What the Renewable Energy Sector Can Learn From Apple


Apple recently became the most valuable company in the World. Renewable Energy companies like Gamesa could learn some lessons. Photo sources: ipad & iPhone: http://www.uis.edu/informationtechnologyservices/iss/iphone.html; Apple Logo: Wikipedia; Gamesa wind turbine: http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/17062/gamesa-launches-low-wind-4-5-mw-wind-turbine/

In case you missed it last week, Apple became the world’s most valuable company, reaching an astronomical US$622 billion on Monday, August 20th. This is quite amazing accomplishment, given that Exxon has often been the most valuable company.  With Apple again whipping the oil giants like Exxon, here are some lessons both the renewable and clean technology sectors can learn from Apple’s success:

Sell a vision: One thing that Apple has always been good at is selling a vision, something that other companies do not provide.  Apple was on the edge of a vision, making cool products like the iPhone, iPod and iPad that people wanted. Steve Jobs and company had a vision of where they wanted their products to go. Look at where that vision got them. It’s important that leaders within the renewable energy sector do not lose focus and continue to have a solid vision of where they want their product to be.

At the same time, keep your products simple: While it’s important to have vision, it’s also important for a company to simplify its product. When Steve Jobs returned to the company he created back in the mid-1990’s Jobs began to simplify much of the product line apple had.  Carmine Gallo, an author who has written many books on the success of Apple recently had this to say about the importance of how Apple simplified their products in a recent Forbes article:

“Steve Jobs once said, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” In 2007 cellphone manufacturers were adding features to phones to make them ‘smarter.’ More features added complexity for consumers. Steve Jobs had the courage to eliminate the clutter, including the keyboard itself. Part of the iPad’s success is that it is incredibly easy to use. Since there’s only one button on it, even a 2-year-old can use it. Don’t believe me? Search YouTube for “2-year-old” + “iPad” and see how many people post videos of their children picking up an iPad for the first time. Apple’s lead designer, Jonathan Ive, once said, “We are absolutely consumed by trying to develop a solution that is very simple, because as physical beings we understand clarity.” In 1998, Steve Jobs told a business reporter that one of his mantras was focus and simplicity. “Simple can be harder than complex. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains.”

Renewable energy and clean technology companies, should keep their products simple and straight forward for their customers to use. Remember the KISS method in school. It applies here as well.

But sell the “Coolness” of the Product: Just because you keep your products simple does not mean they do not have to be cool. Apple has been successful, because of the coolness factor. They used the “anti-PC” factor early on. Apple innovated products like the mp3 player, mobile phone, and computer tablets, and virtually made cool products other companies would not dare have thought have.

Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder in their 2007 book, The Clean Tech Revolution also emphasized this, saying:

“And if your “cool: cachet is high enough, you may be able to command a premium price for a clean-tech product.” (P.278)

Renewable energy companies like wind, solar or those in the clean technology sector including electric cars and smart grids need to sell the coolness factor. They just can’t sell the “Save the world” factor in order to engage people to buy it. Former General Motors executive Bob Lutz, well-known for his anti climate change views, is a proponent on selling the GM  hybrid electric Volt car as a “cool” product, because the demand was there.

Here is hoping the ghost of Steve Jobs will channel through the leaders within renewable energy and clean technology companies looking to boost their bottom line.

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