Apple Case Study Harvard Business School

Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2009 (Revised May 2012)

Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple

by Stefan H. Thomke and Barbara Feinberg


Describes Apple's approach to innovation, management, and design thinking. For several years, Apple has been ranked as the most innovative company in the world, but how it has achieved such success remains mysterious because of the company's obsession with secrecy. This note considers the ingredients of Apple's success and its quest to develop, in the words of CEO Steve Jobs, insanely great products. Focuses on 1) design thinking, 2) product development strategy and execution, 3) CEO as chief innovator, and 4) bold business experimentation.

Keywords: Design; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Management; Product Design; Product Development; Research and Development; Creativity; Technology Industry;

Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2002 (Revised May 2010)

Apple Stores


This case reveals the genesis of the Apple Stores, a revolutionary retail concept launched by Ron Johnson, Apple Computer's senior vice president of retail. In January 2002, Apple Computer was at the eve of one of the most stunning commercial successes ever known in consumer markets. The case details how the retail strategy emerged as a keystone of Apple's overall strategy to support the digital lifestyle of its customers. By analyzing the stores' most innovative elements and discussing the implied management challenges, students reach a deeper understanding of the multi-faceted role of distribution channels in contemporary marketing. The case is an ideal vehicle to understand how the different stages of the marketing process (analysis, strategy, implementation) can be tightly integrated for maximum impact. It also raises interesting issues in consumer behavior: the processes of consumer engagement, empowerment, and conversion to purchase.

Keywords: Competitive Advantage; Marketing Channels; Consumer Behavior; Innovation and Invention; Computer Industry; Retail Industry;

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