CEO Interviews at Fortune Global Forum: Tim Cook

  • January 10, 2018
  • Scott
  • 0 Comments

One of the highlights of the Fortune Global Forum were the really fantastic interviews with the CEOs of amazing companies.  Even for CEOs, these are heroes that are looked up to in large part.  Each one of them had a way of distilling really important initiatives in their companies down to *very* simple phrasing that anyone could remember.  This is part of a series of short posts based on my notes in each session:

Tim Cook Interview

Tim Cook came by the Fortune Global Forum as well, and it was also my first time to see him speak live.  In his opening remarks, Tim Cook laid on some great lines about China’s progress:

  •  25 years ago the modern cities of the world weren’t in China.  But they are now – the infrastructure in China is the most modern in the world and extraordinary.
  • Over that same period of time there has been a big increase in the openness of the economy and society.  And while we might want more we have to acknowledge the distance traveled already.
  • China used to be entirely focused on China – but now China is playing a leadership role in the world.
  • If you had slept those 25 years and then woke up now – China would be unrecognizable to you.

Adam quizzed him about “designed in California” – and Tim’s response was that while design is in California, the level of collaboration in China around production processes and machinery is intense.  The process engineering and development requires innovation, not just the product design.

Tim also had an interesting story about ICT – one of the suppliers to Apple-  they manufacture AirPods.  Surprisingly, Tim says there are 100 components inside the Airpods (!) and they have to be put together in a very precise way to get the audio quality.  And ICT has that skill and precision.  And then he told the story of how they met Grace Wu (founder of ICT) when she was working at Hon Hai on their production line.  And now she owns and runs a multi-billion dollar company that does incredible work.  She also shares Apples’ view of how to treat people – because she used to be on the assembly line you know that she can relate. And it is very important to Apple that people are treated well.

It’s an incredible example of the Chinese dream, if you will.

There was another conversation about why manufacture in China vs. the US that treads old ground about skills, availability, and scale.  Adam Lashinsky tried to make him react to the idea that WeChat is so important in China that it makes it easy to switch away from Apple. But Tim’s response was classic:  that Apple has about 15% market share in China, and WeChat works great on iPhones so it will be easy for the 85% android users to switch to the iPhone.

A question from the audience asked if Tim Cook worried about innovation in China threatening Apple – and Tim’s response was that China is already very innovative in many areas, and more innovation just means there are more apps and business models that are possible. In fact, there are apps and business models that is only possible to create in China.  Maybe the idea could be used anywhere, but arguably the idea could only have been created here.

Overall it was a great interview to attend.  More coverage here from Fortune.

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