Apple’s Advice To Big Companies When Dealing With Mistakes

Apple’s Advice To Big Companies When Dealing With Mistakes
Image: CNBC

In late 2012, Apple came out with its own navigation app: Apple Maps. The company used it to replace Google Maps on its iOS devices. Unfortunately, Apple Maps paled in comparison to Google Maps and was heavily criticised when it was first launched. Apple CEO Tim Cook reflected on how the company dealt with the Apple Maps mistake and what other big businesses can learn from it.

In a candid interview with The Washington Post, Cook covered a number of topics including some of the biggest mistakes he has learned from in the past. One of them was the Apple Maps launch, which was plagued by bugs and missing features.

“Maps was a mistake,” he said. “Today we have a product we’re proud of. [But] we had the self-honesty to admit this wasn’t our finest hour and the courage to choose another way of doing it. That’s important.”

Cook said that companies are often reluctant to admit fault, which is the wrong approach:

“It’s the only way an organisation learns. The classic big-company mistake is to not admit their mistake. They double down on them. Their pride or ego is so large that they can’t say we did something wrong. And I think the faster you do that, the better — change gears to something else. If you’re honest, people will give you the benefit of the doubt. But if you have your head stuck in the sand and you just keep doing it, I think you lose your employees and your customers as well.”

You can read the full interview with Tim Cook over at The Washington Post.

[Via The Washington Post]


  • Apple is possibly the last company I’d go to for advice on dealing with mistakes. Most of the time they won’t even acknowledge they made one, just blame the user instead.

    • I read about a designer that had to take them to small claims court about some defect with colour reproduction in his device. Apple sent two corporate lawyers. The guy basically proved it to the judge pretty quickly and he told the lawyers to shut up and ruled against them.

  • Apple doesnt admit mistakes… their lawyers and public relations teams wont allow them.

    They will either bully you with lawyers or say its working as intended until the next iteration is new and improved and a game changer (which they copied from a competitor or indie developer)

  • I have a very long experience of dealing with Apple and its mistakes and wrong moves.

    They are not the cliches as painted here.

    In nearly all cases it is that they simply can not comprehend that you are dissatisfied. Their perception is that you simply love everything they do and eventually will succumb to the Reality Distortion Field.

    When dealing directly with Apple employees they do break down into individuals:

    1. The corporate acolyte, usually a fairly ignorant “manager” promoted above their actual abilities, who feels like they are blessed to be Apple’s representative on Earth. They will simply stop talking to you and walk away if you insist on actually demonstrating a problem against their totally polite denials.

    2. The newbie employee who at first seems totally surprised that there could even be a problem and is certain this it is just some mistake that Apple will fix for sure.

    3. The longer term coalface employee who does in fact know where all the bodies are buried, happily acknowledges the failures and will even joke about them.

    There is one thing that I find totally extraordinary about Apple compared to almost every other IT company out there, is that they will not silence even persistent and heated criticism. The only thing they will not have a bar of on their own websites is even mild swearing (can’t say “hell” for example) or bad behaviour to other users. They have quite thick skins when it comes to themselves.

    But despite that, Apple can not be dissuaded from their absolute sense of “Apple Knows Best!”

    In my 30 years of contact with them I can only identify a tiny number of instances where they buckled to user pressure, and that had to be almost universal screams of outrage. The most notable was the reinstatement of Finder Labels against the dogged hostility of the NEXT programmers who built the initial releases of OSX. Another was the partial reinstatement of Save As. Lately they seem to be living entirely in their own highly paid universe, where we “consumers” must be only dimly passing ghosts in another dimension they will, with luck, never have to visit.

Log in to comment on this story!