The pitfalls of trying to create a collaborative workplace
The success of the iPod, launched by Apple in October 2001, sparked panic among the American company’s competitors. When it became clear that the diminutive device was far outselling other digital music-players, Sony, a big Japanese rival that had pioneered music on the move in the form of the Walkman, scrambled to respond. It convened several internal teams from its different businesses to work on a project, named Connect, that was supposed to come up with a product to counter Apple’s. But after a number of years of trying to produce an iPod-killer, Sony admitted defeat and disbanded the Connect initiative in 2007.
Apple’s success with the iPod can be explained by its ease of use, sense of design and a host of other factors—including the company’s ability to get different parts of its business united around a common goal. Sony’s attempts to beat it with Connect were scuppered partly because its internal teams blew the opportunity to catch up. A long-standing culture of internal competition confounded Sony’s efforts to get its computer, personal electronics and music divisions to work together closely. A couple of units even ended up launching competing players, neither of which bested the iPod. Since taking over as chief executive in 2005, Sir Howard Stringer has been trying hard to break down Sony’s fiefs and stimulate co-operation.