Apple Inc.'s Corporate Culture: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : HROB124 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Human Resource Management / Organizational Behavior / Corporate Culture
Case Length : 25 pages
Period : 2008-2009
Pub Date : 2009
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Apple, Inc.
Industry : Consumer Electronics
Countries : USA


This case is about US-based consumer electronics company Apple, Inc's (Apple), known for its ability to come out with path-breaking products. Experts have associated the innovation at Apple with its corporate culture. The case discusses in detail the corporate culture at Apple. At Apple, the work culture was driven by a passion for new products with no end to challenges and opportunities. The case discusses how Apple became the pioneer of the "Work Hard Play Hard" ethic. The corporate culture at Apple was exemplified by its intense work ethics. Though the work environment was relaxed and casual, there was a very strong commitment to deadlines. Analysts summarized the work culture at Apple as "fun, yet demanding".

The case talks about how employees at Apple had to run their own show and work in a challenging and creative environment. Apple adopted a style that was not too formal or hierarchical and a more results-driven approach which worked best for them. The case also focuses on the career opportunities and employability security, compensation, and benefits offered to the employees by the company. The case explains how Apple fostered a culture of secrecy. The demand for absolute secrecy and insistence on control were infused into the company culture right from the beginning. The various dysfunctional aspects of Apple's culture which led the company to the brink of disaster are also discussed.

While some appreciated Apple's culture saying that it valued creative people, others felt that it was dysfunctional from a management standpoint and was largely influenced by its CEO Steve Jobs (Jobs) who had a very quirky style. Experts felt that Apple's obsession with maintaining secrecy could hurt the company and its brand in the new milieu. They felt that the biggest challenge for Apple was to move out from under the shadow of Jobs. The performance of the company in his absence was a key concern for all stakeholders, they said. The case concludes by discussing whether a change in the company's culture is required to remain competitiveness in the long run.


Study the key aspects of Apple's corporate culture.

Understand how its culture contributed to the success of the company.

Identify the functional and dysfunctional aspects of Apple's corporate culture.

Discuss and debate whether the prevalent culture at Apple needed to change to reflect today's realities and for the long term.

Explore ways in which the company could address this issue.


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Background Note 3
Work Hard, Play Hard 6
Run Your Own Show 7
Nurturing Diversity 8
Compensation and Benefits 8
Career Opportunities and Employability Security 9
Culture of Secrecy 10
A Unique Culture... 11
...Or a Dysfunctional Culture? 13
Is There a Need for Change? 16
Exhibits 18

Key Words:

Corporate culture, Work culture, Culture of secrecy, Corporate diversity, Work ethics, Work environment, People management, Innovative products, Employee satisfaction, Equal Opportunity Employer, Workforce, Apple Fellows Program, Employee benefits, Human Resource function, Leadership style, Transparent culture, Dysfunctional work culture, Organizational behavior, Compensation

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