The Best Buy employee asked if he could help me. I assume that was his polite way of saying that I needed to wipe the drool off the brand new MacBook in front of me. “No, just looking,” I said, trying desperately to avoid his sales pitch. If BestBuy employees are cheetahs, people like me are tasty wildebeests, so we have to work overtime not to trigger their prey instincts.
“No, I’m just looking,” was also my way of telling my own brain I didn’t need that impossibly thin and beautiful laptop. “Walk away, Whitt, just walk away.” But man, it was beautiful. Apple founder Steve Jobs often talked about how important good design was to him. As an example, he pointed to his father, Paul Jobs, who never used lower quality wood on the back of cabinets and painted the back of fences with as much gusto as the front. “For you to sleep well at night,” Jobs said, “the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through” (NPR). He even said the back of their machines was more beautiful than the front of their competitors’ machines. And it worked — Apple’s Mac sales are up 10%, while the overall PC market is down 7%.
What Apple has mastered is attention to detail. For example, try this! With the MacBook sitting on the table, open the lid with just one finger. The design team engineered a system whereby the resistance the lid offers changes over the course of the opening. The result is that the base always stays in place on your desk and the lid always stays angled right where you leave it. They make it look easy and intuitive, but someone spent a lot of time figuring that detail out!
Another secret to their success has been willingness to rock the boat. Bulky VGA ports? Optical drives? SD card slots? One by one, Apple has stripped away excess in the name of simplicity and, more importantly, has pushed technology forward. Each time they did so, there was huge backlash, but look how far we’ve come!
Earlier, I wrote that church leaders should learn from the demise of Radio Shack; today I add that there are also lessons for churches in the success of Apple! Do we paint the “back of the fence” of our ministries with as much care for quality as the front? Do we give attention to detail? Are we willing to fight for progress, even if it means rocking the boat?
Church leaders, let’s be proud of our work. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” God deserves the very best, and because we’re working for him, we have even greater motivation than Apple to strive for excellence!