An inside look at Apple’s software development process

creative selection

Creative Selection is a term coined by Ken Kocienda, who spent 15 years at Apple developing software and working on the iPhone and iPad during the second reign of Steve Jobs.  I’ve always been fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes of the works of art I admire, be they movies, books, software, hardware or in Apple’s case the brilliant melding of hardware, software, and services.

While I’ve read quite a number of book’s about Steve Jobs and Apple none of them have gone into the deep, nitty gritty detail of how software was designed, developed, reviewed and released at Apple.

Ken Kocienda’s book Creative Selection – Inside Apple’s Design Process During the the Golden Age of Steve Jobs is the not the first book by an Apple developer, Andy Herzfeld, one of the key Mac developers, released Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made in 2004 and there might be others, but either way I highly recommend Ken’s book to any software developer or business person interested in how the sausage is really made.

Ken lists seven elements essential to Apple’s software success:

  1. Inspiration: Thinking big idea and imagining what might be possible
  2.  Collaboration: Working together well with other people and seeking to combine your complementary strengths
  3. Craft: Apply skill to achieve high-quality results and always striving to do better.
  4. Diligence: Doing the necessary grunt work and never resorting to shortcuts or half-measures
  5. Decisiveness: Making tough choices and refusing to delay or procrastinate
  6. Taste: Developing a refined sense of judgment and finding the balance that produces a pleasing an integrated whole
  7. Empathy: Trying to see the world from other people’s perspectives and creating work that fits into their lives and adapts to their needs

Creative selection is the missing and combining of these elements, plus adding in a personal touch, a little piece of themselves, something Ken calls octessence.

In addition to learning a lot about Apple and its design and software development process you will also have a front row seat as Ken demos for Steve Jobs. His description of that event is poetic and renders real insight into how Jobs ran Apple and interacted with his team.

One thing I had read about Jobs that impressed me greatly was his quote about the meaning of focus:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

That’s what I thought the title Creative Selection referred to. But as you will find from reading Ken’s book there’s that and so much more, all written clearly and engagingly. Ken even includes an index for book nerds like me, so I can track down every mention of terms like creative selection.

Read the book, even if you don’t take advantage of the index.



Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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