Eight Lessons from tonight’s Q&A with Apple CEO Tim Cook in SLC

I heard 1,500 people were on the RSVP list for Tim Cook’s Q&A at SLC’s Grand America Hotel tonight, and by the end of the evening, we were all throwing away our wired earphones. Cook is visiting Utah for the first time as part of Sen. Hatch’s Utah Tech Tour, and as one of the most powerful people in the industry, the anticipation ran hot.

The tech scene in Utah has always been healthy but it’s exploding right now, flush with venture money and engineering talent, and even a few unicorns. But let’s be honest: We see the same familiar faces and trucker hats at every tech meetup in the Salt Lake Valley.

But tonight we saw TIM. And Tim dropped some wisdom on us. A few highlights:

Want a gig at Apple? Be collaborative

In addition to grit, determination, curiosity and everything else you might expect, Cook was very clear that Apple (like most smart businesses, including Codeword) only hires collaborative people. There are so many factors and nuances in every business move — marketing, PR, tech or otherwise — that the rogue actor can rarely shoulder it all. It’s an interesting insight for a company that was started and led by one of the most mercurial geniuses ever.

Wanna be CEO? Have faith and stick to it

He cited President Lincoln’s adage that “I will prepare today and someday my chance will come.” Cook never set out to be a CEO. He just worked hard where he was at, until one day in 1998, this fellow named Steve Jobs gave him a call. “Study, do great work, and have faith,” he said, and it’ll happen.

AR is Going to Be Big

Cook recently called out AR as being an important part of the future, and reiterated that tonight. Saying native integration into mobile operating systems and mass adoption were not “too far distant,” he also cautioned that it would take time for people to find frequent AR experiences acceptable (though Pikachu might disagree).

Cook seemed confident in its growth, though, saying that “a significant portion of the population will have AR experiences every day — just like three meals a day.” (Good news for my dear client Zappar: you were right all along!)

Encryption good. Decryption bad.

“Encryption is inherently great, we would not be a safe society without it,” he said. He doubled down on Apple’s privacy commitments, promising that if you buy Apple, your data is yours and it’s safe.

Ethics count

It’s always encouraging to hear a magnate rave about ethics. For Cook, a course on ethics was among the most critical, formative classes he ever took while in school. At an event where others spoke of gray areas, Cook left no gray space. Good on you, Tim — I taught my students at BYU about this the other day, and used your company as an example.

Be best, be first or make [and sell] the most [product]

It’s great advice for any entrepreneur, and for Apple’s part, they often say “no” to things because they can’t do them best. All the recent hubbub about an Apple Car — well Cook didn’t say this outright, but it’s almost definitely an example. They realized they couldn’t pull it off in a way that was “best.” So, naturally, when you are feeling a bit down you go out and buy a McLaren (or, not). The point being, you can’t normally have all three (best, first, or most), so pick one and focus.

Would you like to see something cool?

Check out the Memories feature in the Photos app. No really, it’s pretty cool. And I’m a die-hard Android fanboy.

Steve’s office is still there

In the closing question of the night about how Steve’s spirit of innovation was kept alive, Cook — genuinely reflective about his former leader and friend — said that his office remains untouched at Apple, with all of his stuff, saying that “Steve’s DNA is the DNA of the company.”

Cook sees it staying this way for ten, 100, or 1,000 years, not to hold Apple back, but because Steve’s vision of making the best products to enrich people’s lives is the very core of what Apple does.

So there you have it — a few paraphrased, crystalline words of wisdom from Tim Cook. We were lucky to have him here, and props to Senator Hatch for making it happen.

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