says. Some recruiters prefer to see actual numbers (such as "cut manufacturing costs by $500,000"), while others prefer percentages ("cut manufacturing costs by 15%"). Either way, provide enough context to show the impact. If your objective was to cut manufacturing costs by 10%, make it clear that you exceeded the goal.
Majumdar gives this example, which explains not only what you accomplished but how: "Improved customer satisfaction 30% within nine months through re-engineering support processes and introducing new training materials to staff.'"
"Personal information about age, relationships, or children can expose you to discrimination," warns Cox. "Employers aren’t allowed to ask for that kind of information, and you shouldn’t offer." As Harrison notes, "These items do not pertain to the qualifications of an individual for a position."
"Often, careerists will write, ‘Responsible for’ at the beginning of a statement," says expert resume writer Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, even "when a more powerful lead-in would" be better. "Instead of 'seasoned sales management executive,' write, ‘regional sales manager for largest revenue-generating area, exceeding competitors by 25–55% in revenue growth, year-over-year,'" she advises. "In other words, strengthen the story through muscular verbiage and results. Lead with strength and energy."

"While many other words are misused or diluted by overuse, these are the weakest and most abused," says Barrett-Poindexter. "If your resume language or content is weak, unfocused, [or] rambling, you can obliterate your chances of landing that dream role."

PRODUCTIVITY SPECIAL...... Feeling Completely Unmotivated Today?

Feeling Completely Unmotivated Today? Here Are 3 Ways to Be Productively Unproductive

Last week, a friend on my intramural soccer team told me how she’d gotten almost nothing done at her job that day, and she was feeling guilty about it. I’ve been there before and could really relate to her. When you want to be a good employee, you have the desire to always be producing great work. This isn’t bad. Caring about your job and your professional reputation is good (to a certain extent).
But here’s the thing: You’re not a robot, or any other type of machine for that matter. You don’t have an on or off button, nor can you be plugged into an outlet. And you certainly can’t be programmed to operate at certain rates or hours. You’re human, remember? This means that, despite any intentions you may have, life doesn’t always go as planned. So, there’s no guarantee you’ll be functioning at maximum productivity levels 100% of the time.
Some days are just going to be better than others. Most mornings, you may get to the office feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You cross every single item off your list and can just see that promotion on the horizon. But every so often, you just can’t seem to get it together. You start a project only to find yourself at the same place hours later. You’re more easily distracted by co-workers, and each minute seems twice as long as normal. Eight hours later, you’ve accomplished little to nothing. And you feel pretty crappy.
But beating yourself up about it isn’t the answer. “The negative emotions we create by being overly hard on ourselves not only erode our happiness, but change our physiology,” says Margie Warrell, author of Brave: 50 Everyday Acts of Courage to Thrive in Work, Love, and Life and ambassador for Women in Global Business. “Beating up on yourself actually narrows your peripheral vision so that, both metaphorically and literally, you can see less opportunity to address your challenges, fix your mistakes and create the opportunities you want.”
Instead, you need to realize that this will happen sometimes. And it’s OK. Every once in a while. It’s definitely not something that should become a habit, and it’s not all right if it causes you to miss any deadlines. (If it is going to, you’ll need to figure out a way to recharge and get back in the game ASAP.) But when you acknowledge that today is a “loss,” that doesn’t mean you should immediately go to your Instagram feed and scroll through it mindlessly until you head home. Nor does it mean you should put in your headphones and catch up on those episodes of Orange Is the New Black that just dropped on Netflix (sorry).
Because even though you may not make much (or any) forward progress, you don’t need to put up your white flag and surrender to laziness. Instead, try doing these three things, and you can be productively unproductive.

1. Turn Technology Off and Your Brain On
Believe it or not, a lack of motivation to tackle your main to-do’s can be good. Because accepting that you won’t spend time on those tasks right now frees up your schedule. And rather than allowing yourself to get lost on the interwebs or arguing with a colleague about the difference between iced coffee and cold brew (I mean, they’re both cold, what’s the difference?), you should take advantage of the extra hours. How, you ask? Well, by thinking.
Sure, you’re always doing that—I know. But when you’re heads down in beast mode, your thoughts revolve around the project at hand, leaving little room to brainstorm and think outside the box. “Neuroscience and psychology research show that mind-wandering facilitates creativity, planning, and putting off immediate desires in favor of future rewards,” says Josh Davis, author of Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done. “Each of those can be important for working effectively. Not many other things we do can have such a broad impact.”
So, grab a pad of paper and a pen and see where your mind takes you. Who knows—you may figure out a different approach to a project that was stumping you or generate brand new ideas for your team.

2. Prepare for Tomorrow
Today might be a wash, but you’ll need to be ready to go tomorrow. And the best way to do that is to adequately plan for it.
Write down the items you absolutely must get done tomorrow. In another section, put those you eventually need to do but that aren’t as urgent. Next to each of these, I like to put either their future due date or my proposed date of completing it. That way, I have a better picture in my head of how the next week or so will play out. If you don’t think this’ll help you prioritize—that’s fine! You can try one of these five ways to organize your to-do list instead.
When you figure out the high-priority tasks you’ll tackle tomorrow, decide how you’ll execute them. For instance, say you need to send an invoice to a client in order to receive payment on time. What’re the steps that need to be taken in order to do this? Does anyone need to approve it first, like your accounting department or your manager? If so, should you place a meeting on their calendar? Do you need to convert the document from Word to PDF? Set yourself up for success by laying it all out—it’s like picking out what you want to wear the night before. It’ll be much easier to get ready in the morning if you don’t spend 30 minutes debating your outfit choice.

3. Get Any Housekeeping Tasks Out of the Way
No, I’m not referring to doing a few loads of laundry or finally scrubbing your stove. (Though, if you’re working from home, that may not be such a horrible idea). I’m talking about those things you want to get done that often get thrown to the wayside in lieu of your more pressing assignments.
This could include: sorting your inbox and responding to those emails that take less than a minute (e.g., “Did you send the file to the client?” “Yes.”); paying those lingering credit card bills; making an appointment for your annual physical or dental check-up; following up with that insanely smart and cool marketing exec you met at a networking event last month; and cleaning off your desk (and desktop).
Getting these little things out of the way will help you focus on the bigger ones tomorrow (the ones you’re now really well prepared for!). It’s like weeding out the garden so you’re only concerned about the growth of your vegetables or most precious flowers (FYI, I like lilacs and sunflowers, in case you want to send me any).
And that last one—organizing the physical space you work in—has huge benefits, according to Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. “In the first place, it provides a feeling of control and competence, which leads to higher levels of productivity,” Patel says. “Second, the very fact that it’s organized defends against distractions. Your organized office can absorb the incoming work, and position you for success.”
You aren’t perfect—not at work, nor in your personal life. But rather than try to fight that fact, accept it and move forward. When you find yourself feeling unmotivated, don’t always try to force yourself to work on your projects. You’ll spend a lot of time with your wheels spinning in the mud, and you’ll get nowhere. Take advantage of this “downtime,” and it’ll benefit you much more. But if you find this happening often, well, you may need to reevaluate your situation.
By Abby Wolfe

BOOK SPECIAL ......The Greatest Science Books of 2016 9.THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES

The Greatest Science Books of 2016

Trees dominate the world’s the oldest living organisms. Since the dawn of our species, they have been our silent companions, permeating our most enduring tales and never ceasing to inspire fantastical cosmogonies. Hermann Hesse called them “the most penetrating of preachers.” A forgotten seventeenth-century English gardener wrote of how they “speak to the mind, and tell us many things, and teach us many good lessons.”
But trees might be among our lushest metaphors and sensemaking frameworks for knowledge precisely because the richness of what they say is more than metaphorical — they speak a sophisticated silent language, communicating complex information via smell, taste, and electrical impulses. This fascinating secret world of signals is what German forester Peter Wohlleben explores in The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate 

Wohlleben chronicles what his own experience of managing a forest in the Eifel mountains in Germany has taught him about the astonishing language of trees and how trailblazing arboreal research from scientists around the world reveals “the role forests play in making our world the kind of place where we want to live.” As we’re only just beginning to understand nonhuman consciousnesses, what emerges from Wohlleben’s revelatory reframing of our oldest companions is an invitation to see anew what we have spent eons taking for granted and, in this act of seeing, to care more deeply about these remarkable beings that make life on this planet we call home not only infinitely more pleasurable, but possible at all.


APPLE SPECIAL...... Does Apple Need a New Blockbuster to Thrive?

Does Apple Need a New Blockbuster to Thrive?

On September 7, Apple introduced its latest iPhone, which offers a dual camera system for the 5.5-inch screen version; upgrades the device’s processor, wireless connectivity and the home button; and notably excludes a headphone jack. The company also announced that it has revamped the Apple Watch with built-in GPS, better fitness tracking, and waterproofing.
As Apple CEO Tim Cook reaches the 5-year mark of his tenure, the latest enhancements to the iPhone and the Apple Watch are critical to address concerns about the firm’s ability to keep growing — a tall order for a company expected to have annual sales north of $200 billion. “It’s the best iPhone we have ever created,” said Cook about the iPhone 7. “There’s a reason why you see so many iPhones everywhere you look. We’ve now sold over a billion of them. The iPhone has transformed the way we do things every day.”
The emphasis at the launch event was on Apple’s ecosystem as much as on the iPhone: The company highlighted a new Nintendo Mario game available through the App Store, reported growth in paid subscriptions to Apple Music (now at 17 million) and shared news that Pokémon Go will be coming to the Apple Watch.
The iPhone has clearly been a success. But that puts pressure on CEO Cook to deliver a new product that can generate similar revenue. Meanwhile, analysts are giving Cook high marks, especially for hitting financial milestones. In the last five years, Apple revenue has surged from $65.2 billion for fiscal 2010 ending Sept. 30 to $233.7 billion for fiscal 2015. Wall Street is projecting sales of $215.45 billion for fiscal 2016.
Sales of the iPhone and iPad have been slumping, however. Apple has had two consecutive quarters with year-over-year revenue declines. The biggest product launch of the Cook era has been the Apple Watch, a device that hasn’t delivered iPhone-like volume.
“Clearly, Cook is meeting his financial milestones, but he was left with an enviable position, and it’s unclear how much of Apple’s success has been due to his value and decision-making,” says Wharton management professoDavid Hsu.
Hsu adds that the knock on Cook and Apple of late is that the innovation engine has stalled. Apple is historically mum about its product development plans, and it’s unclear where Apple stands on initiatives like augmented and virtual reality, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. Google parent Alphabet has been vocal about all of those technologies and has experiments underway. Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality. And Apple’s most direct competitor, Samsung, has launched a line of virtual reality products. “There is a lot of disruption happening, and it’s difficult to repeatedly strike gold,” says Hsu.
Kevin Werbach, a legal studies and business ethics professor at Wharton, says given Apple’s success, “it’s incredibly difficult to move the needle further…. Apple has enjoyed some of the largest quarterly profits in corporate history under Tim Cook. It’s now one of the largest companies on earth in terms of sales and market capitalization. Even great innovations and successful products won’t necessarily make a dent against that backdrop.”
Saikat Chaudhuri, executive director of the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at Wharton, says the criticism of Cook may be overblown given the expectations. “Every company starts maturing at some point, and it’s hard to [come up with] redefining products every time.”

In other words, Apple’s ability to reinvent categories such as music with the iPod, mobile phones with the iPhone and computing tablets with the iPad may not be repeatable, says Hsu.
Kartik Hosanagar, a professor of operations, information and decisions at Wharton, argues that Cook has done well continuing Apple’s tradition. “Fundamentally, Apple is healthy and has pursued a similar strategy as under [former CEO Steve] Jobs. In that sense, Tim Cook has delivered. He has also left his own mark in terms of company culture. Apple is seen as a far more socially and environmentally conscious company,” says Hosanagar. “The company has taken a stand on a number of social issues and launched new programs — such as matching employee donations and better monitoring of their suppliers in terms of their environmental and social footprint. This helps with employee morale and retention.”
Of course, Hosanagar acknowledges that Cook hasn’t delivered a blockbuster product. Over time, that reality may eclipse everything else Cook has accomplished.
“Overall, I’d give him a B+. He deserves credit for a smooth transition,” says Hosanagar. “If he delivers on a new successful product, he gets an A as far as I’m concerned.”
What’s Next?
“Apple wants something to be almost perfect before it releases a product,” says Hsu. “It’s the same strategy that Jobs had, and it’s been carried forward by Cook. It’s very top down, yet high risk.”
The risk is clear: Apple depends on big-bang product launches. When you contrast Apple’s approach with that of Google and Facebook, two companies actively experimenting on a range of products, there are concerns, says Hsu. “At Google, the approach is that [the company] doesn’t know what’s going to change the world so it’s going to place some bets around,” says Hsu, who added that Facebook and Google are also actively acquiring companies. “It’s a different game that Apple is playing.”
Analysts say that it may be time for Cook to make his own mark. If Apple doesn’t have the next big thing, the company could outline what it sees as big bets for the future. Being more open could buy Apple time to turn one of its research areas into a significant new product category. Hsu says Apple today is more akin to where Microsoft was during the glory days of Windows, and Apple can continue make money from its platform and services for years to come.
Chaudhuri suggests that Apple can expand its footprint with corporations, invest more in artificial intelligence and tinker with new forms of hardware that combine the smartphone and laptop. The “internet of things” could also be a big market for Apple. “Apple still plays a huge role in the connected device market on the consumer and business side,” he says.
According to Werbach, one thing Cook has right is that he’s not trying to be Jobs. Nevertheless, Cook’s chore is to reposition Apple away from being a company that largely relies on hardware to one that revolves around services. On the company’s last two earnings calls, Cook talked about the potential for recurring revenue and subscriptions from the company’s various services.
“Apple occupies a unique position in the current technology world. It’s the only big player based primarily on hardware as opposed to services, commerce or software. Microsoft, Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook, Tencent and Google have completely different economics,” Werbach notes. “For almost everyone else at scale, with the exception of Samsung, hardware is largely a commodity business. And Samsung doesn’t have Apple’s skill at integrating hardware into compelling user experiences.”
Another issue for Apple is that it’s the only player its size with an entirely proprietary stack of technology from semiconductors to software and services. That approach gives Apple an edge in some areas, but may hurt the company in situations where it has to connect to other technologies, Werbach points out.
Cook may also have to increasingly focus on public policy, as have Microsoft and Google. Apple has had a public fight with the FBI over privacy and is now dueling with the European Union over taxes. “Apple has never built the same public policy relationships as Google and Microsoft, or even companies like Intel and Cisco,” says Werbach.
Needless to say, Cook’s next five years are going to have some unique challenges. What’s unclear is whether any CEO can do it all. Hsu says it’s quite possible that the Jobs-to-Cook era at Apple will be like the Bill Gates to Steve Ballmer handoff at Microsoft, which struggled to outline a clear vision under Ballmer. Microsoft has since been reinvigorated under CEO Satya Nadella. “I could see Apple going sideways for a long time before new blood comes in,” says Hsu.
Would Steve Jobs Have Delivered?
According to Chaudhuri, the prism Cook is viewed through is unfair. Yes, Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, but the timing for the device was perfect as mobility, wireless networking speeds, hardware advances and content came together at the right time. “It’s not fair to pit Cook against Jobs. Jobs got everyone used to waiting for a new product that defines a category,” says Chaudhuri. “Jobs was unique.”
Chaudhuri argues that Jobs may have taken the same path Cook is taking now. “Once you have a dominant platform in place, it makes sense to build on it,” he notes. “Apple faces the same tradeoffs as any market leader. You have to balance what you can do to exploit the products you have and keep up with the next generation of technology.”
Jobs would have had the same issues Cook faces to deliver growth from a large base of sales. “If Jobs were still alive, we could be talking about how he lost his mojo,” says Chaudhuri. “Which companies have been able to produce radical innovation every few years over time? Just because Jobs had three blockbusters in a row doesn’t guarantee another.”
Indeed, Werbach says the iPhone may have been a generational product launch. “It may well be that the iPhone was a once-in-a-generation product, not just for Apple, but for the tech sector as a whole,” says Werbach.
Meanwhile, Werbach notes that it’s worth remembering that Jobs wasn’t always the executive now viewed as a legend. “Jobs wasn’t always the Steve Jobs we canonize — he was fired from Apple, and even after he returned, it took several years of gradual turnaround before the iPhone catapulted the company into the business stratosphere,” says Werbach. “Cook, to his credit, has managed to humanize Apple in important ways, without losing its edge. Maybe he hasn’t changed the world like the previous guy, but that’s a bit too much to expect.”
In the end, Cook’s biggest challenge may be managing expectations and not innovation.